social skills

Social Confidence and “Extrovert Skills”

“I used my extrovert skills.” “I had to learn some extrovert skills.” “Oh, well, I don’t have extrovert skills.” I hear these phrases all the time – and they drive me crazy.

When did the ability to be socially graceful or to display good manners become the sole province of one group of people, one temperament?


Good social behavior is within the reach of every human being, no matter how quiet or even shy you may be. As an introvert, you may need to protect yourself from too much stimulation, but you shouldn’t protect yourself from connecting with others.

The problem, many introverts assure me, is that it takes too much energy to relate to others. Well, anything you don’t know how to do well takes more effort and involves more stress. Swimming, running, public speaking, cooking a Thanksgiving turkey … the list is endless.

Here are a few simple reminders:

When meeting other people, look them in the eye at the same time you shake hands. (Don’t extend your hand and then glance over the other person’s shoulder as you say hello.) Use their name, too. According to Dale Carnegie, nothing is sweeter than the sound of your own name.

Give the other person a chance to shine. Even if you’re networking, don’t focus so hard on your elevator speech that you fail to draw out information about the other person. Listen intently and be appreciative. (This is an especially good tip if you don’t think you’re good at conversation. You don’t have to be. Become a great listener and you’ll get a reputation as a great conversationalist.)

Throw some positive bouquets. For example, we all err on the side of thinking that someone needs to do something extraordinary to be worthy of thanks or even praise, yet someone who consistently performs or behaves well, time after time, needs to be told how important this is in order to stay motivated.

These small affirmations can create long-lasting bonds. People may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you make them feel.

And protecting yourself from social interaction? A bad idea. According to a joint report from Carnegie Institute, Harvard University, and Stanford Research Institute, only 15% of success is due to your technical skills. A whopping 85% of your success is due to social skills! You spend years of hard work and tons of money acquiring degrees and expertise, and your only return is 15%? Well, no, employers tell me that those technical skills will insure that you keep the job; but the social skills are what get you in the door so that your expertise can be appreciated. Those social skills are well worth developing.

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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.

Are you carrying some introvert baggage?

Personal note

Being different from other people is always stressful, and we’re all different from one another in a variety of ways.  It leads to misunderstandings, and even worse, to some of us evaluating others of us as being deficient in some way.

I often find myself being a mediator between people who don’t understand each other, and I particularly love standing up for people I believe are in the position of underdogs, particularly when I’m very familiar with the underdog position.

So here’s my latest attempt to make the world a more peaceful place.

Are you carrying some introvert baggage?11420798_s

Many people do; some of them are introverts, the others are extroverts.

The basic definition of an introvert is of someone who is very sensitive to external stimulation and needs to withdraw periodically because our energy is depleted by too much stimulation, whereas an extrovert is someone who goes out and seeks stimulation, often social stimulation, in order to be energized.

That being said, there are a lot of assumptions that go along with introversion, some of which I call “introvert baggage.”  Not all of the people who carry this baggage are introverts.

In “12 Most Expeditious Ways to Alienate Your Introverted Colleagues”, Beth Buelow describes  how non-introverts (ok, extroverts) unwittingly make life difficult for introverts and shut down any effective communication because of their assumptions. (See her full article HERE)

Included in her list are non-stop talking (to deal with the threat that silence may actually occur every now and then?), saying “You’re awfully quiet, aren’t you? or worse yet, “You’re shy, aren’t you?; forcing introverts to work in groups, socialize when they don’t want to, or basing an evaluation of their work solely on degree of participation; and assuming that the quieter behavior of an introvert is due to everything from indifference to stupidity to plotting.  Whew!  All that from the simple fact that some of us need to replenish one’s energy in private every now and then.

But introverts are complicit in this whole thing, too.  Instead of recognizing that what we are dealing with is an energy problem, and should be handled by setting aside quiet times to refuel, and by choosing our activities wisely, too many of us spend our lives in a kind of defensive crouch, trying to avoid human contact altogether, then wondering why we don’t feel loved or appreciated.

Too many of us say, “I don’t want to waste my time on idle chit-chat; I just want to have meaningful conversations and relationships, too.”

Well, I’ve got news for you.  It doesn’t happen that way. People need to connect; some of us more carefully and in smaller groups.  But we need to connect: to feel healthy, to feel whole, to feel love and joy, and yes, to do business, too. Connections don’t happen the minute two pairs of eyes meet; they take time to develop.

Here are some guidelines for getting rid of that extra baggage , and being a proud and confident introvert who can connect with others without being sucked into their lives:

  • Make sure your energy drain isn’t at least partially due to poor health habits, or to depression, for which you might want some counseling.
  • Select your outings carefully; time them when you can be sure your energy is at a high enough point to cope successfully;
  • Find things that energize you to do in advance.  I have music I love that energizes me.  Often, when going to an event where I will need to meet people and  be “out there”  I play it in the car,
  • Cultivate social skills so that when you are out you can meet others, find ways to connect, and determine whether that other person really is worth knowing.  Ask questions that allow them to do most of the talking. You don’t have to do it all the time.  If you do  (Gasp! Horrors!) get into a conversation you don’t particularly enjoy, you don’t have to continue it.  You don’t have to take the person home, for heaven’s sake.
  • Do not assume that you will know immediately whether or not someone is suitable to be the Prince or Princess of Your Heart, or the Emperor of your Entrepreneurship.  Whether in business or pleasure, a period of conversation and dating is essential to establishing a deeper relationship.
  • Finally, recognize that the more you set up these little encounters with others, the less threatening they will be because:

                 –  You will get better with practice
                 –  Each episode counts for less in the general scheme of things, as one awkward experience can be diluted by the sheer numbers.

Oh, and extroverts:  When we withdraw, don’t automatically assume we’re rejecting you. Learn to stop and listen when you are around a quiet person.  We can be gold mines of imagination and creativity and occasional oases of peace in your life.

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

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