Introverts Can Really Get Talking, If…

When starting my self-employment journey 9 years ago, it occurred to me that specializing in coaching introverts would make my heart happy and would fill a big need. I floated the idea to a couple of business friends, and they both said something like this: “That’s a bad idea. No one will admit to being introverted and they will never contact you or attend your events.”

Hmmmm.

Mind you, this was years before the explosion of introvert pride sparked in 2012 (when the book Quiet came out), so they were right about the negative attitude toward introverts and people’s hesitance to admit to being introverted, but my heart told me the need was there. I wasn’t going to let their opinion stop me.

So I decided to host a free discussion for introverts to talk about their work concerns so I could learn more before jumping in. I posted the invitation on a large email list and I got two kinds of responses:

  1. From many introverts: “When and where?! I’ll be there!”
  2. From a few extroverts: “A discussion for introverts? No one will talk.”

How wrong those extroverts were. So-called “quiet” people have a lot to say.

I’ll explain what gets introverts talking, and what happened in those introvert discussions. It was wonderful.

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The Introvert’s Easy Path To Going For It… Without Getting Overwhelmed

One of the main worries or fears I hear from introverts sounds like this:

“How am I supposed to put myself out there when I’m too introverted for that?”
OR
“How can I move towards what I want when it feels overwhelming just thinking about it?”

Have you said anything like that to yourself?

I’m an introvert too and I know I’ve said those things. Luckily, I have learned through experience that phrases like “I’m too introverted for that” or “I won’t be able to handle it” are false. Not just for me, but false for all of us.

I’m not saying you need to become someone other than yourself either. In fact, don’t do that! It won’t help or feel good. I’ll explain.

The truth is that you don’t have to get overwhelmed or drained when you go for something you want. No matter if you’re introverted, extroverted, or in between. Really.

Our human brains play a trick on us, trying to keep us safe, by telling us that if we leave the comfort zone of the known, we’ll freak out or get overwhelmed, like in the image below.

That’s the fear part of the mind trying to keep us safe. Simple survival system. Not very sophisticated.

So we feel stuck and we stop moving forward. It’s very common to get stuck right there.

Comfort zone vs overwhelm zone image

This is what your brain tries to tell you, to stop you in your tracks: “Don’t leave the comfort zone or else.”

I’ll explain in the video below with a simple diagram that will give you a big Aha moment. (Making the video was outside my comfort zone so you can watch me facing my discomfort zone in real life.)

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Introverts Often Hate Meetings. Here’s Why and What To Do.

Dear Val,

How do I survive the “theater of meetings”? As an introvert, I don’t feel comfortable with the real-time verbal sparring and arguments.

I don’t have the snappy comeback, the rhetorical parlor trick that sways the boss or wins people to my side. My head gets so full of various ideas that I’m just not ready to pull it together in a neat package of words. And by the time I might be ready to share something, the conversation has moved on.

Because of all this, I don’t like meetings, and it shows. People can probably sense my discomfort. So what should I do about meetings when I am so uncomfortable?

–Miffed about Meetings

Dear Miffed,

I’m so glad you wrote about your struggle with meetings because just about every introvert I know has described a similar problem. After networking angst, it’s probably the top concern I hear. So we need to talk about it!

Meetings can be introvert hell.

I’ll explain and provide for some meeting survival tips for introverts.
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How Introverts Can Excel in Online Discussions

Dear Val,

I’m an introvert who has been working on my presentation and communication skills the last few months. I’m now comfortable talking with people in small group meetings, and I’m getting better at presenting to larger audiences, but I’m still struggling in one area.

When the conversation moves from in-person to online discussions, I have a hard time participating.

I find that I’m more hesitant to post or share anything online. I don’t like that I can’t see my audience. I don’t really know who or how many people have seen my post, and it’s harder to get a sense as to how my words were received.

In-person discussions are much more comfortable for me, but my peers (personal and professional) seem to be using online discussion spaces more and more. I don’t want to miss out on discussions that are important to me. Plus, I know it will be increasingly important for my career.

I’m in my 20s, and I’m in a technology field, so there’s pressure to be good with the online world. I’m comfortable with technology—just not online discussions.

How might I become more comfortable participating in online discussions with my peers?

– Cautious in California

woman under stress online


Dear Cautious,

Congratulations on the progress you’ve made with presentations and speaking in meetings! That’s great news that you’re finding your voice in those arenas.

That success tells me you are closer than you think to facing this next frontier—communicating with your audience when you can’t see it. That’s a challenging situation for most introverts.

I’ll explain our introvert challenges and strengths for online discussions, along with some tips to make it easier.

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How Do I Cope with Conflict at Work?

Dear Val,

I sat through a meeting this week during which a client and my boss had a very strongly worded, aggressive disagreement. The client wasn’t raising his voice, but his words, tone, and body language were very combative, and my boss was trying to defend our position against his.

I have a hard time with this type of conflict: that type of aggressive tone makes me really jittery and produces an adrenaline-fueled “flight” reaction. I spent a lot of the meeting hoping it wasn’t obvious how much I was shaking.

I also avoid interrupting others in a conversation, so fast-paced arguments make it extra hard for me to know what to do. My instinct is to avoid getting involved and to not draw more attention/ire toward myself.

In situations like these, I often feel that if I open my mouth, I might start crying, which I know is read as extremely unprofessional and is something I particularly would want to avoid when I am already being dismissed as young, inexperienced, and insufficiently skilled at my job.

However, sometimes I know there is information that I have or perspectives I can bring that would help with the disagreement if I could only figure out how to insert myself into the conversation.

What strategies can I as an introvert use when I need to jump into a contentious/agitated situation in a professional setting?

~Jittery in Massachusetts

fear

Dear Jittery,

Oh, my—I could practically feel the jitters with you while I was reading your letter. I’d love to help.

Conflict can kick up our self-preservation instincts such as fight, flight, or freeze. It’s particularly tough in a work situation where we can’t easily run away, and we have our professional reputation at stake. This is a big challenge for anyone.

I’m offering some suggestions here. Be gentle with yourself as you consider trying something new. It will be worth the effort as you notice anxiety going down, over time.

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