The Smart Lemming Rules of Life and Career Management: #15 Learn to Channel your Inner Extrovert, if You’re an Introvert

brown-bag-businessman

Introverts are Misunderstood

New coworkers mistakenly perceive you as arrogant, strangers think you’re shy or socially awkward, others believe you lack self-esteem or self-confidence, unfortunately, as an introvert you’re misunderstood.

Extroverts seem to easily go through life, enjoying social situations by talking with strangers or large numbers of people, often thinking as they speak rather than thinking before they speak.

Creating a Dualistic Nature

I’m an introvert, who’d rather be alone reading a book, energized by sitting alone for hours thinking my thoughts, often drained when I have to interact with large numbers of people. But I had to learn how to be “on,” creating a public persona that I developed as a coping mechanism to offset my introverted nature.

I learned to develop extroverted tendencies over the past five years out of sheer survival because I was, attending public events by walking the red carpet at events, talking to strangers I didn’t know, but had to interact with, meeting executives or even artists that I had admired from afar. It was scary hanging out in the “Green Room” at the 2006 MTV Music Awards at the Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, not knowing who I was going to run into, praying that I wouldn’t get introduced to Judy McGrath, CEO of MTV.

As an introvert, nothing was more nerve wracking than meeting one of my favorite actors (Christina Cox) from one of my favorite TV shows (“Blood Ties“) before I had developed a public persona. Two years later, it was easier a second time around when I had the opportunity to talk with Cox and fellow actor Liz Vassey at another public event.

Do Extroverts Face Any Challenges?

But what challenges do extroverts face? I can’t speak from experience, but believe their challenges could be speaking out of turn since they think quickly as they talk, learning not to overpower introverts in meetings or audience, and appearing genuine as they interact with others.

As we manage our careers, introverts can learn from extroverts in how to become energized from interacting with others. After I learned how to interact with large crowds, I started enjoying myself. While I run the risk of being compartmentalized by having a dual nature, as an introvert, this was the only way I was able to meet with the requirements of my public situations.

Extroverts can learn a few things from a few things from introverts. I have a few extroverted friends who are vigilant in learning how to censor what they say since they talk on the fly, becoming mindful through meditation, tamping down their energy during events or meetings as to not scare off other introverts.

Action Items

If you’re an introvert, I recommend the following:

  • Practice interacting with five or more people
  • Initiate quick conversations with strangers in the grocery store line or at Starbucks
  • Develop a public persona that you can consciously turn on, just an amped up version of you

Over time, you’ll become comfortable in dealing with others in a variety of settings, using the self-confidence enabled by your new public persona.

If you’re an extrovert, try:

  • Sitting by alone and meditate, allowing random thoughts to present themselves to you and setting the thoughts aside as you try to contemplate nothing
  • Allowing others to initiate conversations
  • Observing the people you interact with, asking yourself what’s different than if you would have initiated the discussion and if they had you’re undivided attention

Unfortunately, managing our career is much easy if we’re extroverts. But if I could, I wouldn’t change from introvert to extrovert. I like my introversion, but also enjoy my ability to turn on my extroverted self on demand.

For the record, my public persona is authentic; it’s just an amped-up version of me. The real Lori will always be quiet and reflective. I’ll always be conflicted about doing public events when I prefer to be sitting quietly in my library, surrounded by dark red walls with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, reading one of my business books.

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The Smart Lemming Rules of Life and Career Management series outlines my rules of personal and work success. After reflecting on my personal values, I made this list, realizing values are my rules of being or life management principles. Based on your experiences, I hope this list inspires you to identify your own rules. Here are the rules to my success that may help you over the course of your journey:

smart-lemming-pyramid-level-3

Level 1: Rules for Our Fundamental Nature

Level 2: Rules of Continuous Learning and Modeling

Level 3: Rules for the Actual Journey

Level 4: Rules of Adapting to Environment and Interacting with Others

Level 5: Rules of Humility

Level 6: Rule of Being

  • #21 Be compassionate.

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