Ask anyone who has encountered me in an achievement-oriented environment, like school or business, and they’d be shocked to hear it.
Ask anyone who has worked with me on a school musical, where I was always front and center in a leading role, and they’d tell you surely you were mistaken.
Ask anyone who has seen me participate in a WordPress panel, or stand up and give a presentation, and they’re likely to laugh heartily and shake their heads at your delusion.
The label I created for myself is, “extroverted introvert.”
Introversion does not equal shyness
As Susan Cain so eloquently put it in her TED Talk, The Power of Introverts, “It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation.”
Put another way, if you find being around lots of people and lots of stimulation energizing, you’re an extrovert. If you find solitude and lower-key environments energizing, you’re an introvert.
I can attend a party or a conference, and while I enjoy interacting with people, giving and receiving hugs, and exchanging ideas, I always come home feeling drained and needing to recharge before I can produce again. I suspect many of you feel the same way.
Susan goes on to express how our society is geared toward encouraging children – and employees – to be extroverts, from the group learning environments that are now in schools (I cringed in horror to hear this!) to the lack of office walls in the modern workplace.
We all fall somewhere on the spectrum between extrovert and introvert, and no one person is 100% either way – if they were, according to Carl Jung, they’d be in an insane asylum. Some people are even “ambiverts,” (love that word), which means they fall right in the middle.
The Internet – perfect for introverts
That headline may conjure up some picture in your head of a pimply-faced geek with zero social skills playing an online RPG (role-playing game) and never leaving his room. However, it’s an amazing relief valve even for those of us who can pass as somewhat extroverted.
A good friend and fellow introvert told me, “I love the Internet, because I can’t stand people.” What he was trying to say, in a funny way, is that the Internet is a great source of socialization for those of us who are introverted. We can jump into the social media stream, interact at the level we choose, and then just walk away when it becomes more draining than energizing.
Have you tried pulling that off at a dinner party lately?
Also, for the solitary, introverted writer, blog publishing is the perfect electronic “garret.” It gives one a voice, a form of expression, without having to tap someone on the shoulder and say, “Um…excuse me…but I had this idea..”
I’m so introverted, however, that I’d rather stand up in front of 200 people and speak off the cuff to NO ONE IN PARTICULAR than write this blog post, which I have set up to end up in my subscribers’ email boxes. When I hit Publish, I will have just tapped each of you INDIVIDUALLY on the shoulder and asked for a bit of your attention. Ooooh, how distressingly intimate!
::hides under desk for 30 minutes in contemplation::
Just like Ms. Cain’s grandfather, a well-respected and beloved rabbi in Brooklyn who drew people from all over to hear him speak, yet would often end one-on-one conversations with congregants prematurely for fear of “taking up too much time,” I struggle with initiating and maintaining contact on that level.
Most of our clients are introverts
We do a lot of work for solo lawyers, and individual business owners. And because running a successful business – of ANY kind – also means successfully marketing that business, it’s easy to believe that successful entrepreneur = extrovert. This is so often not the case. Rowboat Media, for example, is set up so that we rarely meet clients in person, and do our business via telephone (rarely) and email (mainly). We like it that way!
As another illustration, the practice of law can provide lots of solitude and privacy for organizing one’s thoughts in order to produce, which is an introvert’s dream. This is why there is often such a personality divide between trial lawyers, who must interact with judges and juries on a regular basis (very often extroverts) and all other types of lawyers (very often introverts).
Due to the fact that our clients are also introverts, they’re often shy about putting themselves front and center on the website – “does my photo need to be so…big? you can actually see my…um…FACE.”
The idea of a DIRECT call to action seems so very…forward. And so on.
So when we encourage you to publish blog posts regularly, to ask for the appointment or the sale every single time, and to put your sweet face right out there for all to see, let me assure you. I UNDERSTAND. I’m waving my pompoms, and cheering you on, from right here…under this desk.
Meet the introvert and watch her speak in public
If any of you are of the bankruptcy lawyer persuasion, or just want to watch an admitted introvert stand in front of a room full of people and not pass out, you can see me speak on website usability and working with creative professionals in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, October 6 at Jay Fleischman and Cathy Moran’s Bankruptcy Practice Workshop.
I’ll be taking two flights to get there, WITH STRANGERS.
If any of this rings a bell with you, please comment below or – if that’s too…um…well…then – send me an email.
Check out Susan’s TED Talk, and find the courage to show others what’s in YOUR suitcase.