I have a confession: I am an off-the-scale introvert. No, really, I am. People are always shocked to learn that I am an introvert because I seem so bubbly and outgoing. Introversion is often mistaken as shyness but it really is a preference for solitude due to our greater sensitivity to stimulation.
The problem is that people may mistake introverts’ need for solitude as aloofness or snobbishness. So, if you’re like me and view solitude as self-preservation, how do we counteract that image? By taking advantage of some of our introvert-related traits. Tapping into these natural instincts allow us to be a charming introvert. They allow me to be a “people person introvert.”
I don’t know about you, but I get so very frustrated when I’m trying to carry on a conversation with someone who is constantly interrupting me or not really listening. The fact of the matter is that people want to feel like they have been heard. In too many conversations, the receiver is thinking about how s/he is going to respond instead of actually listening to what someone is saying. Heck, people make gobs of money teaching workshops on how to effectively communicate and the first activity usually revolves around learning how to listen.
For introverts, listening comes naturally. We want to hear what the other person is saying so that we can ponder it for a moment before we respond. And, if you’re empathic like me, you listen not just with your mind but with your whole body so that you can “hear between the words.”
In almost every vintage book I have on how to be charming, the authors tell us that we need to really listen to others to be good conversationalists. Introverts have that covered.
(I’d also like to suggest that introverts also read electronic communication more carefully, too. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to tell somebody that the information they were looking for was in the email I already sent to them…).
Introverts notice details
One generalization in describing how introverts are different than extroverts is that we are observers by nature and extroverts are doers. This helps us in our relationships with others because we notice when there has been even a subtle change in someone. We can use those observation skills to connect with other people either by giving them a compliment or a word of encouragement.
In my work at the university, I have to establish a rapport with people who come to see me or the participants in my workshops almost immediately to gain their trust. Noting details is often my gateway to starting conversations with people and putting them at ease. And isn’t that one of the bedrocks of charm? Putting people at ease?
And, I’ll make another confession, by using a detail as a gateway to conversation, I can quickly move beyond the dreaded small-talk. I can get to the “heart” of who the person is and engage them on a deeper level.
Introverts despise small talk. Despise it. Thankfully, noticing details allows us to go deep with people and use those listening skills to show them that we value spending time with them.
But We Do Need to Come Out of Our Heads
If left to my own devices, I would probably just hang out in my head all day. Like many scholars, I am perfectly content to spend all of my time with my dusty books day in and day out or learning a solitary skill like knitting in three! easy! steps!
But that isn’t the way life works. I have to interact with people on a regular basis. People that I like (and even some people who make it difficult to like them)! This requires me to get out of my head and connect with them. Fortunately for me, I can use some of my introverted-related characteristics to let other people know that they are important to me.
How would you characterize yourself? Are you a “people person introvert” like me or an off-the chart extrovert where everyone is immediately your life-long best friend like my younger sisters.
To your fabulous Technicolor life!