confident introvert

Bold Fish, Timid Fish, Smart Fish, Dumb Fish: Introversion, Extroversion and Risk-taking

 

When Lee Dugatkin, Professor of Biology at the University of Louisville, placed guppies in a tank from which they could view predators in another tank, some of the fish swam up to the barricade to observe the predators; he named these “Bold” fish. Others – the “Timid” fish – swam the other direction.

When all the fish were placed directly in the tank with the predators, the Bold fish swam right up to the predators– and were eaten. Their survival rate at 36 hours was roughly half that of the Timid fish, and at 60 hours their survival rate was zero compared to 40% for the timid fish.

So, asked Psychologist Elaine Aron, why weren’t they called the Dumb Fish and the Smart Fish? What a great question. 

Possibly the answer lies in the fact that boldness is a much-admired trait in our society. Research shows that those step-forward, take charge, bold types of employees are much likelier to end up in leadership roles. As you go up the managerial hierarchy in corporate America, the ranks of the outgoing and bold swell as the quieter, more thoughtful and more risk-averse counterparts are left behind. 

Is this leaving corporate America at risk for hasty, poor decisions? I think so. In fact, I coached a client a few years ago who was in the last stages of collapse from stress, stress resulting from her repeated attempts to alert her manager to the need to do contingency planning for some of the crises a large corporation such as theirs might experience. He, in the meantime, scorned her contributions and gave her a bad performance review based on the fact that she didn’t participate easily in the games with which he warmed up for a meeting. 

Her health became so poor she went on leave, ultimately left the company to go into business for herself, and watched from afar as one of those very crises enveloped her former employer. 

Being watchful isn’t necessarily a sign of high intelligence, but it is often a trait associated with introversion.

Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: the Power of Introversion In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, has a chapter titled, “Why Did Wall Street Crash And Warren Buffet Prosper?” in which she says:

“Warren Buffet, the legendary investor and one of the wealthiest men in the world, has used exactly the attributes we’ve explored in this chapter — intellectual persistence, prudent thinking, and the ability to see and act on warning signs — to make billions of dollars for himself and the shareholders in his company, Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett is known for thinking carefully when those around him lose their heads. ‘Success in investing doesn’t correlate with IQ,’ he has said. ‘Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.’”

And that is the temperament of the introvert: watchful, careful, actually checking to see if there is a trampoline at the bottom of that cliff others are so determined to jump over.

Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based acclaimed national speaker, author, and executive coach with more than 30 years of experience in speaking and training. 

Author of The Confident Introvert,  and a life-long successful introvert, she believes that America is overlooking and even discouraging its intellectual treasure: the 51% of the population who are introverts, and who are highly representative of the gifted. 

In addition to helping quiet people thrive in a culture that idealizes extroversion, she gives leaders the tools to manage diverse groups in the same setting, and to develop the talent that is quietly under their noses. 

Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

The “Sliding Scale” of Introversion-Extroversion

After my talks, people often come up to me and say, “I used to be an introvert – but I got over it,” or, “I’m not sure; sometimes I think I’m one thing and sometimes the other. Can you be both?”

Actually, you can be both, changing from one situation to another, or changing over time from one to the other, then sliding back. That’s why I call the introversion-extroversion dimension a sliding scale.

Social psychologists have known for decades that surrounding circumstances can heavily influence personality. Personality tests may claim (or would have you assume) that once you have taken the test and been given a label, you are defined for life. It doesn’t work that way. A personality test cannot necessarily project what you will be in all other situations, past and future.

Although there are some known neurological differences between introverts and extroverts, the best-known (and possibly the defining) feature has to do with how much stimulation we can tolerate at a given time. Conversation, loud music, clutter, hustle and bustle – introverts tend to find too much stimulation at one time exhausting and even threatening, while extroverts thrive on it and will even seek out more.

What’s just been happening in your life?

But what is “too much”? The analogy to eating is a useful one. We all have appetites, some larger than others. We have differing capacities, too, so one person’s “full up” is another person’s “just getting started.”

Just as with eating, “too much” will depend on not only your capacity but on what you have consumed in the immediate past. If you have been overloaded with stimulation recently, you may crave isolation.

Too much isolation can drive you to seek bright lights and activity – generally.

Too little stimulation can be damaging to human beings.

We are social beings – we need connection to others to thrive. Research on everybody from infants to the elderly supports the recognition that we need social connections to be healthy, physically and psychologically. Some need more than others; many a healthy, successful introvert thrives on a few, deeply-held relationships rather than being part of a large social group.

Total withdrawal from social life generally results in poorer health and depression. So why do people do it, insisting that it is a necessary part of their introversion?

How’s your health?

Here’s one reason to withdraw: Being run down, or even ill, can lead you to resist exposing yourself to too much stimulation, as can depression or grieving. Recovering from these situations can mean that you and your energy rebound.  

Unfortunately, withdrawing from society for a long period of time, as introverts sometimes do, means a lack of the social experience that helps us shape up and improve our connections, and makes the thought of interacting exhausting and terrifying. So we end up avoiding social interaction more and more, often saying, “I can’t do that because I’m an introvert.”

It’s easier when you have skills

Go to the beach in the summer and watch an enthusiastic but unskilled swimmer beating the water with both arms, sending up great plumes of spray, while his legs thrash furiously. Then watch a highly-trained swimmer glide sleekly through the water as if it was her natural environment, leaving barely a ripple.

Introverts often complain about social activities as being energy drainers, but confident introverts (those with good social skills) find that they have plenty of energy for necessary and even enjoyable social encounters. Why? Because any activity for which you have skill takes less energy.

Even house-cleaning is easier when you know how to do it and have the right skills and tools. The same is true of social situations.

Not being socially skilled is an energy-drainer, but it is an unnecessary one. Anyone can learn to connect and communicate well with others; being an introvert simply means you choose the times when you do this.

Confident introverts don’t avoid social situations. They just make wise choices.

Watch for my upcoming course, Social Success Skills for Quiet People, giving you the tools you need to operate effectively – and happily – in professional and personal areas, without becoming someone you don’t like!

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Introvert Nervousness – Friend or Foe?

“I’m now able to give a talk in public, but I’m still nervous. I guess I won’t ever get over it.” The speaker was a woman in one of my seminars, and the topic was introversion and public speaking. Her assumption was that because she was an introvert, nervousness was always there, ready to undermine her performance and her confidence, and she would never be free of that awful feeling. 


After she spoke, I reflected that, years ago, I returned to dance after taking a few years off to go to college. At my initial return performance, I was overwhelmed by fear that I would fail miserably and embarrassingly. As my partner and I got into the opening pose just before the curtain went up, I was dismayed to find that his hand, which I was holding, was shaking badly. Just before the curtain rose, he said to me quickly, “Remember, this is energy. Use it!”

 

The performance was brilliant.

 

Good – really good – performers have always known that the little thrill of anxiety they experience before a performance actually enhances what they do; to be completely calm is to become a little dull. That nervousness can produce a number of positive changes, including increased mental clarity, energy, and enthusiasm.

 

Recent research by Crum and Salovey (2013)* disclosed that the belief that stress is debilitating will undermine performance, confidence, and health, too. 

 

So would simply switching that mindset to one that tells you that nervousness will enhance your performance make all the difference in the world? Not necessarily, because first it is important to rehearse your performance thoroughly, so thoroughly that you have a set of well-learned skills on which to fall back; think of it as being on a kind of automatic pilot.

 

Then, as the performance unrolls, you can hear that little voice inside saying, “I think I can. I KNOW I can.”

 

Repeatedly performing the same skills under stress while believing in the performance-enhancing value of stress leads to better performance, increased confidence, and a greater overall sense of well-being.

 

And, by the way, nervousness over public speaking or any other kind of performance is not the exclusive experience of introverts; extroverts can feel it, too. Introverts sometimes fall into the trap of believing what they hear so much from society, that introversion is a kind of defect. 

 

No, pretty much everyone has the same experiences when it comes to something like public speaking. The same rules apply: learn, practice, tell yourself nervousness is an advantage – and grow.

*Crum, A., Salovey, P. & Achor, S. (2013).  Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

What If…?

A friend and I took a lovely paddleboat ride on the Mississippi River one day, past old crumbling brick walls backed by sparkling new skyscrapers, learning a lot of history that we had never heard.

 

The good time almost didn’t happen, due to a careless mistake on my part. That mistake did trigger some thoughts about small stresses in life, which in turn triggered this article.

 

When I ordered the tickets for the paddleboat cruise, I was told to bring the printed order form plus a form of picture identification.


We showed up at the dock, I reached into my purse – and remembered that I had put my major credit card and driver’s license into a small pouch the previous day in order to attend an art fair – and hadn’t replaced them in my purse.

 

This is the kind of situation that can bring out creativity immediately. We had driven all the way to the landing, packing a picnic lunch, excited at this little respite from daily work and cares. Now the outing seemed threatened by my mistake.

 

What if we were refused entrance to the boat?

My first reaction was to say, “Oh, well, it’s a lovely day. If we can’t board the boat, we can have a nice picnic on the side of the river.” I said this loudly several times to convince both myself and my friend.

 

Inside my head, I pictured the clerk adamantly refusing to give me the tickets without the proper identification, and pictured myself being my winsome best to persuade her to turn over the tickets. 

 

All the while I had to remind myself that the various scenarios that were floating around in my head were just that – scenarios. They bore no relation to reality because they were in the future, which hadn’t happened yet. Any time you can put “What if…?” in front of the description of coming events, you should recognize that you are being creative, and not necessarily in a good way.

 

When we walked up to the window, I presented the order, the clerk frowned (a little inner tension for me here), and said, “What name was this under?” I replied, she reached into the drawer… and handed me the tickets, with no further conversation.

 

I know people who wouldn’t be fazed at all by this kind of situation, assuming from the start that they could somehow handle it in a manner that would bring a positive outcome. It wouldn’t occur to them to worry about it for a minute.

 

For those of us who spent a number of years perfecting our worrying, anxious thoughts will continue to surface any time a roadblock, however small, appears in our path.

 

Worriers need to have a few mechanisms in place when things don’t seem to be working out as you planned.

 

Consider other pleasant outcomes

So what if your plans are blocked? Stay relaxed, and look for pleasant surprises in your life. You can make wonderful discoveries this way.

 

Lamenting – “This is terrible. Our whole day is ruined” – forces you to focus only on the negative and stifles any creative solution.

 

I once was denied access to a museum because I had my small dog concealed (I thought) in a large handbag. My friends went in; I crossed the historic main street of this little town, entered an antique store, and found that the owner, who had lived there for decades, could give me the complete history of the area, showing me artifacts and pictures to illustrate her words. She also was a dog lover; we spent a delightful hour or so. The dog had a good time, too.

 

I could have sat outside in the heat, fanning myself, waiting for my friends, being alternately annoyed at the museum and annoyed at myself for bringing the dog.

 

In the case of our boat trip, I immediately began mentally planning an alternate trip along the river. We went anyway, but after the boat trip, found scenery neither of us ever knew existed, and this in a city where we have lived for years.

 

Imagine the best

As long as you are creating future scenarios, why not opt for good ones? Potential lovers stepping out of doorways, exhilarating celebrations taking place just around the corner….

 

Advanced Worriers (AW’s) need to think of all the times your plans were derailed, or you had to take a detour, and instead found a pleasant surprise.

 

RAW’s (Really Advanced Worriers) need to start making such a list. Look around you when you are blocked – really open your eyes and look at the scenery and the people. Many a relationship has erupted, many an entrepreneur has been launched, and all because of a chance encounter. New restaurants, old houses, unknown parks, charming shops, unexpected vistas can all pop up when you least expect them to do so.

 

Rehearse – but not too well

Prepare to handle the potential block to your plans by considering what actions you might take or what words you might use. Then remember that this is just one of several ways the situation might play out. I had a few persuasive words prepared if it was necessary, but I never had to use them.

 

Practice your stress management skills on small frustrations, such as this one, and you will be ready for the more serious challenges you will face in life.

 

Remember, we need systems in place that will help us to deal creatively with the small challenges that life brings to us all the time. Responding to these challenges creatively makes you stronger; responding with stress makes it more likely you will do so in the future.

 

Practice the good stuff! Make it a habit. 

May all your “What if’s” be great!

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Introvert Anger: The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Ugly

 

Are you an introvert? Afraid of anger? Your own and other people’s?

You’re not alone. We introverts are famous for becoming clams when we’re hurt or affronted. After all, anger can involve raised voices, threatening language – all that over-stimulation against which we try to protect ourselves.

The Bad

When we feel threatened, we introverts tend to pull into our shells to wait out the storm. Cowering in there, we re-play all of the scenes that distressed us: the frustration of feeling blocked, the seemingly unkind comment, the raised voice that sounded, at least to us, like a shout, the slight sneer we think we detected on the other person’s face…oh, the unfairness of it all.

This pulling-in becomes a habit that we activate at the slightest hint that something distressing will occur. It too quickly becomes a way of life: threat, retreat, re-hash.

It gets very crowded in that clamshell.

You can only do this so many times before the scene turns downright ugly. Not because of the other person, because of the phenomenon of the Exploding Clam.

The Downright Ugly: The Exploding Clam

Even placid clams can get enough. After all, there’s only so much room in that clamshell, right? You, plus all the hurt and anger, piling up.

That’s when the Clam explodes, not over an important issue, but often over something trivial. It’s Just The Last Straw! “Why do you always put away an empty ice cube tray after you’ve used what you want?” “What makes you think I want anchovies on the pizza?”

The problem is that no one sees it coming, including the perpetrator. It just bursts out. Who could predict that finding the ice cube tray empty once again would trigger the start of WWIII?

And the Clam is shaken by having this unfamiliar energy burst forth, and so retreats again into the clamshell, feeling embarrassed and muttering, “Nothing. Everything’s fine.” when pressed for an explanation.

The Good

Successful, confident introverts recognize that it’s not about the ice cube tray, the anchovies on the pizza, or the shoes left (yet again) on the stairs.

It’s generally about a sense of a loss of power. So it’s good to ask yourself, “Why did I give away my power?” “To whom did I give it?” “Why?”

Only then can you convince yourself that it’s really better and easier on everyone, including you, just to address the real issue: “This relationship isn’t quite going the way I would like.” Or, “I’m feeling overwhelmed and needing help.” Or a thousand other issues that make us feel helpless.

Speaking up about what you want and need doesn’t mean you’re aggressive, a bully, or even (gasp) an extrovert. It means you respect yourself and the people around you.

So, what have you got stuffed into your clamshell?

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

3 Time Expansion Tips for Introverts

harried woman

Introverts often feel harried, trying to rush towards that time when they can kick back and relax, freed from all social – and other—obligation. This is especially true when the introvert works in a busy organization where much of what happens is not under the introvert’s control (unlike a writer, who can have the luxury of walking through the park while mentally designing the next chapter).

The same nervous system that makes us intuitive and sensitive, that can caution us appropriately to collect enough information before making a critical decision, can also make us susceptible to feelings of extreme time pressure.

 

How do successful introverts handle the “brain buzz” that results from feeling bombarded by too much stimulation all at once? Here are a few secrets:

 

Take frequent, small calming breaks
Meditative 5-minute breaks are particularly important when switching from one task to another, one topic to another. These breaks can consist of closing your eyes, breathing deeply, listening to a calming tone or voice or even taking a short walk, paying attention to everything you see along the way.

 

This helps to take your focus off the many ideas and challenges swirling around you, and grounds you in present time.

 

Don’t make up alarming stories about the future
The ability to pause and consider many options before taking action can be an introvert strength, but a full 90% of stress is not about what’s happening now; it’s about what we imagine might happen. That future stress is extremely energy-draining and can make you feel overwhelmed with problems, when in fact you are simply overwhelmed by your own imagination.

 

The future is up for grabs; anything you can imagine in detail right now about the future is probably wrong in at least some details. The consequences of today’s activities could have many outcomes. There’s a difference between being prepared and being overwhelmed.

 

Stop wallowing in the past
Once again, the introvert nervous system helps us store information readily that might be useful in avoiding future mistakes but we tend to overdo it when we engage in what is called “rumination”: the act of pondering the same issue over and over again, a little like chewing a cud.

 

Don’t obsess about the past, especially those times when you think you fell short of some standard. This can be a big energy drain, and keep you from finding the energy you need to move forward, or to take a risk.

 

Learn to stay in present time. Focus on what is here and now; go to the past consciously to retrieve important information, not reminders of past failures, and go to the future consciously to construct creative outcomes, not disaster scenarios. 

Not to do so is like putting a giant vacuum cleaner to your brain and sucking out loads of energy. Balancing the time you spend mentally in the past, present, and future is said, by Zimbardo and Boyd, researchers and authors of The Time Paradox, to be like being on a permanent vacation.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Becoming a socially connected introvert – without exhausting yourself

 

I read the introverts forums, I watch the comments, and I feel a little dismayed. “Why won’t people leave me alone?” “I don’t like small talk, so I avoid people.” “Being around people is just so exhausting that I spend all my free time alone.” “I hate even the thought of networking.”

One gets the impression that all introverts are grumpy, asocial and even hostile to people who desire more stimulation and activity in their lives (OK, extroverts).

Unfortunately, good health and success are tied to the high quality of the relationships we form. Isolation is not.

It doesn’t have to be that hard. Fortunately, I know introverts who are highly successful in personal and professional life, especially relationships.

My friend with whom I traveled is an introvert who has a wealth of supportive friends and a successful professional life. Everywhere she goes, she seems to encounter someone who knows and likes her. If they don’t know her already, they will soon like her.

An outgoing extrovert? No, a lifelong introvert, who values her private time, makes it clear to others that she does so, and withdraws and uses meditation frequently to clarify life’s problems.

The lessons she models are important ones, because the people who “just want to be left alone” may be nonplussed to discover that they nevertheless need support, such as a drive home from a hospital after a procedure, a place to stay when their home has become temporarily uninhabitable, support for a bright idea, or even just a hug. And if you have a dream or a vision: nobody gets there alone. We all need support, and to get support you need to connect.

How she does it is a model for introverts everywhere. Here are some key guidelines.

Look for similarities, not differences.

It’s too easy to see someone else as abrasive or exhausting. Try to look for something you have in common with another person, or at least something likeable – perhaps a characteristic you’d like to have, such as a way of making people smile, or putting them at their ease.

Thoughtfulness: your Secret Weapon

Thinking deeply and noticing subtleties are real introvert skills. Too often we misuse them; our deep thinking becomes rumination, in which we obsess over and over about our inadequacies or embarrassments. The subtleties we may latch on to are other people’s negative reactions to things we do or say, rather than insights about the other people.

What about changing that to look outward and see other people for who they really are, then think of how you can connect?

My friend says that, when she meets someone new, she always looks for a similarity.

Reaching out and sharing doesn’t have to be exhausting.

You don’t have to sign up for big, noisy events, such as following the crowd to happy hour, to be socially connected.

Invite a colleague or neighbor to have coffee or tea: a one-on-one encounter in which you can find out more about the other person. You can take charge of the time, length and setting of the event.

Connecting doesn’t even have to take that much activity, nor do you even have to be physically present. It can only take a minute or so, sometimes even a second, to send thoughtful notes that are easy and quick. Keep some great stationery or cards on hand, then comment on birthdays, anniversaries, and especially successes.
Too busy to find cards and notepaper? Send one of those animated online cards, but make sure you add a personal note.

Set up a calendar which sends you reminders of other people’s special events: birthdays, anniversaries.

Special hint to make you special to others: take some time to make the message personal – for example, not just “congratulations,” but something like “I knew your ability to focus and be dedicated would pay off like this.”

Her way is to keep a list of people she knows and their tastes. During this recent trip, in April, she carried her Christmas list for next year, filling her suitcase with colorful bookmarks, soaps, and trinkets with which to delight her relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues. All year long she picks up things that she thinks will delight people on that list. Most items are neither large nor expensive, but they are truly insightful. Her choices are very apt: at one point, she gave me a small pair of wooden tongs to fish burning toast out of a toaster without electrocuting yourself. I use them every day, and I think of her every time I use them.

Having human contacts and arranging that those contacts don’t drain you of energy can keep you healthier and happier in so many ways.

Here are some of the consequences of the good social network she has set up:

She loves to travel, and has a host of friends to mind the cat and water the plants when she is away.

She also has a number of friends in other countries with whom she can connect when she next visits.

When she needs something, whether it is a new printer or a new sink, someone in her network seems to know exactly where to get it.

And recently, she started a new small business. With no advertising, not even a website, she had two clients in the first week. Some entrepreneurs agonize over how to attain visibility. She just does it naturally – one contact at a time.

So can you.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Are Introverts just too quiet?

I hear it often – in person, from clients, on the internet – “I’m told I’m too quiet, and need to speak out more.” I’ve had more than one client whose job review included that feedback. And the client says to me, “But I only speak when I really have something to say – and then it’s overlooked or discounted. So why bother?”

Why indeed do introverts so often feel their ideas and offerings are swept aside by other, louder people? Is the ability to influence other people really based on the ability to speak louder than other people?

I don’t think so. Some of the most effective people I have known were soft-spoken but relentless. They didn’t give up on presenting their ideas, wants, or needs to others until they saw the light of comprehension in the other person’s eyes.

The introvert brain is a busy brain, and when we do produce an idea publicly we have probably looked at it from all angles, teased out the many objections and answered them. Blurting out an idea about an idea before it’s fully formed is not our style. Our mistake lies in the fact that we then communicate it in a kind of telegraphic style to the world.

Here’s the problem, and I’ve seen it over and over. Heck, I’ve done it over and over. We somehow think our neat summing up of a complex issue is immediately apparent to other people, who have not been a witness to all the rich thought that went into the production of that idea.

We just give them a compact package, and then feel hurt when they don’t respond with the excitement (or at least the respect) we think it deserves. We got to that point of excitement and belief through a process that we haven’t shared, then we blame the listener for not appreciating it.

We need to learn to lead others to our good ideas, to teach them how to understand us.

An unconfident introvert too often starts with, “This is just my opinion, but … ” or, “This may or may not be a good idea, but ….” Overwhelmed with the belief that it’s hopeless to inform this person or group anyway, the unconfident introvert subsides easily, feeling overlooked and a little bitter.

The confident introvert starts with, “I’ve thought this through carefully, and I’d like you to follow my reasoning here.” Another good sentence to use, which reflects a high-level introvert skill, is, “I’ve listened to the various thoughts you all have, and I’d like to add what I have concluded.” When interrupted, the confident introvert may say, “I’d like to finish; then I’d be happy to discuss your objections.”

Since you are very likely to have thought in advance, find an anecdote or punch line that illustrates what you are trying to say. Help your listeners make pictures in their heads that match the pictures in your head. They can’t see those. After all, if you just describe the tip of an iceberg to someone, it isn’t reasonable to get mad if the person doesn’t see the whole iceberg. Would you show someone a snapshot and expect them to understand the plot of an entire film?

Which one are you – the unconfident or confident introvert? You see, it’s not about introversion and/or extroversion, nor is it about becoming either a chatterbox or a loudmouth. It’s about having the confidence to communicate well when you do have something to say.

And when you are able to do that, you have earned the right to sit back and be quiet in a group. Even your quiet presence can be influencing to people, who recognize that you can be a powerhouse of thought and that your quiet listening skills really do pay off.

If  you are an introvert with a passion to share with the world and you need help communicating your dreams in speech or writing, I’m available to help you craft taglines, elevator speeches, sound bites and more.  I can help you overcome obstacles to delivering these communications, too.  Contact me at Lynette@CreativeLifeChanges.com

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Two small steps towards speaking confidence

If you are one of those people who feels uncomfortable about speaking up in group settings, take heart. It is possible to learn to be a relaxed contributor.One of my early clients said, “Oh, I know what you’re going to say – just take a deep breath and force yourself.” Well, no, actually. That’s a little like telling someone the best way to learn to swim is to jump off the dock and hope some life-saving instincts kick in.

If you are an introvert (as I am), you have probably been blessed (or cursed) with an overly reactive nervous system. You may have learned, at an early age, to associate speaking up with fear – fear of confrontation, criticism, ridicule, or just simple blushing.

Unfortunately, we introverts learn those associations well: actually, too well.

There’s no longer a threat but the fear lingers, and lingers, and lingers, until it becomes a huge factor in not only silencing us, but in muddying our thinking. You can’t think clearly when you’re overcome by fear. My phrase, “Stress Makes You Stupid,” sums this all up.

So we may become anxious, confused onlookers in our lives instead of valued creative contributors.

If this sounds like you, here are two things you can do immediately to start changing that.

Get it straight!

Pay attention to your posture. Erect, proud posture looks and feels confident.

Research shows that in adults, a straight spine increases confidence, while “a slumped posture leads to more helpless behaviors,” writes Emma Seppala from the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford. Hunching or slouching can make you feel more stressed and more likely to give up in the face of challenge.

You don’t have to throw your shoulders back and assume the rigid posture we associate with the military. Instead, while sitting or standing, imagine a string coming from the front of your chest (just above the sternumand pulling gently upwards. At the same time, tuck your chin in just a bit and make sure your ears are directly over your shoulders.

You should feel relaxed and liberated, able to breathe more deeply and easily.

No huge risk-taking here, either: you can practice this skill by yourself, until it becomes automatic.

Slow down

Recently I went to a business meeting where attendees introduced themselves and their business. Almost without exception, they spoke too rapidly for anyone except the person sitting next to them to really understand what they were saying.

Nervous people are particularly apt to do this, as if they want to get the whole business of speaking publicly out of the way – fast.

You may know your name and the name of your business, but how is someone else supposed to decipher, “I’mJoanneBlowofDiversityEnterprisesandwehelppeople …mumble, mumble, mumble.”

If you saw the movie, The King’s Speech, you saw how King George VI, a lifelong stutterer, overcame his problem to give a moving speech to his people on the start of WWII. Using solemn music as a backdrop, he produced each word slowly and distinctly, giving what he was saying great importance.

You may not have powerful background music, but learn from this example.

To speak with authority, just spend a few minutes every day reading a paragraph or so aloud from the newspaper, a magazine, or a book. Notice your tendency to speed up.

Slowing down accomplishes two things: it makes what you’re saying seem more important, and it makes what you say memorable.

Isn’t that what you want for yourself? And you don’t have to be bold or dramatic to do it; just follow the above simple guidelines.

When you have mastered these two steps, you are well on your way to speaking comfortably in front of larger groups of people. Who knows where you will end up? Just start today.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

The Dark of the Year and the Dancing Saints

As the days grow shorter and darker, I find myself mentally withdrawing into a kind of warm, personal cave – a cozy one filled with minute lights and small comforts, in which I experience a minimum of demands on me.Over the years, I have come to realize that the Dark of the Year is not a great time to find solutions to big problems, or to make great creative leaps, much less make magic.  It is more like the time experienced by daffodil and tulip bulbs, snug under the ground, quiet, gathering their strength for the big surge that will come as the Earth warms.

No use looking for experiences that will trigger answers to questions – somehow the questions you are asking and answers you are receiving never match. It is instead a time for gathering in experiences that are nourishing and that will fuel that great Springtime leap.

In the spirit of providing ourselves with soul-nourishing experiences, a friend and I went to a Wintersong concert at a church in San Francisco.  The concert itself, consisting of songs from Eastern Europe sung by eight charmingly costumed women, was a revelation.  We were told that caroling predates Christianity, and consists of songs that fulfill that human need to find light, joy and community in the darker months.

As if that were not enough, the sanctuary in which the concert was held was a revelation in itself.  From top to bottom, the walls were covered with vividly colored paintings of saints, as defined by the parishioners, all dancing together.  St. Thomas Aquinas, John Coltrane, Florence Nightingale, Anne Frank, Francis of Assisi, Barnabas, Sojourner Truth, Paul of Tarsus, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martha Graham, and more, all joined hands in the dance. Somehow Lady Godiva was in the mix, too, as were several Seraphim, all similarly clothed (or unclothed). As a friend of mine once remarked, “The Lord certainly loves diversity.  He created so much of it.”

It was a magic experience.  All of these people, spanning centuries and representing a myriad of different belief systems, somehow came together to create a harmonious whole.  It may have been pure fantasy, but it was the most hopeful thing I have seen all year.
May we all dance together as harmoniously in 2014, and may the magic of the holiday season grow in you, and burst forth triumphantly as the light returns.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

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