Writing and Speaking for Introverts
Greetings, fellow introverts.
(Is that not you? Then you can safely skip this post. Everyone else, keep reading.)
At every meetup I host, and most of the events I’m invited to speak at, I always mention that I’m a natural introvert. I know that there are likely many other shy, quiet, or introverted people in the room, and I want to make them feel welcome. Inevitably at least one of them will come up to me later and say, “Hey, that’s me too! How do you do this?”
In this post I’ll share a few thoughts and strategies on how being an introvert needn’t stop you from sharing parts of your life with others online, speaking and hosting meetups, or even creating a new career. You’re not alone, and you too can do this.
First, What Is an Introvert?
Introversion has very little to do with being shy. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert depends largely on how you derive your energy. If you feel energized by being around people, chances are you’re more extroverted. If you feel energized by spending time alone, it’s likely you’re more introverted.
Also, most of us aren’t completely introverted or completely extroverted. There is a wide range of patterns and personalities, and plenty of people can go back and forth depending on the setting.
I’ve always been much more on the introverted scale. The trip I recently took to Malaysia was a good reminder of my early days of travel. This time I was gone for ten days and had no meetings or meetups the entire time. Ten days alone! Aside from emails and online work, and aside from the people I interacted with while staying in various places, I was completely on my own.
Being more introverted doesn’t mean that you’re a misanthrope or simply don’t enjoy being around others. It just means that you need to make sure to plan for recovery time, and if you find yourself filling the schedule with meetings and gatherings, you might struggle.
How I Learned to Be More Open
I don’t think most people change their basic personality in regards to introversion or extroversion. You can, however, learn or adapt to different skills that will help you in life… without changing who you fundamentally are.
Here are a few things that have helped me in the past five years of sharing my work with a global audience.
Lesson #1: Most people are good.
The biggest concern some people have about sharing work online is that other people will say bad things. This is possible—some people may indeed say bad things. However, most of them won’t. Most people will say good things, because most people are good.
When I started sharing my journey, initially through this blog and later through in-person events, I was amazed at all the interesting people who came along. Very quickly, some of these people went from strangers to virtual (and then real-life) friends. I realized that getting to know them, and helping them however I could, was a highly positive thing.
Lesson #2: Further, most people are on your side.
The best speaking advice I ever received was: be passionate. Caring about what you have to say will go a lot further than mastering all the technical nuances of giving a good talk.
Of course, you shouldn’t try to manufacture passion. It’s much better to speak or write about something of which you’re already passionate. See Colleen’s note on how to be a motivational speaker.
The second best speaking advice I ever received was: remember that the audience is on your side. The audience wants you to succeed—that’s why they’re there! Unless you’re a politician, you’re probably speaking to a friendly crowd.
This lesson applies to writing as well—if people read something you write, most of them want to like it and are inclined to be your supporters. Otherwise, why would they read?
Lesson #3: You can do things your own way.
Learning to survive in an extrovert-oriented world doesn’t mean you need to change everything. In some cases, other people can change to accommodate you.
I hate phone calls and try to make as few as possible. In many cases, I find phone calls draining and distracting from other work. I understand that sometimes the phone is the most efficient way to communicate, so I do make exceptions—but generally if someone asks for a call, I ask them to email their question or request. It’s just much easier for me.
Another common concern of introverts is that sharing too much will be harmful or otherwise unhealthy. But remember, you are the one who chooses which aspects of your life to share. You choose what should remain private and what is for public knowledge.
A good principle is: whatever you choose to share, be fully transparent about it. But you don’t have to choose to share everything.
When writing online, a blog is not a democracy. You don’t have to give the comments section of your blog over to anyone else. You don’t even have to have a comments section, for that matter.
Lesson #4: Practice makes perfect.
It sounds simple, but it’s true: the more you do something, the better you get at it. Challenging yourself is good, and experience produces confidence.
Much of the time I’m still nervous before a speaking event, but I still get out and do it. Once in a while I’m wary of taking risks, but I know I won’t grow without stretching myself.
It’s not only experience, it’s also the fact that most of the time, everything goes well. You go to an event and meet an interesting person. You do a decent job giving a talk. You realize that there’s nothing to fear, or at least nothing terrible.
If you’ve always felt more introverted and are worried about jumping in somewhere, fret not. There’s nothing wrong with you. Chances are, you have something to offer the world, and you shouldn’t let your personality hold you back.
Question: are you more introverted or extroverted? What have you learned about how this affects your work and relationships?
Let us know in the comments.
(Don’t be shy…)
*Hat tip and shoutout to my friend Susan Cain, who is leading the worldwide introvert revolution. Check out Susan’s interview with Jonathan Fields at WDS 2012.
Image: Captain Die
I’m definitely an introvert too even though I’m a natural performer. I have the urge to take the stage on occasion so I love being a public speaker, but it’s exhausting. At the end of the day, I’d rather unwind by chatting with a small and quiet group of close friends than hang out with a massive group of strangers.
I’m definitely an introvert but I now like to think of it as an advantage… I’m great in my own company and can sit back and appreciate situations so much more closely than others. I can practice public speaking (I was a secondary teacher before I began traveling which is very public!) and picking up the phone but it’s very difficult to learn to enjoy just sitting and thinking and taking pleasure from the simple things in life 🙂
I’ve always been introverted, and speaking and presenting as a management consultant has been my biggest learning curve. These sound like some awesome ideas for getting over my fears. I cant wait to try them. Thanks for the constant stream of great advice.
The biggest misconception about introverts is that people think that we’re shy. Introversion just means people derive their energy from being alone or with a small group of people. But over time, as I’ve developed my social skills, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I even have had a couple of friends say that I’m super social, but I’m also highly introverted.
You’re also right about the energy levels. If I go out to a bar, you can expect me to be very social for a couple of hours, but then I have a huge drop-off because of the over stimulation. In order to go along with it, I switch venues to something more low-key like a hookah bar or an after-party back at my place.
That being said, if someone is introverted, I recommend that they still work on being social for as long as possible and not using it as an excuse to retreat into solitude if they haven’t met their social goals (like meeting women, developing a social circle, etc). It’s important to continually push yourself to find out what you can actually handle and what you can’t.
But yes, there’s nothing wrong with introversion. Embrace it 🙂
I find that although I am basically an introvert (or more towards the introvert end of the scale), when speaking in public I find that I can just be content to be up there in front of groups of people, even if there are very large groups.
For me I think it comes down to the issue of control: when I’m public speaking, the audience are there to listen to me and I’m basically in control. I know what’s coming next, I can take the time that I need, it’s my show. And that gives me confidence in myself, to be able to be myself rather than trying to put on some sort of artificial persona.
I totally get the introverted thing too… it is definitely my orientation toward people and life, as I very much need alone times in order to re-charge my battery. I often think of myself as a ‘gregarious introvert,’ because it’s not at all that I don’t like people — I love ’em! But I do notice that when I need to be ‘on’ for other people over a length of time and don’t get time to myself, I can get very cranky.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to identify that point at which I need to go into my shell and then find ways to make that happen. For me, having a meditation practice each morning is a great way to establish that ‘me’ time on a regular basis, and it gives me a source of nourishment to draw on throughout the day.
This is great! I have always been naturally an introvert, but have become extremely comfortable writing and speaking.
Friends from high school are often shocked that I can do this now, but you nailed how this happens in your last point.
Repetition. Doing it. At first it’s terrifying to get in front of people, but each time you do it, it’s a little easier.
Whooo boy, am I glad I didn’t just skip the article after the first sentence. After all, I know I’m not an introvert, I’m always talking to people, sharing things.
Then I read the rest and was blown away – yes, personal interaction is very draining for me, yes, I need to recover. Wow! How did you know that? Weddings and big events have gone from being uncomfortable to VERY uncomfortable.
One reason I hope to start blogging is because I need to find a way to manage my need for contact with people with my need for (lots and lots of) space. Huh.
Thanks for a great post – enlightening and helpful!
I have always been introverted. I enjoy speaking with people about subjects that interest me. Most recently that has been exploring the prehistory of the Land of Oz. I was a featured guest on a blogtalk show a few months ago speaking about my book. I loved it, but the energy drained right out of me. I needed a couple of quiet days to recharge. Introversion has been a mixed blessing. I discover amazing ideas and thoughts, but I don’t seek out the audience to share them. That is the wonder and the sorrow of requiring solitude to process thoughts. I agree with your thought on passion. Iwould add that broadening your experience opens up a world full of additional ideas to be passionate about.
For years I made myself, and allowed others to make me feel guilty for not being a rainmaker, constantly on the phone and/or pounding the pavement. And to this day, I can feel like it’s too self indulgent to spend a day alone, thinking, writing or creating.
I work in a position where I give public talks on occasion. The most helpful advice I ever heard was similar to your lesson 2. Someone said “Remember, they WANT to hear what you have to say or they wouldn’t be here.” I repeat it to myself every-time I have to speak.
Ha, the phone! I hate leaving voicemails in particular; the worst!
Another thing that has helped me when mingling is to remember that 1’s and 3’s+ are the best to cut in with. Trying to engage with a group of 2 is generally the most awkward. I try to pick out either another introvert I see milling around, or a slightly larger group of people who don’t appear to already know each other. If a small group of people is shaking hands, I know that they’ll be great ones to talk to, and generally the most welcoming.
I’m definitely more introverted, I love to spend time on my own to rest and recharge. Recently I stepped out of my comfort zone to start an epic cycle round the world and a blog to share my thought and discoveries along the way.
In doing so I have faced a lot of my fears around rejection and concerns that no one will want to read of what I have to share. It still feels uncomfortable sharing myself online but I’m really glad I did it. The process so far has brought me closer to my friends and family anyone sitting on the fence should take a leap of faith, there is so much to learn from living outside of you comfort zone.
Great topic Chris
If I had a nickel for every time some well-meaning (extroverted) person asked me, “why are you being so quiet?” – I’d be a rich woman. Seriously, it’s like being an introvert is some kind of social disease! It’s not! We’re just wired differently. And I know for a fact that if I have something to say, I’ll darn well say it! Thank you for the tips you gave to help us introverts survive in an extroverted world.
I definitely veer toward the introverted side. While it is challenging especially in terms of networking, people who know me often tell me that when I have something to say they really listen and value it because they know that I don’t just talk for talking’s sake and voice my thoughts when I feel like I have real value to add. Public speaking has happened a handful of times but I’m pushing myself to do more of it because my story is such an important part of what I do and passion really does go a long way. Lesson #2 is a comforting reminder, so thanks 🙂
The topic caught my eyes on the email! I am an introvert with a mix of shyness. But learning that introversion is not something you need to change but rather embrace is a life changing mantra. Thanks to writers like Jennifer Kahnweiler and Susan Cain who brought this to light to a lot of individuals like me. I am enjoying being an introvert, facing its challenges and boldly go out in front of everyone and say ‘this is me!’.
Thank you for writing this thoughtful article, Chris. Introversion and shyness are pretty well ingrained into my personality at this point, so it pleases me to see that there are ways to find success without changing the core of who you are.
Personally, my shyness usually manifests itself through inaction. That is, perhaps I have an idea for a post, but I don’t write it because I don’t feel it will be good enough. This is something I’ve slowly been getting over, especially as I come to realize that my writings are of interest to a solid group of people, and even when they aren’t it’s not the end of the world. I can always try again, right?
Anyway, I still have a long way to go — your tips will certainly be of help. Thanks again for sharing!
I am cripplingly shy at times. I don’t know why. I’m not worried about people saying bad things. At least, I don’t think I am. Who cares what people say? I think what I am worried about is putting words or actions “out there” that I will never be able to take back. What if they are the wrong ones? After interactions with people, even people I know well, I find myself going over them in my head, picking them apart and dwelling on what wasn’t perfect and what I should have done or said differently. Sometimes, I am not so much worried about anything in particular as I am gripped by an inexplicable, paralyzing terror. I once drove all the way to a restaurant, saw the people inside, and immediately turned around and went home, despite the fact that I was starving and had no food in the house. I can be wild and fun and very social… but most of the time, I’m terrified. I’ve never felt not like an outsider among anyone other than small children. All I want is to write for a living, and when I discovered that writing (or more specifically, getting published) is a business that requires people skills just like everything else, I was mildly heartbroken.
I used to be a hardcore introvert but writing online and making videos actually helped me to become a bit more of an extrovert, or at least, at some specific times.
The tips and ideas you guys shared here are really valuable, really wished I stumbled into this when I was first getting started online and with my blog.
It took me about a whole year to create my first video and it was dead awful, when I finally understood I absolutely needed to do video at one time or another, I set up a personal “video challenge” in which I would be literally forced to record and upload a daily video for seven days.
That proved to be invaluable because that right there was the ONE THING that made me lose a lot of the fear I had of putting myself on video for my blog.
Anyway, just wanted to give you a brief scenario on something I was having problems with and how I got rid of it.
Loved all the ideas, sharing this one! 😉
Thank you Chris for posting this. I just said to a friend yesterday I wanted to start a blog about my personal experiences and aha moments in the hopes it will help others on their journey. Everything you wrote about in this article were all the fear thoughts I had in my head that were stopping me. The negative comments, exposing myself to the world, etc. It’s as if I shared each fear and you addressed it.
I am definitely a combination of extrovert and introvert but recharge by being on my own. Most people laugh when I say I’m an introvert because when I am around people I am very outgoing.
Thank you for writing this, Chris! You may never believe it, but I’m a natural introvert, too. If I don’t get a full day alone in silence each week, I start shutting down.
Another tactic that’s helped me with speaking and teaching in front of people I don’t know is telling myself: “Give you, give love.”
In the end, that’s really the most you can possibly give. It helps calm me into the present moment and out of “they’re all gonna laugh at you!” 😉
I am definitely an introvert, and I am gaining more confidence as I find others who share that trait – successful professionals who are also introverts by nature. I teach, and since I’ve been teaching online, I can direct my social energy much better than I did in the classroom. Thanks for this enlightening and energizing post!
Another great article! This is definitely something I have struggled with throughout the years. I am an introvert by nature and love to read and go for walks by myself. However, I am also a musician, and as the lead guitarist and vocalist in a couple bands, I also am often in the role of front person, which has forced me to be more outgoing. There is a certain safety on the stage, because you interact, but to a large extent, there is sort of an invisible rope. It is harder for me when I come off stage because it is part of the job as an entertainer to be friendly and welcoming, but I am afraid sometimes I may come off as stuck up because sometimes I feel overwhelmed by talking to a lot of people, especially if they are strangers.
I have found what helps me the most in public situations is to be “in character” for the different roles I play and emphasize certain facets of my personality so I am being myself, but also don’t have to put everything in the open. Also, I need to take breaks to be by myself, whether its going for a walk at lunch at work, or just getting up extra early to hang out with the cat.
I like writing and feel more free to say anything there.
It’s kind of comforting to know that you’re an introvert, Chris. It was also good to read the comments from the other people and know that there is loads of company on the “I NEED my alone time” bandwagon! Yes, as an introvert, I feel VERY drained quite rapidly with “socially required” empty conversations (especially small talk and gossip, which I avoid like the plague), but conversations with interesting people about topics that I’m passionate about CAN go on for a long time!
Echoing Deanna, the tendency is for extroverts to characterize introverts as–and introverts to accept–having a deficiency to be minimized or overcome. That’s a rather narrow view of the introvert’s role in society. Taking time to recharge is no more of a weakness than being unable to be alone in your own company for any period of time. Society seems a little uncomfortable with reflection and solitude for any period of time. The deficiency may be more with society itself. This post was a nice change from the usual script of backhandedly portraying introverts as broken.
What a great topic! It doesn’t make someone any less credible in their audience’s minds to reveal that they are of a more introverted nature–not THESE days, anyway.
Tests show I am only slightly more introverted than extroverted–how about everyone else reading these comments? But my start in life was one of listening to the other three in my family command a room. Who knew I could–or would havee to develop this skill? And here I am, developing a business as a communications coach. Well, I guess you teach what you have to learn.
My biggest takeaway from early days of teaching was that your “audience” doesn’t care how introverted, or shy, you might feel. They only care about your ability to entertain/inform THEM.
As long as we remember our communications are about them, we are okay with whatever nature we have.We introverts can dredge up and develop an extroverted SIDE to our natural inclination.
I hate being caught around mindless chatter. Getting off by oneself means being able to follow one’s own interests, and not be dragged into meaningless conversations or agendas.T
This is my camp 🙂 Most people think I’m extroverted because I know I can be “out there” for a decent chunk of time, but then I have to disappear. I changed my career in my 40s because I couldn’t take all the face-time combined with the never-ending responsibilities of a growing family, and end-of-life parents. There were too many demands and I was often ill: migraines, chronic fatigue, cold after cold…. Now I work hard to maintain balance. If I’m out-and-about for a few hours, I make sure I follow that with time to myself. Freer time means the ability to make wiser choices for myself, and I’m now following my dream. Very little money, but no more illness 🙂 The trade-off was more than worth it. In fact, I have the time and energy now to have more meaningful interactions with people and groups. I do have to force myself out at times to maintain my social balance, but I’m trying to do it in new ways, so that I meet new people. My life is infinitely better. Thanks for the article ~ always nice to see how other introverts manage and move forward.
Thank you Chris for the excellent points and the simple clear definition of the difference between introvert and extrovert.
I’m an introvert and totally get recharged in the quiet spaces and especially in nature. I live across the street from the ocean and walk there every day for renewal. Over the years of giving many talks and trainings I have gotten very comfortable and now really enjoy these interactions.
I spent the last two days having a booth at an event. Reaching out to passers by and selling myself is not my strong suite but if they come and talk we always have meaningful connections.
Yes people are generally good, kind, compassionate and very supportive if you connect genuinely with them. In truth we are one big family and that is easily felt when we talk heart-to-heart or with and openness and acceptance.
Thanks for posting this, Chris. I’m a big fan of Susan Cain’s work on Introverts–mainly because it gets the word out that lots of people work and relate differently and that’s a good thing. And also pointing out that introvert doesn’t mean “shy” or antisocial. Looking for those moments when I can break away from the crowd and have time to regroup in order to come back ready to interact is key for me.
I’m the quieter introvert. I’ll go to events with lots of people and recharge by spending time by myself, but I’m also naturally inclined to not say much. While I try to adapt more than transform myself in situations where I am encouraged to be more extroverted, I also feel that people see me as a doormat because I am so introverted. I’ve been called “quiet” and “shy” so often in life that I’ve come to worry about it appearing as a weakness. But I see it as much of a weakness as a strength. When I do speak up, some people seem to find my opinions really important because I’m actually saying something for once. Sometimes I also feel invisible. A blessing and a curse?
Introverts rock! I’ve learned so much from taking courses and involving myself in activities that build on the technical skills of putting oneself out there.
Chris, that’s the best definition of “introvert” I have seen, “how you draw your energy”. It makes perfect sense. I love people and love being around people, but it tends to drain my energy. I always felt a bit strange, “anti-social” because of this. I feel most energized when I am working on a piece of art or writing.
You’re right that the more I put myself in situations where I have to speak in front of others, the more comfortable it becomes. Toastmasters has been a great help for me. Thanks for sharing this article and a fresh, new, empowering definition of introvert.
Thanks for writing this, Chris. I’m also mostly introverted. I don’t actually mind being introvert, but I’ve realized that it can hinder me from great opportunities like public speaking and interviews. Your tips are very useful to overcome those. I think introverts are better in noticing the details and even feelings, body language of other people. I’ve definitely found it helpful in many situations. It’s a good reminder to stretch our skills and what we think we can.
I’m definitely more introverted, absolutely 100%. It makes things difficult sometimes because I’m in a band, which is an extroverted job already, but I’m also in the band with an extremely extroverted singer. And she has a tendency to expect me to be extroverted ALL the time. I value my time alone, it’s really easy for me to go into the woods and spend the day alone, maybe reading a book or watching the sky for hours. I enjoy my quiet introspection, definitely my fuel for life. This, unfortunately, is not looked at as a good thing by society or the people around me. Half the time I’m struggling to get even a few minutes by myself. I’m also not the most easy person to talk to. These things combined make it hard to work as a musician, but I have gotten more used to it all and been able to continue growing in this career choice. But my introversion calls for me to break away at least some of the time, get some time to draw in my energy again before tackling another social interaction. Definitely both a gift and a curse, but I like to believe that I’m a much stronger person because of it. Keep strong introverts, the world needs our quiet, revolutionary ideas to fuel it from the shadows
Love the article. My first encounter with understanding my introvertedness was when I took the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory. If you ever get a chance to have this evaluation, it’s well with the time. You are totally correct about deriving your energy from your inner thoughts. We are “in the head” type people. Being out there is draining and requires time alone to recuperate. Here is an extra bit of information I learned. If on the MB continuum, your FEELING component is high, you will need contact with others also. For me this translate into one person at a time. Large groups are draining but a one on one with a person who can communicate ideas is a must. So the paradox for me as a painter is I don’t like working for long periods without human contact-preferably with another artist. Teaching is a great way to have the best of both worlds. Isn’t it great that we are all different.
It’s funny how this landed in my inbox this morning as yesterday I found myself watching a YouTube video of a speech by Susan Cain on introversion and was thinking quite a lot about it. I am a very introverted person. I like people and I like being around friends but don’t like to put myself in a situation where I feel vulnerable. I’ve recently been building up my business and know that I am now required to go out to networking events and pounding the pavement to speak with potential clients and it really does pain me to think about. I think you make a very good point about taking the time to regroup, clear your head and get back at it. Us introverts tend to be quite intelligent people and need to speak up and let our voices be heard in this outspoken world.
Definitely introverted!! And I love it whenever I see you mention your aversion to the phone, because I have it, too. I have to gear up for phone convos, and I keep the ringer on mute. Much easier to communicate in writing, and I tell my distant healing clients to email if they have a question or concern, because I check my email several times a day and cannot promise the same for my phone. 🙂
Yes, I’m an introvert, and yes, I’ve learned to handle speaking in public. (Toastmasters is wonderful for this: go visit your nearest club.)
But I find that after a busy meeting I am totally wound up and in need of quiet conversation. If I’m not careful can totally crash. I think it’s getting better, but I still don’t quite know how not to crash.
I’m an introvert, but when I finally force myself to get outside into public, I am an extrovert with overlapping introvert tendencies. LOL! People tend to come to me to ask for directions when I’m out in public, more so than the people around me. I must look authoritative. I do speak quite well in public also when forced to do so, but it doesn’t mean I like it.
So happy to have read this today, I have always been a strong introvert. It has made things tough in a professional office environment – I hate taking phone calls, I’d rather email all day. I find phone calls, and lots of conversation and talking simply exhausting. I find speaking loudly exhausting, to me, the world around me is always talking too much and too loudly! LOL.
I have learned to use this to my advantage though, when I do speak up in meeting or in work settings I make sure I am doing it for a good reason. Many peers simply chatter all through a meeting simply because they feel they should be talking and/or they like to hear themselves speak. This makes my less frequent concise statement carry more weight and people tend to really listen and take what I am saying seriously rather then the norm of blocking out the people who are talking simply to feel important with really nothing worthwhile to say.
I’m very much an introvert. I love doing solitary activities like reading, writing, proofreading/editing, and voice over work in my home studio. I actually just took a job at the coin laundry near my house – 2 days a week for 4 hours each day – in order to connect with other people and be more sociable with strangers. I also have a close group of friends and I enjoy their company, but I find hanging out once or twice a month is more than enough for me.
this was an amazing article. even when i was reading it, i was like, this is me! you have hit the nail on the head and so sensibly too. the reason i have been reading your posts since at least three years now is because you are positive but pragmatic. your posts have helped me a lot. i haven’t travelled much, but you’ve opened up a lot of windows of my mind. thank you.
Thank you for writing this. I too, am an introvert and need time of my own to sort things out. This is just a matter of how I perceive and deal with things. I once had a summer job as a secretary and I really struggled when I had to use telephone and I still don’t like it much. Later I had a job and my boss was a definite extrovert. He would just all of a sudden come to me and ask what do you think of this or that. I would just lean back and think if I could have this question in writing, have some time to think it over and maybe get back to him in a couple of days. We were just totally different in ways we worked and thought of things. Since then, I have become a Chairperson of my home municipality council (for 5 years now) and have had to try and learn to be more extrovert. Nowadays, you might even take me for an extrovert but basically, my personality is still the one of an introvert and I am happy with that. Thanks, I really liked this!
I remember reading your first ebook years ago and recognizing a fellow introvert.
Even though I knew I was an introvert in my early 20’s (INFP) I look back on many years of “building my career” and how I both ignored and honored my introversion. When I ignored it I let myself believe that constantly being “on” was the only way to succeed. When I honored it I declined invitations and stayed in my hotel room to recharge after a long day at a conference (including presenting).
Becoming an online entrepreneur has been particularly satisfying to my introvert self. And I think there are some things unique and specific to being an “inner-directed” entrepreneur, especially our motivations for becoming self-employed (far beyond money) and the areas of entrepreneurship we choose to focus on (finding something in the work that we connect with).
How gratifying to be reading about and connecting with other introverts.
What a timely article. This makes so much sense.
I also believe people may have or are forced to become introverts due to circumstances and over the years they internally train and learn how to pull energy and motivation from their inner self.
I know for a fact that some who are naturally extroverts had to change and become introverts to simply cope with what people do to them.
I love the way you write. Thank you.
Very good post, Chris, accurate and should be helpful to many.
How does introversion affect my work? It makes it easy to work alone, have independent (more or less) opinions.
Relationships? Introversion can make relaionships difficult, since we introverts tend to need others less, generally speaking. For example, gatherings of relatives I have rarely enjoyed.
Introvert here as well (and man, I truly hate phone calls, too). Three things have been helpful for me: 1) Learning that I’m an introvert (because I’d been called an extrovert my whole life due to strong communication skills, and never thought to question it); 2) Learning what an introvert actually is (if you believe it means you’re shy, you act shy–unhelpful); 3) Doing things my own way, as you suggested (for example, to advance my career, I widened and deepened my professional network like so many people suggested to me, but instead of suffering through small talk at networking events, I used LinkedIn, email, and my blog–with a lot of success).
Great post, Chris. (Rarely commenting, but often reading–and am an enormous fan of your books.)
I’m an introvert, too, and for years forced myself to do extroverted things at work (believing that I needed to attend cocktail parties, schmooze clients, etc. to succeed). My rule these days, though, is to not waste my life doing things I don’t enjoy. So no more fake extroversion for me.
I find that I can be a happy introvert, working largely solo, focusing on creating quality work, and still close more deals than my extroverted coworkers.
Regarding public speaking: I actually find that introverts tend to be better public speakers than extroverts. Introverts (generally) care more about what their listeners think and consequently work harder to create a valuable presentation.
Love the article. And I say this an extrovert that also needs my time away from others to recharge my batteries. I have to admit that I think that just as many introverts think they get a bad name, I think the tide is turning. Many people seem to like saying they are introverts as code for saying they are above needing the energy and company of others as part of what makes them tick. Introverts and extroverts and most of in between could learn a lot from the healthy BALANCE this blog speaks to.
Like other respondents, I am an INFP in Myers-Briggs Personality Type lingo. Some find it crazy that I would be a pastor for 31 years and then transition into training. Your suggestions are excellent, Chris. I would like to add another to the public speaking list. Find two people in your audience who are particularly interested in your presentation and imagine you are speaking with them one-on-one. The awesome thing about looking directly at someone when you are speaking is everyone around them thinks they are the person to whom you are speaking. If one of these is in the back right and another is in the front left, you can just alternate between speaking to these two, most of your audience will believe you were talking to them.
Talking to two people about one of your passions is much easier for an introvert than talking to 200 people. But it is great when half of them think the talk was just for them!
I not only schedule time to recover, I have to schedule time to charge-up before a training event. When I was a pastor, I got to know almost everyone in my audience, so they were not strangers. But as a trainer, I am always starting out with strangers. Having energy is critical!
I think this article will form part of the rise of the introverts! Or rather part of the dissolution of the extrovert ideal myth? After reading Introvert Power and then Quiet, recognising my own introversion helped me see what I thought to be a character flaw as just a personality type/preference. That being said, there’s much work to do in order to be kind to ourselves and others in order to meet our needs (without letting ourselves be drained) as well as find our strong place in the world. The more introverts and extroverts understand each other, the more we can do greater things in harmony. Thanks for the post Chris.
This is great advice! I used to have such a hard time speaking in front of people, then I learned lesson #2 and I have gotten much better at it. I also find that not trying to over think things helps as well. Just take it one step at a time.
I am an absolute introvert and am finding that I am becoming even more introverted in my 50’s as I begin to care much less what others think about how I behave. I am an INTP in the Meyer Briggs personality classification married to another INTP. Our ideal evening is turning off the phones and reading with no outside noise or interruptions.
Hey Everyone, my PREFERENCE is for extroversion. I like to reflect though and need some time by myself, anymore than a day though and I go stir crazy. What I think people need to be careful of is labelling themselves as something. Just because you have a preference for something you can flex into a difference preference. It just takes more time and effort. Its like handedness, I write with my right hand, I can write with my left hand – its not super legible.
I also avoid using the telephone, I don’t think that is necessarily an ‘introvert’ thing. I like to see people when I talk to them.
The great thing about all of this is that we are all unique, we all bring our strengths to this thing we call life and by harnessing the power of both we create new and wonderful things.
Great read – thanks Chris. I’ve definitely learnt to be more confident, open and more adaptable to living and even running the business in English speaking countries and different culture. I have migrated twice and it took some getting used to. Learning English took some time too. I used to be more shy, but then realised how important to me is what I’d like to do in life and made a decision on taking what’s coming my way with a positive hungry and grateful attitude. It opened so many doors for me, so for me it was a matter of gaining confidence and experience of finding myself in a different culture.
I’m a proud introvert… I really reboot by spending time alone and in silence. Anyway, I HATE THE PHONE TOO. I will avoid making phone calls at all cost. I was nice to read that you feel the same way. I think I hate it because I need to write down my thoughts to really process them so phone calls really leave me on edge. I wonder if this is a trait of an introvert?
I think I am a bit tend to introvert most of the time. But your lesson 5, practice makes perfect is really a good advice. I should really start practice more to be able to speak confidently in front of people.
I find it interesting how many introverts enjoy public speaking, and how many extroverts don’t.
Perhaps it’s because you are essentially alone in front of other people (a challenge for extroverts who value shared expression, but a safe place for self expression from the introvert).
Thanks for the article Chris. When I hesitate to speak whats on my mind this week I will remind myself of your four points.
I think being an introvert has its perks – especially when those around you understand that you are a natural introvert and give you time to work through problems. I manage a large manufacturing facility so I have built and developed a team that offsets my introversion. They spend more time in front of the team than I do, and I let them know that I appreciate it on a regular basis. My team also understands that when I step-up to speak, it is something important and something that I am very passionate about, so they are more apt to listen.
I prefer to meet in smaller groups and in one on one settings, and I value my time alone. It helps me re-energize, and I also use this time to get my thoughts on paper or on my own blog.
Thank you for sharing!
Tests show that I am an introvert and I think a very sensitive one at that! Which is why I am finding it harder than what I initially thought it was going to be to run a blog and ‘to put myself out there’ particularly on the social media channels. I even did turn off my comments at one stage just like you mentioned! I guess I fear what people are going to say and I always worry about how I respond – I don’t wont to unintentionally offend them in anyway. Your lessons #1 and #2 really had a positive impact on me 🙂 I guess I’ll just keep persisting! I am running a crowdfunding campaign at the moment which I also think is a hard exercise for introverts – having to constantly promote, ‘sell’, market in a short time frame – something I am finding very difficult to do.
I’m definitely an introvert. This seems to affect relationships in that insecure extroverts often take this personally, thinking I disapprove of them or am aloof and snobby. As I’ve matured I try to counter this by making an extra effort though it doesn’t always work. I also feel that in the workplace or when meeting new people my quietness is misread as lack of intelligence. I need space and time to myself and find too much interaction draining but extroverts just don’t get it.
Introvert, definitely! Also shy, shamed and ruled by fear [each for good reason, including PTSD /multiple bloody traumas/incest/rape (it’s amazing what one can grow from)]
Came back from WDS2013 and decided to stop hiding: joined Toastmasters; attending networking events; put my photo up on FB for the first time; and, encouraged by Superhero Rowse, am creating a personal blog. Thank you for a behavior-changing conference and now this timely how-to input!
I am an introvert. Most of the time I am misunderstood by my relatives or my co-workers. Many even think that I am a conceited person. But what most of the times I like to do is read great books, practice my writing skill and interact only with people who are on the same frequency as I am. But I also like parties. I love to see lots of lovely energetic people around me. I want to interact with lot of people. Giving a speech on a stage is my dream. While I may like people and want to engage in talks with them, people immediately know that I am not the person who can talk engagingly.
Chris, when you had visited Delhi in February this year I was impressed the way you talked, communicated with your audience. There is a lot that I can learn from you.
Thank you for sharing!
Funny this post should come my way from AONC, as when I cited introversion as my own reason for keeping public speaking at a distance to my coach, the first thing he said was, “Look at Chris Guillebeau – he’s an introvert, and he hosts his own events!”
It’s like you read all the questions/fears in my mind and answered them directly to me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. And this will help me share my thoughts and work more online.
I’m a natural introvert too, although I do a lot of (and enjoy) being on stage, hosting events, meeting new people etc and am on the social scene a lot.
I’m not an introvert but I’m married to one. Glad I didn’t stop reading after your opening sentence.
As an entrepreneur and introvert, I constantly have to force myself to step away from the computer and get on the phone or in meetings with people. CHOOSING to be an optimist and learning to see opportunities doesn’t always come naturally but they are essential ingredients to work, relationships and life! (No more preaching)
It has been four years since I decided to speak up and be open to others. It is definitely not an easy task for an introvert but it is possible.
I’m thrilled to encounter someone who shares my aversion to phone calls! I thought that was just one of my weird quirks. No one I know seems to get it, and they all seem to see it as something that needs fixing. I tend to think it’s just part of my natural introversion.
Thanks for this excellent article, Chris! I’ve often wondered how you do so many extroverted things, especially after attending WDS. Your advice is really practical and encouraging. I am near the middle of extrovert and introvert and I found your tips very helpful. Thank you again!
i am also a TRUE introvert! i capitalize that word as a means of self-validation, to remind me that it is perfectly normal and acceptable to be introverted. and why would i do that? because i spent more than half of my life believing that i was ABnormal, weird, and that my personality was UNacceptable! as you pointed out, this is an EXTROVERT-oriented society where introversion is stigmatized. growing up in the ‘family’ microcosm of extroverts, i was definitely chastised and consequently brainwashed beased on my “abnormality”. now that i am awake, i revel in my private time, my hibernation, and my freedom! so i say, “introverts rejoice! stand up for your right to hide!”
I’m a serious introvert, and I’ve finally learned to accept it! I’m a physician, so I spend my work day interacting pretty intensely with lots of people. I used to feel drained and crabby pretty much all the time, until I realized that I just need recovery time. I had to get over a lot of criticism (from myself as well as others), feeling like I should just suck it up, but I now work part-time and am much happier. I find that I actually connect better with my patients now that I don’t feel like I have to protect myself all the time.
Still working on the public speaking bit, though; thanks for the tips!
I am introverted, and I have also suffered from social anxiety. I feel I have come a long way, but still have a long way to go towards overcoming the obstacles that this can create for me.
The best advice I ever had was to “fake it ’till you make it”, the idea being that if you act confident then by definition you are (outwardly) confident, and over time as you observe yourself being this confident person you become more inwardly confident.
I love your advice and I will add it to my mental bank of confidence boosters. Thank you.
Thanks, Chris. Again, the right words at the right time. Most of all, the point that most people are on your side never gets stressed enough. Introverts face self-doubt wrestling matches regularly.
My blog hears my “Why me?” too often.
However, the debate always ends with “why not me?” This is our time, fellow residents of Whoville.
What I find interesting in the work that I do is that typically, introverts just don’t really get as much practice at socialising as do extraverts who naturally have something to say. Introverts think about what they wish to say, and by the time they have sculptured their comments, the conversation has moved on a 100 miles (or kilometres).
Extraverts on the other hand, simply speak and then think — that’s why they often have foot in mouth disease as the saying goes. Unfortunately too, since Introverts don’t practice their social skills as much, they frequently feel inferior to other, and that is a tragedy.
So Chris, I applaud your suggestions for introverts to simply give it a go and step out into the courage zone. Practice does make perfect — well, almost!
Thank you so much for writing this, Chris! I’m definitely going to share this with my introvert followers. I LOVE hearing about other introverts who travel, public speak and regularly break introvert stereotypes.
It’s true that introverts can thrive as writers and public speakers. I’m especially glad that you mentioned that a blog “is not a democracy”. You can’t please everyone and if you try, your voice won’t be authentic.
I’m an introvert and shy with new people, but I’m good at giving presentations — I was the one the group would shove forward to improvise or assign the important bits to. (Never done a long talk to a big audience, though.) What makes it possible for me is to be confident in my material. I have to know it well enough to talk off the cuff instead of using a prepared speech. I still use notes to remind me of the order of points, and how much is left, but mostly I’m standing up there talking, as if far fewer people were out there listening to me.
I like it, Chris! Sadly introversion is widely considered a negative trait, encouraging many naturally quiet people to pretend to be extrovert. Let’s have an Introversion Pride rally! And be aware that most of the greatest writers, artists and philosophers are introverted, sensitive and reflective. We are definitely okay!
As a younger man I was very much an introvert! As I have gotten older and have gone through some of life’s challenges I have slowly become a more confident and more outspoken “mild introvert”.
I do think introverts are deep thinkers as we often think about things to contribute but often decide not keep our thoughts and intentions internalized; therefore we introverts do become the book authors and playwrights of this world!
I’m changing profession to fit my personality haha. But of course I believe in the value of what I do now and deliver to people.
Speaking about introversion vs. extroversion, I can’t forget the MBTI.
So, what are your type, Chris? You mentioned that you’re an I.
I’m guessing that you’re an INFP? or INFJ?
And btw, you’re the best writer for me. I really like your chain of words. I guess I’m your right reader and you’re my right inspiration 😀
Thanks again for another great post..
Introverted-Treavor says thanks for saying hi first after the WDS2013 float!
Me (internal): /Oh god, it’s Chris G. Can he see me?/
Me: /Ahh!/ “Hi!”
I’m a natural introvert, but it took me years to come to terms with this. I spent most of my school years trying to be an extrovert, because I could see that extroverts got extra brownie points. Of course back then I had no idea I was an introvert, so I would get extremely frustrated with myself. Today I know how to find the right balance for me.
Being a writer I spend a lot of time alone and I love it. I love travelling alone as well. I also teach so I’ve learn to be comfortable in front of an audience, but it took me years. You are so right when you write that most people want you to succeed. Knowing that made a big difference to me. Also I found that when I speak about something that I’m passionate about and know by heart (like writing), I’m completely in my comfort zone. Afterwards I go home and turn off my phone for a day or two, but that’s okay. Sharing my knowledge makes me happy.
I too am naturally introverted and Myers Briggs confirms this. That aside, I use my blog as an outlet for my thoughts and welcome comments. In an even bigger step to broaden my reach I have recently begun writing and posting original spoken word poetry. My family is more than willing to participate by being my camera help and assisting with music choices, but it is my message being put out there. This was a great post.
I’m definitely an introvert, but I like to be social. I just know my limits. I think I can put my extrovert mask on for periods of time. I once dated an introvert who was shocked when I told her I was definitely introverted also. Different degrees, Chris is right, nobody is ALL one way or the other, which is why this can be pigeon holing. And it really annoys me when people act like I is BAD, and E is GOOD. I heard this on a podcast recently. Anyway, the more we know ourselves the better. Nice article!
I love this article, not only for what it says, but also for the responses about it. It shows how many of us are in the same boat.
I’m 66 now and as introverted as ever I was. The “shy” aspect has diminished a little, which for me was crippling.
I love the advises, esp that the audience wants the speaker to succeed, because that is SO true. Remember that a large segment of them are also introverts.
An additional thing I’ve learned is to close your eyes and jump! It’s a bit scary for a few moments, then it tends to work itself out. Like when you were a kid and you all went to get into the cold swimming pool. You could mess around and take an hour and not make it any better, or you coul force yourself to jump in. Once committed, you’re on your way and have to deal with it one way or another. After only moments, you find it’s not that bad after all and soon you even have fun. It really works.
I was like Holly in that I would go to college class and if late I’d turn around and leave rather than walk in so that others saw me. I couldn’t even go to business mtgs if I thought for a moment I might be called on. Now I often run things and even enjoy much of it.
I went through a tough time the back end of last year. I had relationship troubles, depression and low energy for life. This was completely out of character for me, and started to worry me.
Then I started talking to a counselor (whom just so happened to be my mum), who helped me figure a lot of stuff out. The most important thing she helped me figure out was that I was an introvert. Part of the reason I was burning out was the fact that my job required me to pour so much of myself in to other people – coaching, training, teaching, hosting – that I never gave myself any time to be with me. (I’m probably one of the more extroverted introverts that you’ll meet if you go off typical beliefs. My new job involves me coaching lots of children and entertaining for a good 25 hours a week.)
Now, I take time to myself. I’ve started a blog so I can write and be free from the world – whilst helping people with my own life mission – I do things on my own in my free time as much as I need to, and I don’t strive to be the center of attention on a night out anymore.
Learning about my introversion has led me to be a far better, more productive person.
Great article! I wouldn’t call myself an introvert because I definitely get energy from most people I am around. But recently I have been noticing how much I really NEED my alone time. Without it, I start to go nuts. I even took an online quiz and it said I’m on the balancing point between introvert and extrovert. Who knew!
Like someone else mentioned in another comment, I’m a natural introvert, but I’m also a natural performer. I think that combination is quite common. Performing can be an expressive outlet, but it is safe in the area of revealing too much. After all, when one is performing as a character, the real self is hidden behind that character. Like you say Chris, there’s no need to feel uncomfortable about being an introvert. You can simply plan to take plenty of alone time. I agree with another commenter, though, that it helps to be aware that introversion can come across as snobby or aloof, and to compensate accordingly by showing interest in the people around you.
Thank you for this article! Although I’m constantly being perceived as an extrovert as I can be very friendly and outgoing, I still feel and do things quite introvertedly(?). I am not super paranoid about what others think of me, but going up in front of others and performing anything does give me nervousness and anxiety at times. Which is problematic considering I’m an actor and I enjoy singing in choirs. Freaks me out every time, but I think that’s half the reason I love it so much.
Thanks for this encouraging post! I’m the typical introvert, I love to be on my own and get my energy out of it. I also have been very shy when I was younger, and I still Need time to integrate myself in a Group when I don’t know them well. But it gets better… I know that I have to Keep myself enogh spare time to be on my own because beeing with others Drains energy. Fortunately, I’m able to get this time regularly. I’m a singer and had to learn not to be that nervous before performing, but as you said, practice does a lot. What will be new to be is to be a Speaker – on the 7th of September I will have an Input at a women’s Meeting, and your post has encouraged me to look Forward without real Horror 🙂 Thanks for that – and sorry for the misspellings – one part is the Computer, the other is my being Swiss and normally writing in German. Looking Forward to reading more from you!
Firstly, thank you for your article!
To be honest, I read your article because there was the word “introvert” in the title. In reply to your question, I am neither and both. I am an ambivert. Which is a lot more confusing when dealing with people. I come across first and foremost as a quiet person, and I am rather shy, which is why the process of making friends takes really long for me. But as people get to know me, and as I get more comfortable with them, I tend to open up more, and sometimes I’m more extroverted, and that shapes their expectations of me, to the point where they expect me to be open all the time. It is a strange state to be in, and I have to somehow strike a balance between the two. But even more than that is how this duality of my personality cripples me at times, being torn between shyness and my need for quiet, and my desire to go out and socialise.
I guess I’ve still got a lot to figure out, but the things you’ve written above helps. Thank you once again!
Im introverted as well, as most of the people who read this article. It’s been a bit hard living in an extroverted world, and your words about the subject are soothing. Thanks man, great job.
I find this article very encouraging since I am learning to appreciate myself as a very introverted person. Many thanks.
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I sometimes wander what I am in this regard. I travel the world by myself for many years, and am very outgoing in meeting new people and getting into crazy adventures. However when I started travel blogging a year ago I admit that I was a little shy about writing about those experiences. I’ve grown over time to find my voice and it’s like you say, if it’s something you are passionate about then that will help a lot. The thought of standing up in front of a crowd to speak still unnerves me though!
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