Bold Fish, Timid Fish, Smart Fish, Dumb Fish: Introversion, Extroversion and Risk-taking

 

When Lee Dugatkin, Professor of Biology at the University of Louisville, placed guppies in a tank from which they could view predators in another tank, some of the fish swam up to the barricade to observe the predators; he named these “Bold” fish. Others – the “Timid” fish – swam the other direction.

When all the fish were placed directly in the tank with the predators, the Bold fish swam right up to the predators– and were eaten. Their survival rate at 36 hours was roughly half that of the Timid fish, and at 60 hours their survival rate was zero compared to 40% for the timid fish.
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Bullying in the Workplace: Who Bullies Whom?

Over 40% of employees in the workplace have experienced bullying, a persistent pattern of behavior that intimidates, degrades or otherwise undermines the wellbeing of the target. Bullying is four times more prevalent than sexual abuse, and, according to a study at the University of Manitoba, the outcomes for victims of bullying are worse than are those for sexual abuse victims.

So who are the bullies? And who are the targets? It’s easy to envision a quiet, introverted person as the victim of an outgoing, brash person. But it’s not that simple.

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The Yin, Yang and Dopamine in Relationships

Some people like to linger until the very end of a party; others like to leave early.

Unfortunately, they frequently marry each other.

They may very well have met and been attracted to each other because of these opposite qualities: one represents tranquility, stability, and caution, the other one represents excitement, change, and risk-taking.

Neurophysiology now suggests that these outgoing partiers (extroverts) have brains that are more sensitive to dopamine, the so-called “reward chemical” that actually excites the brain about a potential reward. They have what is called high “reward sensitivity” and they actively seek that buzz in a variety of ways from external sources, including social contacts, risk-taking, even extreme sports.
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Are Introverts just too quiet?

 

I hear it often – in person, from clients, on the internet – “I’m told I’m too quiet, and need to speak out more.” I’ve had more than one client whose job review included that feedback. And the client says to me, “But I only speak when I really have something to say – and then it’s overlooked or discounted. So why bother?”

Why indeed do introverts so often feel their ideas and offerings are swept aside by other, louder people? Is the ability to influence other people really based on the ability to speak louder than other people?

I don’t think so. Some of the most effective people I have known were soft-spoken but relentless. They didn’t give up on presenting their ideas, wants, or needs to others until they saw the light of comprehension in the other person’s eyes.

The introvert brain is a busy brain, and when we do produce an idea publicly we have probably looked at it from all angles, teased out the many objections and answered them. Blurting out an idea about an idea before it’s fully formed is not our style. Our mistake lies in the fact that we then communicate it in a kind of telegraphic style to the world.

Here’s the problem, and I’ve seen it over and over. Heck, I’ve done it over and over. We somehow think our neat summing up of a complex issue is immediately apparent to other people, who have not been a witness to all the rich thought that went into the production of that idea.

We just give them a compact package, and then feel hurt when they don’t respond with the excitement (or at least the respect) we think it deserves. We got to that point of excitement and belief through a process that we haven’t shared, then we blame the listener for not appreciating it.

We need to learn to lead others to our good ideas, to teach them how to understand us.

An unconfident introvert too often starts with, “This is just my opinion, but … ” or, “This may or may not be a good idea, but ….” Overwhelmed with the belief that it’s hopeless to inform this person or group anyway, the unconfident introvert subsides easily, feeling overlooked and a little bitter.

The confident introvert starts with, “I’ve thought this through carefully, and I’d like you to follow my reasoning here.” Another good sentence to use, which reflects a high-level introvert skill, is, “I’ve listened to the various thoughts you all have, and I’d like to add what I have concluded.” When interrupted, the confident introvert may say, “I’d like to finish; then I’d be happy to discuss your objections.”

Since you are very likely to have thought in advance, find an anecdote or punch line that illustrates what you are trying to say. Help your listeners make pictures in their heads that match the pictures in your head. They can’t see those. After all, if you just describe the tip of an iceberg to someone, it isn’t reasonable to get mad if the person doesn’t see the whole iceberg. Would you show someone a snapshot and expect them to understand the plot of an entire film?

Which one are you – the unconfident or confident introvert? You see, it’s not about introversion and/or extroversion, nor is it about becoming either a chatterbox or a loudmouth. It’s about having the confidence to communicate well when you do have something to say.

And when you are able to do that, you have earned the right to sit back and be quiet in a group. Even your quiet presence can be influencing to people, who recognize that you can be a powerhouse of thought and that your quiet listening skills really do pay off.

If  you are an introvert with a passion to share with the world and you need help communicating your dreams in speech or writing, I’m available to help you craft taglines, elevator speeches, sound bites and more.  I can help you overcome obstacles to delivering these communications, too.  Contact me at Lynette@CreativeLifeChanges.com

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Two small steps towards speaking confidence

If you are one of those people who feels uncomfortable about speaking up in group settings, take heart. It is possible to learn to be a relaxed contributor.One of my early clients said, “Oh, I know what you’re going to say – just take a deep breath and force yourself.” Well, no, actually. That’s a little like telling someone the best way to learn to swim is to jump off the dock and hope some life-saving instincts kick in.

If you are an introvert (as I am), you have probably been blessed (or cursed) with an overly reactive nervous system. You may have learned, at an early age, to associate speaking up with fear – fear of confrontation, criticism, ridicule, or just simple blushing.

Unfortunately, we introverts learn those associations well: actually, too well.

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