Social Confidence and “Extrovert Skills”

“I used my extrovert skills.” “I had to learn some extrovert skills.” “Oh, well, I don’t have extrovert skills.” I hear these phrases all the time – and they drive me crazy.

When did the ability to be socially graceful or to display good manners become the sole province of one group of people, one temperament?


Good social behavior is within the reach of every human being, no matter how quiet or even shy you may be. As an introvert, you may need to protect yourself from too much stimulation, but you shouldn’t protect yourself from connecting with others.

The problem, many introverts assure me, is that it takes too much energy to relate to others. Well, anything you don’t know how to do well takes more effort and involves more stress. Swimming, running, public speaking, cooking a Thanksgiving turkey … the list is endless.

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Introversion, Gut Feelings, and Trust

Maybe – just maybe – your gut-level feeling that you shouldn’t be doing something is right. But if you’re an introvert, you’ve probably had a lifetime of being told to ignore your feelings, and urged to act just the opposite.

Want to stay home and read? “What’s the matter with you, anyway?” It’s implied that you’re neurotic or even antisocial. Want to leave a party before it ends? “You’re a party-pooper.” Find large groups overwhelming? “Just get out there and have fun (said with incredulity)!” (Even though the event gives you a headache or even nausea.) Enjoying being quiet and listening when in a group? “You’re shy, aren’t you?” a shaming label if ever there was one.
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Are you carrying some introvert baggage?

Personal note

Being different from other people is always stressful, and we’re all different from one another in a variety of ways.  It leads to misunderstandings, and even worse, to some of us evaluating others of us as being deficient in some way.

I often find myself being a mediator between people who don’t understand each other, and I particularly love standing up for people I believe are in the position of underdogs, particularly when I’m very familiar with the underdog position.

So here’s my latest attempt to make the world a more peaceful place.

Are you carrying some introvert baggage?

Many people do; some of them are introverts, the others are extroverts.

The basic definition of an introvert is of someone who is very sensitive to external stimulation and needs to withdraw periodically because our energy is depleted by too much stimulation, whereas an extrovert is someone who goes out and seeks stimulation, often social stimulation, in order to be energized.

That being said, there are a lot of assumptions that go along with introversion, some of which I call “introvert baggage.”  Not all of the people who carry this baggage are introverts.

In “12 Most Expeditious Ways to Alienate Your Introverted Colleagues”, Beth Buelow describes  how non-introverts (ok, extroverts) unwittingly make life difficult for introverts and shut down any effective communication because of their assumptions. (See her full article HERE)

Included in her list are non-stop talking (to deal with the threat that silence may actually occur every now and then?), saying “You’re awfully quiet, aren’t you? or worse yet, “You’re shy, aren’t you?; forcing introverts to work in groups, socialize when they don’t want to, or basing an evaluation of their work solely on degree of participation; and assuming that the quieter behavior of an introvert is due to everything from indifference to stupidity to plotting.  Whew!  All that from the simple fact that some of us need to replenish one’s energy in private every now and then.

But introverts are complicit in this whole thing, too.  Instead of recognizing that what we are dealing with is an energy problem, and should be handled by setting aside quiet times to refuel, and by choosing our activities wisely, too many of us spend our lives in a kind of defensive crouch, trying to avoid human contact altogether, then wondering why we don’t feel loved or appreciated.

Too many of us say, “I don’t want to waste my time on idle chit-chat; I just want to have meaningful conversations and relationships, too.”

Well, I’ve got news for you.  It doesn’t happen that way. People need to connect; some of us more carefully and in smaller groups.  But we need to connect: to feel healthy, to feel whole, to feel love and joy, and yes, to do business, too. Connections don’t happen the minute two pairs of eyes meet; they take time to develop.

Here are some guidelines for getting rid of that extra baggage , and being a proud and confident introvert who can connect with others without being sucked into their lives:

  • Make sure your energy drain isn’t at least partially due to poor health habits, or to depression, for which you might want some counseling.
  • Select your outings carefully; time them when you can be sure your energy is at a high enough point to cope successfully;
  • Find things that energize you to do in advance.  I have music I love that energizes me.  Often, when going to an event where I will need to meet people and  be “out there”  I play it in the car,
  • Cultivate social skills so that when you are out you can meet others, find ways to connect, and determine whether that other person really is worth knowing.  Ask questions that allow them to do most of the talking. You don’t have to do it all the time.  If you do  (Gasp! Horrors!) get into a conversation you don’t particularly enjoy, you don’t have to continue it.  You don’t have to take the person home, for heaven’s sake.
  • Do not assume that you will know immediately whether or not someone is suitable to be the Prince or Princess of Your Heart, or the Emperor of your Entrepreneurship.  Whether in business or pleasure, a period of conversation and dating is essential to establishing a deeper relationship.
  • Finally, recognize that the more you set up these little encounters with others, the less threatening they will be because:

                 –  You will get better with practice
                 –  Each episode counts for less in the general scheme of things, as one awkward experience can be diluted by the sheer numbers.

Oh, and extroverts:  When we withdraw, don’t automatically assume we’re rejecting you. Learn to stop and listen when you are around a quiet person.  We can be gold mines of imagination and creativity and occasional oases of peace in your life.

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com