Blame it on Freud. The 19th-century psychoanalyst and extrovert believed that introversion was a negative trait, and even unhealthy. Marti Olsen Laney relays this historical theory in “How to Thrive in an Extrovert World” (2002, Workman Publishing Co., Inc.). Fortunately for the estimated 25 percent of the population who are introverts, another psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, theorized of a continuum of the traits of introversion and extroversion, a theory that is now widely accepted.
Introvert ≠ Shy
The trait of being an introvert or an extrovert isn’t about being shy or gregarious, serious or life of the party (every party). The terms refer to where you draw your energy from: whether you “recharge your batteries” from time spent alone, or from being with other people. Introverts use up energy when they spend time with people and need to be alone afterwards, to recoup, so to speak. Extroverts, on the other hand, look forward to socializing as an opportunity to be energized and uplifted by others. Neither is a better way of energizing—just different.
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
No need to "fake it until you make it" and try to morph into an extrovert to move ahead in your career. Jennifer Kahnweiler's book, "Quiet Influence," (2013, Berrett-Koehler) guides introverts toward owning the trait and embracing their superpowers to make a difference. Kahnweiler suggests: "Influence is sometimes about really big issues and opportunities, but also about 'nudging change along one small step at a time.'"
Influence is used daily to move situations forward and to work effectively with other people, one-to-one and on teams. An introvert can take the edge with their Introvert Superpowers:
1. Taking Quiet Time
- Create structure and protect your quiet time.
- Manage technology.
- Go within yourself.
- Gather information and insight.
- Manage yourself.
3. Engaged Listening
- Create the right conditions.
- Serve as a sounding board.
- Ask questions.
- Go beyond words.
4. Focused Conversations
- Set up space and times to talk.
- Strengthen your case.
- Be authentic and flexible.
- Know and adapt to the audience.
- Attend to the craft of writing.
- Make a persuasive case.
6. Thoughtful Use of Social Media
- Think about it.
- Focus on content.
Build me up buttercup. Why use quiet influence now, in 2017? Susan Cain nicely sums it up: "There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas." Lots of talk can create noise, and can be seen as very self-promotional. To influence others, they need to be listened to, and spoken with—not at. Social media can be your friend: when used thoughtfully (no angry tweets, please), this tool can support better communication, without the worry of being talked over or pushed aside.
An introvert can face some roadblocks in today's team-focused, open-office environments. Using your Superpowers can help overcome potential issues before they arise, and support other introverts who haven't found their own strengths yet:
- Focus on teams
- The need to talk about accomplishments and ideas
- The pressure to act extroverted
- Making quick decisions
- Lowered privacy boundaries
- Being talked over
LeaderLounge participant Tori Klassen summed up the evening both succinctly and artistically: