As a solopreneur on my own most of the time, you might think I’d be an introvert. When I’m in the zone, I’m focused. I’m not distracted. I like the quiet. But when I get close to my “quiet time” limit, it’s time to get out there and connect with other people. I really enjoy doing research, writing articles (like this one), reflecting on my business strategies, and there’s a huge reason that I balance those tasks with work where I get to interact with clients, colleagues, and suppliers, instead of being isolated in my own thoughts.
A lot of people use the words “extroverted” and “outspoken” interchangeably; they don’t mean the same thing.
It’s because—although I don’t fall into some of the old stereotypes—I’m an extrovert.
Actually, some would classify me as an “ambivert”, landing pretty much smack in the middle of both introversion and extroversion. I’m actually lucky in a way, in that I can easily move within either circle and adeptly adjust my communication style to that of my colleague, client, boss, or employee with whom I’m engaging.
I spent years feeling guilty if I wanted to spend time with others instead of doing things on my own. I learned to make the best of it, and often pushed myself to be quiet—even when it felt depressing. Many people do this, as introversion is valued in our society as being the “strong, silent type”, while extroversion is sometimes seen as “brash”, “loud”, “obnoxious”, and “overbearing”. These aren’t my words to describe extroversion: they are ripped from the comments of others. It’s almost as if some people view extroversion as an illness to be tolerated. It’s not that at all. It’s the way an estimated one-third to one-half of us are wired, and it can be our greatest asset.
As I mentioned, being extroverted isn’t the same thing as being outspoken (though there’s nothing wrong with being that either, in certain situations). One of the best ways I describe and build appreciations for extroversion is to explain that it takes an extrovert as much energy to actively listen as it does an introvert to actively speak up and engage.
Being extroverted has nothing to do with an abundance of confidence.
Confident people can be either introverted or extroverted. It’s just that extroverted people get energy and strength from engaging and interacting with others, whereas introverts recharge their batteries with alone time. Neither is right or wrong, they’re just different. Either can be equally confident. The difference is in how they express that confidence.
It isn’t that extroverts don’t like alone time–it’s that, for us, alone time is using energy rather than getting it. That’s why when extroverts engage in active listening, in refraining from comment, in catching themselves interrupting, it’s really a great sign of respect to the other party. Why? Because it takes them energy to do so.
POINT: you show what you value by how you spend your resources.
You fall somewhere between complete introversion and extroversion–you’re on a spectrum. When you stretch yourself, you can behave in the fashion furthest from your natural preference. You do that to connect with others and build bridges to mirror and match their communication style. When you do, it’s exhausting. It’s your gift to them and really to yourself, as doing so helps you build relationships.
If you lean toward introversion and are stretching to connect with extroverts, here’s a few things to consider.
1. Think of each of us as having a sea of energy available for personal interactions.
For extroverts, most social interactions fill that sea of energy and too much alone time depletes it. Most of us extroverts like social occasions. We’re happy to initiate conversations and are wonderful guests to have at your parties or office functions. Likewise, we generally have no problem affording you and ourselves “alone time” to allow you (introverts) to process. However, when our lake is empty and filled with too much quiet, we need interaction to refuel. We don’t stop caring about you. We want to respect your processing time. We just need to know that you’re alive and still engaged. We’re happy to give you alone time again once you’ve given us some indication that you’re interested in what we have to say. Please don’t shut us out.
2. Talking isn’t a bad thing.
Really. It’s not an insult. It’s the extrovert’s way of getting energy and restoring him or herself. If we can chat with you (and you choose the topic, that’s great too) it’s a huge compliment and show of trust to us. Other times the discussion really does need to be be about us. If we have a problem or challenge, we find a solution by talking it out, bouncing around ideas. We value your opinion or we wouldn’t engage with you at all. We appreciate your response because it tells us that you care. We value your input because we value you. Once we’ve discussed, we’ll give you your alone time. And for the extrovert who is personality-type savvy, he or she will readily read the signs that you need a chat break and we’ll give it to you. In exchange, give us your opinion and conversation.
3. Just because someone is quiet, she isn’t necessarily an introvert; just because someone is chatty doesn’t mean he’s an extrovert.
How you spend your resources, including your energy, tells the world what you value. When you spend energy adjusting your communication style to match those of others, you show that you care about them and connecting. You give a lot when you modify your behaviour to build bridges. When you care for someone, you acknowledge their communication styles, you adjust your behaviour, and you accept theirs. If you’re not sure where on the introversion-extroversion spectrum the other person lives, ask them when they seem low energy, if they would like to spend time together or time alone. Their response will tell you. If they need time alone when low in energy, they may just need alone to reboot their battery. If, on the other hand, they want some together time, they may lean toward extroversion. There have been many times when I’ve felt low energy, then a friend calls and asks me for coffee, and I perk right up (no pun intended, tee hee). If you know someone you care about needs connection or alone time, give it to them in whatever form they request. And don’t be offended by their decision: It’s not against you–it’s for them.
4. Call. Video message. Drop by. We love it. Text. Write letters. Email. We love it.
There are many times when texting, writing letters, or emailing is the perfect way to communicate. Especially for introverts. For extroverts, however, face-to-face communication or synchronous communication of some sort, is energizing. Seeing the facial expressions, being able to shake the hand or give a hug, all these things typically give energy to extroverts. We don’t find it intense, we find it intimate and personal. We don’t necessarily want or need long conversations. In fact, I personally can’t stand time-consuming exchanges and avoid phoning certain people because of their history of droning on for an hour. Ugh. If you are connecting with an extrovert, it will help you to understand that we enjoy spontaneity in many things, including conversation. Be ready to ask questions, share pieces of your life, and offer your comment. Know that we don’t care if you have all the answers. We’re not looking for perfection–we’re looking for you. And if you’re not ready to respond, that’s okay too. Just let us know that you’ll get back to us, and then honour that promise.
5. It’s all about respect.
You have boundaries bordering your comfort zone. You have your own way of communicating, be it leaning toward introversion or extroversion. When you care for someone, whether someone in your personal or work life, you want to build a relationship. That means reaching out to that person and connecting in a way that makes it easy for them to respond in kind. If you enjoy a lot of quiet time from others whereas they prefer getting energy through interacting with others, give them the gift of interaction. Don’t do it all the time, every time, just some of the time. Give them that interaction often enough that they feel energized around you and you don’t feel too drained. Ideally, you both adjust and adapt, give a little and modify your behaviours to honour the other. If they don’t give at al, or if it simply takes more energy than you’re prepared to give, this might be a relationship you don’t want to foster. Be in tune with your own feelings and read your energy levels. You’ll know. If you get your energy with alone time, go for it! If someone you care about is extroverted, respect that too. Remember that extroverts don’t do activities with others because we’re manic or need attention; we do it because that’s what fills us up and recharges our battery. We’ll be delighted to have you join us.
Celebrate your style and that of others
There have been many books written, applauding introverts and their quiet approach. Those books and the introverts who wrote or inspired them are indeed worthy of attention. So too extroverts.
Regardless of your preference for introversion or extroversion, celebrate who you and others are. You and everyone in your life have gifts to be shared. And if you’re just not connecting with someone, remember–they may not be difficult, just different. Acknowledge, adjust, accept.
Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
© 2017-2019 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
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Communication specialist, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to improve morale, confidence, and productivity by changing how they communicate. Chat with her at www.facebook.com/MarionSpeaks , www.linkedin.com/in/marionspeaks and sign up for her FREE weekly “Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com