You’re at a cocktail party. Waiters circle through the room carrying bursting trays of thin, tall champagne glasses that look like only models and famous actresses should be allowed to drink from them. A group of older, senior-level managers are hanging by the table of horderves, sipping on some Johnny Walker and trading inside stories on their latest up-and-comings. That one girl who was hired a week ago is across the room, soaking everything in with a deer-in-the-headlights kind of look on her face.
Where are you? Methodically sifting through the crowd of colleagues, looking to engage and interact with your soon-to-possibly-be networks? Hanging out by the horderve table, waiting for that one moment to pop in and say something quirky to your clan of bosses? Striking up a conversation with the new girl, saving her from this overwhelming cocktail party that both of you have agreed is a secret group performance review (extra schmoozing = higher levels of cohesiveness within the group).
Or are you thinking about how you can’t wait to be in your lazy boy at home, where all tranquility lies, and there is no scotch-bearing posse or awkward conversation with a new employee that can intrude upon your self-induced, solitary confinement.
If your answer is the latter, you’re probably an introvert. Don’t worry though. It’s a good thing; you’re recognizing how you live and perceive your life, which puts you one step closer to utilizing it to your own benefit.
Dorie Clark of Harvard Business Review writes about how introversion can be used to your advantage in the world of business. Having given speeches at many conferences, Clark is often extended invites to dinner or cocktails afterwards. Even though she is an introvert, she usually says yes, but sometimes must recognize when to say no. She explains that these are the moments when she needs to go home and “recharge” for the next day.
Introvert vs. Extrovert: An Energy Game
There is a common misconception that introverts have less than average social skills. Introverts aren’t shy, arrogant, or anxious and frightened of social situations. Introverts socialize just fine, and in fact, they often can demonstrate more empathy and interpersonally connect much easier with others than extroverts can. But for some reason, people have this idea that introverts or socially awkward and extroverts are loud, dramatic and the center of attention and likability.
Introverts actually possess many character traits that would suggest they’d function perfectly find in social situations. Some of these qualities are high levels of self-awareness, thoughtfulness and empathy, self-understanding and being very detail-oriented. These types of skills would make you more likable when meeting new people, not the other way around.
The definition of an introvert is one who is “drained [of energy] by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits”. It has nothing to do with ability, and everything to do with want. Introverts gain energy by themselves and are drained when socially interacting, and vise versa for extraverts. Leave an extravert in a room alone for two minutes, they’ll be more likely to pull out their phone; leave in introvert in a room alone for two minutes, they’ll probably become entranced in their own thoughts.
Just as Clark would be happy to stay and chat for an hour after a conference, sometimes she recognizes that her energy is low, and that it’s derived from her time spent alone. This isn’t something to feel bad for; instead, it’s wise to recognize that there is a specific time when an introvert needs to throw in the towel and go home.
Four ways to Embrace your Introversion
If you want to embrace your orientation, it’s first important to figure out which one you are: Introvert or extrovert. Then, you must find the techniques best for you to progress and promote your personal brand, whether that brand is you, your family, your product or your career. Clark gives four ways introverts can use their own personal attributes to their advantage.
The first way is through social media. Blogging has been proven to be one of the best techniques to establish thought leadership, and it’s a solitary practice that can be completed alone. Tumblr has transformed the social-blogging platform to a much more user-friendly model and it’s popularity is currently growing amongst teen users. This particular niche is extremely influential and would be a great target market for introverts to focus on when blogging about their personal brand.
Another strategy is to create a basic plan to network every, single week. Clark tells a story about her friend who works at a large research hospital and how she made it her personal goal to initiate and schedule one lunch/business date a week. Whether the opportunity arose through company meetings or group projects, she’d some how find a way to get them to lunch. The result was the rapid growth of a thriving network within her very own organization.
This becomes an issue of figuring out exactly what you want. What is your ultimate goal? In The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, she talks about how the “law of attraction” governs everything in our universe, and how we attract everything we have ever had and ever will have, solely with our thoughts. This means our first step is figuring out what we want. In the case with Clark’s friend, it was to network with coworkers and build useful connections. What do you want within your organization? Do you want to be promoted? Do you want to create a movement of innovation and change within the company?
Once you’ve decided what you want, don’t be afraid to use other sources to figure out what technique works best for you. If your goal is to create a solid networks of colleagues, Forbes gives some great tips on how to network as an introvert, like preparing to meet new people in the work place, performing under social pressure, making friends quickly at a conference, and challenging yourself to network further. Remember, introversion is not a lifestyle, it’s an orientation.
Clark also discusses how subtle cues can help introverts establish their personal brand. Introverts tend to become passionate experts in specific fields of study; it makes sense to advertise this expertise. In an interview with Clark, psychologist Robert Cialdini said that something simple, such as hanging up diplomas and certifications on the wall of your office, will instantly give you more credibility. Cialdini proved this theory at an Arizona hospital he advised, where compliance in physical therapy schedules increased by 32% almost immediately after displaying staff credentials.
The final strategy Clark gives is utilizing your alone time. Since introverts gain energy away from social situations, it’s important that this time is used productively and directed towards progressing one’s brand or career. This can be done by thinking creatively about your organization or business, reading articles related to your industry or researching how to better your brand image.
Just because you’re introverted or extroverted doesn’t mean you have better social skills or are more likable than others. It is simply a matter of where you gain your energy from. Introverts thrive when alone, while extroverts crave social interaction. The key is to recognize and become aware of two important factors: One, how and where to use your energy, and two, recognizing when you’re energy is depleted and finding a way to productively refill it.