3 Ways of Speaking Up When You’re an IntrovertNone By Homaira Kabir
In elementary school, there were 2 of us with the same first name. I was “the shy one.” And when you're labeled that early on in life, it’s difficult to ever believe otherwise.
Lucky for me, I learned at some point in my life that I wasn't really shy at all. I certainly had my share of fears, but never the fear of negative judgment or humiliation that underpins shyness. It turned out that I was an introvert, which meant that I had a preference for being quiet. I got my energy from within and not from the people around me.
If you're an introvert, you may relate to the lowered need for stimulation, the comfort of spending time alone, and the speed with which you tire of small talk. You may even be subjected to annoying observations about your lack of exuberance and your mellow emotional responsiveness. And if you are your kid's personal chauffeur, like I am, you likely also have to put up with constant complaints that you keep turning the music volume down. It’s no secret that introversion seems to be an undesired personality trait in a world where extroverts reign.
However, the traits you're criticized for are the very ones that allow introverts to focus and synthesize various streams of information into valuable ideas and creative new ways of making sense of the world. In the complex, interconnected, and chaotic world we live in, these ideas need your voice.
So how do you make your ideas heard when the loudest person gets the most airtime and draws the most laurels? Here are 3 evidence-based strategies that can help.
Connect Through Character
Over the past century or so, charisma seems to have turned the tables on character. Susan Cain, expert on introversion and author of Quiet, says that this is at least partly due to urban migration, which has led to extensive communities. Judging people based on character has become nearly impossible, and external traits have gained significance—a trend that's grown exponentially with the arrival of social media.
For introverts to shine in this new reality, they have to play by rules that work to their advantage. Charisma and personality are not their forte. They need to focus on building trusting relationships that empower them to speak up. This means a return to character, to sharing commonalities, to listening with empathy. It means focusing on "making a connection and not an impression."
Be Truly Authentic
“Authenticity” is one of the most misunderstood buzzwords of our time. In a world that prizes individualism, we all want to know that our choices reflect our identity. No wonder that every brand, from jeans to beer, claims to be “authentic.” In this consumeristic takeover, many of us have forgotten what authenticity truly is. Carl Rogers, one of the greatest humanistic psychologists of our time, spoke at length about the importance of the "real self" in living our best lives. He stated that authenticity is tied to our values and to what we stand for in life. Being authentic is not (only) about the jeans you wear, but about your way of being in the world. For introverts, connecting to their values provides them with the inner strength to speak up for what they believe in, and to share their ideas even when they're not the loudest one in the room.
Dr. Brian Little research professor on personality, motivation, and well-being, says that all of us have things we deeply care about, and in their service we should act out of character. We should speak up when we would rather be silent. We should be loud or forceful, as the situation requires. And we should call upon our less-used strengths to do so. For introverts, whose nervous systems need little stimulus to reach their sweet spot of social engagement, this means a drain on their energy supplies. So it’s important for them to refuel themselves often, and to appreciate their own need to regularly enter their "restorative niche." It’s from there that they can reengage with the outside world from a place of inner connection, and not one of emotional reactivity or withdrawal.
These strategies have worked for me time and again, whether I’m engaging with friends at a social event or I need to speak in formal settings. More important, they've helped me connect with the needs of my body, something we can subconsciously dismiss in our distracted modern world.
When we listen inward, we’re also more attuned to the needs of the outside world. And isn't that where we find meaning and fulfillment—in the service of others?
Homaira Kabir is a recognized positive psychology coach and a researcher on women’s self-esteem. Check out your authentic self-worth on her website with her short and evidence-based quiz.
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