Working with dynamic brilliant entrepreneurs is incredibly rewarding. One of the things I enjoy most is helping introverts recognize that being an introvert is a tremendous strength – not a problem.
(Yes, I am an introvert!)
What is a problem is what they have been told introvert means.
What is a problem is what they tell themselves about themselves because of that.
What is a problem is that they think introvert and charisma are mutually exclusive.
What is a problem is that they believe they have to change who they are to have impact, resilience, results.
Spoiler alert…. those are all lies (limiting beliefs that lead you down the garden path).
Definitions can get us into a lot of trouble.
When you tell yourself those lies and tell yourself that you need to become someone else, you miss the truth, the opportunity, the value you bring to the world and to each relationship. You step out of your power and show up in your weakness. And you create a negative set of strategies that run on auto-pilot creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in your life.
Society tells us a lot of lies about introverts – but lets look at some truths shall we?!
The truth about introverts
- Quiet does not mean shy.
- Considering your response as you process more deeply? Not awkward.
- Feeling tired after engaging with people – not the same as overwhelmed, reclusive or anti-social.
- Charisma is expressed by introverts and extroverts – it is a comfort in your own skin, an intention and the power to help, a strong presence or mindfulness that allows you to give your attention to the person you are talking to fully. This does not have to be loud and gregarious.
- Introverts love people – and don’t need the same level of stimulation as extroverts to feel alive and in the moment.
- Introverts make great leaders, public speakers, sales people.
- Recharging is just a healthy need for introverts – breathe in, eat, plan quiet moments and creative time. It is all part of allowing yourself to be strong and healthy.
(Before we go any further – notice anxiety is not part of introversion. If you are struggling with anxiousness, feelings of unworthiness or triggered insecurity – this is not introversion. You may be an introvert… or not. This is a different conversation and one I would be happy to help you with.)
What is the Power of Introverts?
If you have not yet watched this TED Talk by Susan Cain, you owe it to your self to do so!
My Pet Theories
I have a lot of pet theories about introverts and why people tire us out – requiring… yes, requiring, time to recharge. in beautiful, blessed silence.
I think introverts are very aware of energy in the room, inflections in a voice, a small quirk of an eyebrow or twitch of a lip. Perhaps also having more empathy, and feeling others emotions through “mirror neurons” more deeply. We also experience emotions for the other person – often more extreme than the person with whom we are empathing!
I think introverts are open and aware at so many more levels and build multiple connections – opening connections to many, many people at the same time. As we walk through a room of people, each one opens a connection into our energy, our awareness. Each connection stimulates different parts of our brain pulling together a variety of input and data and keeping it in our awareness simultaneously. Imagine multiple cords plugged into the same socket with more and more splitters drawing on the same energy. (You need a mind-body process to gather that energy back to you and remove those drains on your psyche.)
As they consider a question, they like to have some processing time to consider many diverse aspects and discover a deeper answer. Which often makes small talk uncomfortable (and preparing for small talk a great idea for introverts).
These are just pet theories… there are some fun studies that support these ideas too. I have noted them at the end of this post. What is important though is that when working off these ideas as presuppositions – the results in coaching are profound and ripple into a strong sense of self and confidence.
The big takeaways I would like you to have today:
- You are not broken, awkward, shy or less able to have impact and success as an introvert!
- Plan Recharging Time into your day. This can be made much faster and more effective with mindfulness hypnosis.
- When you are going into social environments, have a plan that honours your deeper (longer) thinking and empathetic connections. This may include planning what to say, positioning yourself as a “host”, approaching individuals or small groups rather than forcing yourself to dive into a crowd.
Remember your need for breaks to shut down those connections that drain your energy. This can be as simple as a quick walk outside in the middle of an event – or even a trip (alone) to the bathroom.
- Eat lightly before a social activity (don’t waste your energy on digestion – see below). And – you do not need a glass of wine to relax and be more outgoing. You just need to take a breath, set your intention and show up on your terms.
- You can develop charisma as an introvert.
Hypothalamus, Self-Regulation and Introverts:
The ability of your personality to show up, confident and friendly, trusting and with a sense of humour are actually based on how much your system is overloaded by stress. Any stress, good or bad. Your hypothalamus regulates… all the things!
- the immune system
- heart rate and breathing
- the ability to pick up social cues
- aspects of hearing, speaking, thinking
As introverts, our bodies are stimulated (stressed) easier than extroverts. When you stress your self-regulation systems, you can find yourself retreating to the emotional or the survival centres of your brain – and that is not the place for building relationships.
A 2012 study by Harvard psychologist Randy Buckner found that people who identify as introverts tend to have larger and thicker gray matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex, a highly complex brain region associated with abstract thought and decision-making. People who identify as strongly extroverted, on the other hand, tend to have thinner gray matter in those same prefrontal areas—which hints that introverts tend to devote more neural resources to abstract pondering, while extroverts tend to live in the moment.
Researchers have found that an introvert’s premotor cortex tends to process stimuli more quickly than that of an extrovert.
Still other studies have found that cortical neurons of introverts and extroverts may respond differently to the neurotransmitter chemicals gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA)—an intriguing finding since both GABA and NMDA have both been implicated in anxiety disorders
In the 1960s, a psychologist named Hans Eysenck theorized that extroverts had a lower level of something called “arousal.” Eysenck believed that extroverts required more stimulation from the world in order to feel alert and awake, while introverts were easily over-stimulated. This helped to explain extroverts’ sense of risk-taking, challenges, and constant social company to keep them stimulated, while introverts often had to seek out alone time in order to lower their over-stimulation — thriving best at home, in library corners, or in peaceful parks.
In 2005, researchers concluded in a study that it all might be linked to dopamine — the reward system in the brains of extroverts responded differently than those of introverts. In the study, researchers used a brain scanner to examine responses from participants who were doing a gambling task. They found that when gambling brought positive results, the extroverts exhibited a stronger response in two regions of the brain: the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens, showing that they processed surprise and reward differently than introverts. If extroverts responded more strongly to gambling paying off, they probably would respond more strongly to adventures, social challenges, or taking risks.