introversion

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.

An Open Letter to Extrovert Leaders: How understanding 50% of the population will improve your productivity and innovation

 

Hello, Extrovert Leaders! How are you? I’d love to meet you in person, but I seldom have the chance.

You see, I give talks on how organizations are overlooking and under-utilizing the people who are generally called introverts, whom I call “quietly brilliant.” (The term introvert is fine, even though in our society the label is too often confused with shy or neurotic.)

When I give my talks, the room is generally crowded – sometimes with standing room only – with introverts. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm but sad that I am repeatedly preaching to the choir. Introverts are grateful to have their positive attributes discussed openly, along with ways leaders can help them engage. But they often say the same thing, “The person who needs to be here isn’t. I wish my extrovert supervisor could hear this.”

So I’m asking you: why do you not come? Is it that you think you don’t need to know how to engage with us because there aren’t that many of us in the workplace? Perhaps you don’t realize introverts are over 50% of the population; this would include your employees, staff, and team members.

By the way, that includes your customers and clients, too.

Wouldn’t you like to: 

•   Turn those cool and seemingly unapproachable colleagues and teammates into warm and dedicated contributors?

•   Run meetings where EVERYONE contributes without pulling teeth?

•   Discover new sources of innovative leadership in your organization that you didn’t suspect existed?

•   Develop warm collaboration within your department and with other departments?

•   Work with resistant, deep-thinking prospects to earn their respect – and eventually their business?

•   Use rewards that really fit individual temperament – and truly motivate people?

And this knowledge and these skills aren’t limited to your professional life.

Maybe you have one of the following challenges:

•   A child who doesn’t seem motivated in the same ways you are, and you are exhausted trying to reach them.

•   Your mate sometimes retreats into a private world where you can’t seem to follow.

All of these and more are reasons to understand the neurological differences between introverts and extroverts, and to be willing to work with those differences to facilitate communication.

Here are a few starting points:

We prefer quality over quantity: “Innie’s” brains respond more strongly to external stimulation of all kinds – conversation, noise, clutter – than do “outies.” So we get overwhelmed and exhausted more easily. As a consequence, we need to retreat to recover from too many conversations and ideas.  We want meaningful conversations, not “small talk.”

We process things deeply: Information that enters the introvert’s brain is processed through more areas of the brain than for the extrovert before the introvert responds. In addition, quiet people are often storehouses – no, warehouses – of detailed information that they can pull together to give a really insightful picture of a situation.

So how do handle these differences? Here are some of the things you can do to connect and communicate:

•    Send advance signals when you want to engage an introvert

A good place to start, if you run meetings, is to have an agenda that you give out in advance (not just on the table as the meeting starts). Or you can casually give verbal advance notice, as in, “We’re meeting later today and I’d like your thoughts on ….”

•    Slow down and allow pauses in conversation 

You may expect conversation to flow quickly and easily. When there is a pause, you may be tempted to fill the silence with prompting, such as, “So what do you think?” or “Should we go ahead with this?

Curb that impulse. After you’ve fired your request, if you’re pretty sure you’re talking to one of these quiet people, take a deep breath, relax your body language, and wait for what you will feel is an interminable amount of time but is actually just as few seconds. The result can be a thoughtful, in-depth response, and can be well worth waiting for.

You can also fire off your request, leave the scene, and come back later, asking, “Do you have any further thoughts on what I said earlier?”

More reasons to motivate you to understand introversion

Introverts may constitute more than 50% of the intellectually gifted. In fact, one study indicates we may be 75% of the gifted. With people such as Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett on our team, it’s no surprise to some of us.

As a lifelong introvert, I realize introverts also need to develop skills to understand the extrovert temperament, reach out, and communicate better. It’s a two-way street on which I am dedicated to making the traffic flow better.

But I need both sides to participate to make this truly happen. Please join in the discussion if and when you have a chance. Learning how to connect and communicate with people who are different from you is a life-enriching experience, both professionally and personally.

Finally, when faced with what seems to be a non-participating employee, consider this question asked by a veteran consultant: “Did you hire them that way, or did you make them that way?”

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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.

Is Introversion Main Stream at Last?

The topic of introversion has now entered the mainstream. How can I tell? This topic, which I have championed for so many years (full disclosure: I am an introvert), has now appeared in one of my favorite comic strips, and I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

In the Dilbert strip of July 23, an introvert appears and utters all of the stereotypes about introverts being despairing, lonely, and avoidant of conversation. Introversion has become part of the workplace diversity conversation, and that’s a good thing. Picking up on that trend, Dilbert, which satirizes workplace behavior, has now made this contribution, and I know it’s satire; nevertheless, I seem to have lost my sense of humor.

You see, I also know that introverts, no matter how skilled or intelligent, tend to be the last-hired. I know, from studies such as that done by Ones and Dilchert (Industrial & Organizational Psych, 2009), that introverts constitute only 12% of supervisors, and that percentage decreases as you go up the managerial levels, dwindling to a scant 2% at the very top. At the same time, the presence of extreme extroverts rises to 60% at the top.

This is only natural, right? Well, no, actually introverts can make extremely fine leaders, especially for groups of people who have good ideas. The introvert leader will allow others speaking time, listen carefully, and be willing to integrate other people’s ideas into the overall scheme. How do we know this? Besides assertions by people such as Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, a study of companies and the leaders who went from being merely good to great, research studies such as the one reported by Adam Grant et al. affirms this.  

The problem? Well, the title of that research article for one thing. “Leadership Tip: Hire the Quiet Neurotic, Not the Impressive Extrovert” (Forbes Magazine, 2013). Neurotic? The opposite of extrovert is neurotic?

Bendersky & Shah (Acad. Mgmt. J. 2013) reassure us that introverts not only make good team members, but that eventually their excellent contributions are recognized over the chatter of more outspoken but sometimes less thoughtful people. I’m glad to hear this; my only objection is their title: “The Downfall of Extroverts and the Rise of Neurotics.”

Corporations are just now beginning to recognize introversion, which is based on a neurological difference, as being an appropriate and even necessary topic for inclusion in their diversity programs.

So I wonder if you could replace introverts in that comic strip with another group that is marginalized in our society and just on the edge of being understood and valued. Would it work and still be funny? I don’t know. I would welcome your reactions.

I just wish that our group, introverts, hadn’t leaped from being marginalized as “peculiar” to the mainstream with no stops in between.

_______________________________________________________________________

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.

Bullying in the Workplace: Who Bullies Whom?

Over 40% of employees in the workplace have experienced bullying, a persistent pattern of behavior that intimidates, degrades or otherwise undermines the wellbeing of the target. Bullying is four times more prevalent than sexual abuse, and, according to a study at the University of Manitoba, the outcomes for victims of bullying are worse than are those for sexual abuse victims.

So who are the bullies? And who are the targets? It’s easy to envision a quiet, introverted person as the victim of an outgoing, brash person. But it’s not that simple.

According to Arlene Vernon, HRxaminer, targets are often the best and the brightest: the most technically skilled, empathic, kindest – but unlikely to fight back. Incivility and aggression are often fueled by individual differences, such as introversion and extroversion. That doesn’t necessarily mean that most cases involve extroverts bullying introverts. Actually we don’t know that, as there is little research on this area at this time.  

However, bullying is most often from supervisor to subordinate, where even a fairly confident employee is reluctant to fight back. Given that extroverts are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions in the U.S., there is a chance that the scales are tipped in that direction.

But according to Vernon, bullying doesn’t have to be overt hostility. It can be covert; an introvert leader would be in a position to deny training or promotions, apply different standards, or block leave or time off. It can also be an employee-to-employee situation, as in malicious gossip, making false accusations, and stealing credit.

And what are the outcomes of bullying? Known results include stress, anxiety, depression, anger, aggression, panic attacks, and even suicidal thoughts, all negatively affecting a company’s wellness program. Even onlookers of bullying may be negatively affected.  

But that’s not all. There is increasing evidence that bullying is affecting workplace productivity, perhaps massively. Inability to concentrate or make decisions and absenteeism take their toll on productivity. Royal & Sun Alliance, the largest commercial insurance company in the United Kingdom, has suggested that absenteeism alone due to this kind of distress may cost businesses approximately eight to 10% of a company’s profits.

Then there are the costs of employee turnover, estimated at costing at least one-half of the employee’s salary to replace him or her. An estimated 70% of bullied employees leave, while an estimated 20% of witnesses to bullying also do so.

Rehabilitation of stressed employees, as well as legal costs, all add up.

Finally, a company can find its reputation damaged. People talk to other people. An unhappy employee is probably seeking comfort from friends and family, who then talk to others, and so on.

If a company develops a bad reputation for bullying, it could conceivably affect sales to the public.

So what are the solutions?  

We should follow the example of Scandinavian countries and Canada, which have enacted legislation against workplace aggression, just as there is now against sexual abuse in the U.S., allowing victims to report incidents, go to the union and take legal action.  

Training employees to recognize bullying would help create a climate in which bullying is less invisible.

Most of all, companies should work to create an environment in which individual differences are not just tolerated but celebrated, creating a cooperative and positive environment for all.

Are you aware of workplace bullying?  Have you had an experience you’d care to share?

Sources:  
Arlene Vernon, PHR, HRxaminer, in a talk to the Minnesota Council of Non-profits
David Yamada, Psychology and Work
Janet Fowler, “Financial Effects of Workplace Bullying” on Investopedia   http://bit.ly/1Hwhfky

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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 Unintended Consequences of Being an Introvert

As more and more attention is being paid to introversion, thanks to Susan Cain and her book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” the world is slowly becoming aware of introvert value and, what’s better, willing to make some adjustments to accommodate introverts and recognize our ability to make valuable contributions. For example, Steelcase, an international company providing “office furnishing solutions,” has designed a special “Susan Cain room”: a soundproofed room to which an employee can retreat for respite from the stimulus overload of a busy office.

Yes, being quiet can be a good thing: during quiet times we can collect information carefully, digest it, ponder it, and come up with innovative solutions. All of these are important contributions to organizations, productivity, innovation, and our own (I’m an introvert, too) sense of pride.

We introverts can and should be proud of our valuable contributions. However, in order to be truly effective, we need to manage how we contribute. Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

Pitfall #1: Being seen as “slow” or “uninvolved”

Listening carefully in a meeting or group, you test a new, innovative idea that just sprang into your head on one or two people near to you in a low voice. Ouch! The first person to speak up with the new idea gets the credit – and it isn’t you.

I can’t think how many times I have had a clever thought and handled it just like that – only to have that idea fed back to me later as fresh and brilliant – and attributed to someone else.

We may think we’re thoughtful and cautious; others may think we’re just slow on coming up with solutions.

The fix: Turn “slow” or “passive” into “thoughtful” and “careful”

Be very careful with whom you test your new ideas. The friendly sounding board you are using might not be acting in your best interests. Or, a true but bolder friend may verbalize what you shared, thinking to help your idea gain visibility. The result is the same: you’re not given the credit.

If you are self-conscious about speaking up in a group, my first advice would be, “Get over it,” but I know too well that “getting over it” is a slow process of gaining confidence in a group setting. So, another ploy is to say, “I may have some further thoughts on this, and I’d like to get back to you a little later,” or even, “I’d like to take a little time to put my thoughts down on paper.”

Teach people around you (yes, you can do this) to recognize that you are a deep thinker who provides great value when you don’t shoot from the hip.

Pitfall #2: Being seen as “sneaky”

While listening, you start to have disquieting feelings that there’s something wrong with what’s being discussed, but you’re not quite sure if you’re right and you’re really not ready to commit yourself to providing your criticism.


When we do this, we may think we’re being diplomatic and careful, and we may in fact be just that. But if we mention our thoughts later to another group member, who speaks to another … etc., etc. … we can quickly develop a reputation as “sneaky” or, at best, “cowardly.”

The fix:

Your initial silence has been interpreted as agreement; so your later criticism seems like betrayal.  

Signal your discomfort upfront by saying, “I think this needs a little more thought/research, and I’d like to get back to you with my comments.”

If, after careful thought, you decide there is no real objection to what has been suggested, you can always say, “I’ve given this considerable thought/checked the facts carefully, and I think we should go ahead.”

The biggest fix:

Learn to be proud of your introversion.

Let others around you, including managers, know that you like to think deeply about topics and can provide greater value if you feel free to take the time to do just that.  

You don’t have to be apologetic. The cultural tide is on your side; people are becoming aware that all good ideas do not come from the people who speak up quickly and the most. People are finally learning that the introvert’s great ideas are well worth waiting for.

Yes, it’s a good time to be an introvert in America.

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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.

Introversion, Gut Feelings, and Trust

Maybe – just maybe – your gut-level feeling that you shouldn’t be doing something is right. But if you’re an introvert, you’ve probably had a lifetime of being told to ignore your feelings, and urged to act just the opposite.

Want to stay home and read? “What’s the matter with you, anyway?” It’s implied that you’re neurotic or even antisocial. Want to leave a party before it ends? “You’re a party-pooper.” Find large groups overwhelming? “Just get out there and have fun (said with incredulity)!” (Even though the event gives you a headache or even nausea.) Enjoying being quiet and listening when in a group? “You’re shy, aren’t you?” a shaming label if ever there was one.

We end up forcing ourselves to do things that aren’t bringing us any pleasure, and somehow berating ourselves for the demoralizing experiences we endure. Then we crawl back into our little cave.

It’s no wonder we have never learned to trust our feelings as guides to what will lead to success and happiness.

There is a caveat here: if you are an introvert, and haven’t had good guidance in developing your introversion in a confident way, your reluctance to participate in a given event may not be the result of intuition (“This isn’t for me”) but the result of anxiety, because you haven’t learned the social skills to cope successfully with such events.

How do you tell the difference between intuition and unwarranted, self-defeating anxiety?

The anxiety over not knowing what to do or say is simply a lack of social skills, common to many introverts who have learned to shrink away from social interaction. The self-consciousness we develop from feeling out of step with society, plus our increasing lack of practice in social skills are a part of what I call “introvert baggage,” not a necessary part of introversion, which merely calls us to manage our energy effectively.

Gaining confident social skills is simply a matter of finding good models, not the bright, energetic center-of-attention model, but the quiet, well-mannered helps-other-people-feel-comfortable model.

You can find these models through observation, reading (try an etiquette book), or coaching.
Simply acquiring social skills doesn’t mean you must get out there and go on a social binge. It does mean that you are able to do so when it’s important to you: to network, support friends, etc.

Why is socializing important? Nobody gets through a successful life alone. We all need a confidantes, support systems, and networks. If we are in business, and most of us working people are in some way or another, we need to be able to connect meaningfully with people who see value in our contributions.

It can be painful, however, and here’s where self-knowledge and your intuition can be an excellent guide.

Business coaches often urge me, and others, to go to every possible networking meeting in order to meet people who somehow, some time, might be able to help make our businesses go forward.

I reflected on this, and it occurred to me that this might be the equivalent of urging Kate Middleton to attend every possible party in England in the hopes that she would someday meet someone who could possibly introduce her to the future King of England. (Cue cynical laughter here.)

How do you know when it’s right to go? First, take some time to sit quietly with your wisdom and get very clear on what you want out of life. Banish the “shoulds” of society. Mentally practice your social skills: greeting people, appreciating them. Stop worrying about how good things are going to happen. Convince yourself that they can, and you are worthy.

Then, take a chance on going out somewhere, such as a meeting or a party, to check whether or not it’s in line with your vision. At the first sign of discomfort, ask yourself if it’s your lack of skill, or if there is really something going on here that is counter to your best interests.

If you’re still a little unclear, you sometimes need to allow a given event a second chance before you are clear as to whether you are responding to your intuition or simply to your “introvert baggage.” But don’t be afraid to draw yourself up proudly and say to yourself, “This simply isn’t for me. I will never be appreciated here for who I truly am.” Thank the host, hostess, or event organizer as you leave.

With enough Introvert Pride (yes, you can develop that), you can even say, as I have sometimes done at a pleasant event at which I’ve had enough, “I’m not leaving because I don’t like your event. I am an introvert, and I have had enough stimulation for one evening. Thank you very much.”

Some time ago, I was due to attend a networking meeting, but felt reluctant to do so. I hadn’t really gotten any meaningful connections at this group; furthermore, I often left feeling vaguely depressed, somehow assuming that there was something wrong with me.

But taking a furlough from life, I concentrated on who I was and what I wanted, no matter how crazy it sounded. Faced with yet another meeting of this group, I told myself bravely that I didn’t have to do that anymore – it was a go-nowhere situation for me. I fought back the voices of previous coaches who scolded me for being too passive.

So I skipped this next meeting, stayed home, and started looking at the internet for groups that might be more aligned with my interests. I found one quickly (my gut said “yes”), attended it the next day, was welcomed, connected immediately with interesting people, and set up a great relationship/partnership with two of the members.

These relationships and partnerships seem to flow into life easily, once you know who you are, and can handle it.

Until you’ve aligned your actions with your gut, you don’t know how really easy and sweet life can be.

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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.

Can an introvert have an exciting life and survive?

Yes, many do. Many do not. happy woman

Performers are, surprisingly often, introverts, because performing provides a perfect platform for an introvert. A performance usually involves a structured situation with behavior that is well-rehearsed; furthermore, we can usually perform without those interruptions that force us to freeze or think too quickly, that we encounter in social situations. Many of us even learned that we could pour out our feelings and enthusiasm with a feeling of safety we never found daily life.

 

But it’s those unstructured situations we may be forced into between performances that trip us up, and leave us exhausted, embarrassed, and insecure. Many exciting careers do not involve a structured performance space. Some adventurous lives require introverts to cope with a constantly changing environment where skillful responses are required on the spur of the moment. This was such a challenge for one of my clients that he is now being treated for PTSD as he explores his introversion and its consequences. He now says of his career, “It was an exciting and adventurous life, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world.” But he sadly realizes that his mental and physical health suffered as a result of his career. His dawning realization that he is an introvert is helping him to reassess his considerable abilities and to recognize that he could have made choices that would have helped him cope more successfully with his career.

 

So the problem is really this: if you have a dream that involves adventure, and, as an introvert, you have a nervous system and mindset that says, “Slow down and be safe,” you may be in what seems to be an eternal conflict situation: either you live an adventure that may also affect your health, long-term, or you sadly put aside a dream, believing you can’t cope with it.

 

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can live that life, and even educate people around you to respect your needs as an introvert.

Here are some coping techniques for introverts who want to accept the challenge.

 

Develop Introvert Pride:

 

You must have pride in your introversion and recognize the special talents you may have. Only in this way will you be authentic and honest with people around you, standing up for yourself and who you are. My client with PTSD now says that even the knowledge that he was an introvert, and that was an acceptable thing to be, would have helped him with his anxiety throughout his exciting but exhausting career.

 

You must learn to say NO:

 

One introvert client, a 45-year-old woman with a small child, had already had a stroke at that young age. She was extremely brilliant, skilled and creative; her co-workers turned to her at every opportunity to bail them out when they got stuck, and she never said “no,” to the extent that she worked many hours overtime trying to get her own projects done.

Her non-assertiveness was in part due to the fact that she had been raised to believe that being an introvert was somehow not OK, and she was trying to prove that she was. She was overwhelmed and exhausted much of the time. Learning to say “no” was a high priority in our work together.

Speak up and set boundaries:


One of the consequences of developing introvert pride is that you become willing to let people see your needs, and you become willing to ask that they honor those needs.

 

Alyssa was part of a work team where members agreed to hold meetings online, with the documents they were scrutinizing available on Google Docs. This was in response to a statement by several members that they didn’t have time to go over e-mail documents in advance of the meeting. Alyssa realized she would be in a situation where she would be asked to make spontaneous responses to ideas she was first being shown at the meeting. She asked to have the documents sent to her in advance, stating that, as an introvert, she wanted that preview to marshal her thoughts. She added that she could provide much greater value in this way.

 

Learn to take Mini-vacations: 

 

George Stephanopoulos, well-known TV host and commentator, attributes his ability to live a life in the spotlight as an introvert to his habit of meditating, taking small meditative breaks during the day to regain his energy.

 

My client with PTSD now knows that he should always arrive 15 minutes early for any appointment or engagement, no matter how delightfully relaxed and social the occasion may be.  He builds these min-vacations into his schedule, giving him time to take that refreshing, quick break.

Narrow down your choices:

 

The introvert’s tendency to acquire and store a lot of information, from reading and just plain observing, can result in an overly-busy brain that suggests many options from which to choose. This can result in great creativity; it can also result in exhausted overwhelm.

 

Peak performers learn to focus and not get entranced by too many opportunities that are not in the current game plan. (This is another chance to say “no”: this time, to your own brain.)

Every time you have another bright idea, ask yourself “Is this in the current game plan?” If the answer is “no,” then you must say “no” to its intrusion.

 

Educate people around you as to what you need:

 

Instead of pretending that everything is OK, tell people you need more time to make decisions, to back off and think a situation through. Assure them you will provide far better responses under these circumstances. Point out instances where your thoughtfulness and reflecting paid off.


Pick your performance platform:


Introvert entrepreneur Barbara Feders, in love with nature, has created a business she calls Beauty of the Wild, in which she takes people to the wilderness on trips they would never contemplate by themselves. There she introduces them to the world she loves, a world in which she shines and can feel secure.

 

Not everyone can create a business to his or her temperament, but even in an environment which you have not structured, you can create your own platform.  Prepare your ideas in advance of a team meeting, ask for five minutes to present them in a coherent fashion, use body language (the uplifted hand that is a “stop” signal) to hold down interruptions until you finish.

It’s your stage: you can own it, furnish it, write the script with confidence  … or you can forever be a bit player in someone else’s life plan.

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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 Yin, Yang and Dopamine in Relationships

Some people like to linger until the very end of a party; others like to leave early.

Unfortunately, they frequently marry each other.

They may very well have met and been attracted to each other because of these opposite qualities: one represents tranquility, stability, and caution, the other one represents excitement, change, and risk-taking.

Neurophysiology now suggests that these outgoing partiers (extroverts) have brains that are more sensitive to dopamine, the so-called “reward chemical” that actually excites the brain about a potential reward. They have what is called high “reward sensitivity” and they actively seek that buzz in a variety of ways from external sources, including social contacts, risk-taking, even extreme sports.

Low external reward-seekers (introverts) can be uncomfortable and even exhausted by that much buzz. Does that mean they are dull people? By no means; the interior landscape of an introvert can be loaded with exciting concepts. The ability to pursue an activity for its own sake and not for its reward value can lead to being in a state of what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow,” in which one is so engaged in an activity that hours can pass pleasurably as if they were minutes. A person in a state of flow can find energy rise even as work continues.

Here are some questions* to answer to determine if you, a colleague or a partner are reward-oriented:

  • When I get something I want, I feel excited and energized.
  • When I want something, I usually go all out to get it.
  • When I see an opportunity for something I like, I get excited right away.
  • When good things happen to me, it affects me strongly.
Notice that all of these questions refer to something external to the person. Why would you ask these questions? To recognize that individual needs differ, and to make sure that you and those around you are having these needs met in order that everyone may contribute his or her best to the partnership, whether it is a professional one or a personal one.An introvert, less motivated by external rewards,  can feel pleasure in doing something for the sake of doing it, without necessarily being offered a reward. Some are even embarrassed by public recognition of an achievement they did “just for the fun of it.”

We need risk-taking, change, tranquility, and caution in all of life. Too much of one endangers the other, as Enron, the company whose reckless business practices forced it to file for bankruptcy in 2001, discovered after it repeatedly ignored the warnings of a cautious senior level manager, saying, “We don’t need cops.”

To balance the yin and yang of introversion and extroversion, here are some suggestions.

  • Learn to be proud of who you are, even as you recognize others have the right to be proud of who they are.
  • Assert your own needs and recognize how to help other people in your presence meet their own needs.
  • Recognize and accept that some people need that external excitement to remain motivated; others need to avoid that external excitement in order to remain motivated.
  • Allow introvert employees and colleagues time to take in information and reflect on it before responding or acting.
The extrovert needs that buzz so let him or her have it: allow time and space for the extrovert to pursue that exciting activity (arrange separate transportation home from the party, if necessary), and try not to be a heavy anchor.The introvert absolutely requires a certain amount of quiet or solitude to remain psychologically healthy and to have a fulfilled life. Don’t urge him or her to be more sociable; help the person take time out to be reflective.

The combination of yin and yang, or introvert and extrovert, can be very powerful. Just think of Steve Jobs, the face of Apple, and Steve Wozniak, who single-handedly designed both the Apple I and Apple II computers in the late 1970s, contributing significantly to the microcomputer revolution.

*Susan Cain: Quiet: The Power of the Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

_______________________________________________________________________

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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