I am an introvert.
Unfortunately this is a much misunderstood word. Introvert does not equal shy. An introvert is someone who draws their strength from within. As opposed to an extrovert who draws their strength from others. An introvert prefers solitude, but that does not mean they avoid crowds or people. It just mean that being within a crowd of people can be draining and an introvert needs alone time to recharge. An introvert often does their best work by themselves. It does not mean that they don’t like people (although…). Human beings are naturally social creatures.
Many people do not believe that I am an introvert. I am gregarious. I am friendly. I can be outgoing. I appear confident. I hold my own in a noisy room. But I am more comfortable in one-to-one situations.
Last year I entered the Live Your Legend blog challenge. This blog that you are reading. And I won. At the time, I did not believe it. I thought this was just some marketing ruse, and that I had “won” just like everyone else had “won”. But no, after talking with others at the Live Your Legend Local London event, I find out that others who had entered had not “won”.
My prize for winning was entry to the “How to Connect with Anyone” course. This course starts next week, but this week there is a lot of preamble going on. One of the units that is available outside the main course is one called “Introverts 101”.
This unit has several videos regarding introversion, most of them good. Although I think one of them equates shyness to introversion while all the others tell us that shyness and introversion are not the same thing. A bit of a mixed message from a unit that is trying to help introverts.
The “shy” video says that shy people can misinterpret facial expressions, or at least interpret neutral expressions as “I don’t like you”. Whereas extroverts interpret neutral facial expressions as “I like you”. Although I personally think this is just the narcissism of extroverts where they think that everyone like them and they don’t take a hint.
This is what the other videos suggest, that introverts are actually better at reading body language. They will notice when someone doesn’t want to talk to them, or when they have been in a conversation for too long.
The thing is, I notice this all the time. Not a situation where I have bored someone to distraction, but more at networking events where I meet people and almost immediately they give off signals that they don’t want to be doing this. While I respect that, it does annoy me slightly, as I think “why are you at a networking event if you don’t want to talk to people?”. The TED talk is this series of videos says that a third to half of all people are introverts. Possibly these uncomfortable people at the networking events are introverts just like me, and I should be more understanding.
Likewise, the video about “shy” people says they are prone to interpreting situations in a negative light. When remembering a social situation they focus on the negative. An extrovert will focus on the positive. Again, I could argue, this is the narcissism of the extrovert, not noticing anything other than how great they think they are. However, I do recognise that the misinterpretation by “shy” people could be the case. There is no reason to focus on the negative.
At the most recent Live Your Legend Local London event we did various exercises, many of which I had done a variation of before while following the LYL website. There was one that was a little different and that was to think about my weaknesses. I’d been asked to think about my strengths on many occasions.
The weaknesses I wrote were connection with people, calmness, forgiveness.
The first I believe is a result of my introversion. It’s not that I can’t connect with people. It’s not that I don’t continue those connections. But I feel that I am particularly choosy about the continuing connections. Maintaining connections takes work, or at least I assume it does. Or assume it comes easier to extroverts. Whereas I will just let connections fade because I sometimes find it draining to maintain them. The positives of a connection have to far outweigh the negatives for me to be the one that pursues re-connecting.
The second two, calmness and forgiveness, I believe it is part of me not focussing on the positive. If a situation annoys me, and I no longer remain calm (usually within) it is because I focus too much on the negative. And then I’m unable to reinterpret this same situation at a later date (forgiveness) because of this continuing negativity.
Then again, maybe I’m just beating myself up because I don’t like some people, and I’m never going to get along with everyone. Maybe this is me misinterpreting a social situation. It was actually fine for everyone else, I just remember it in a negative light.
I would like to acknowledge that other people seem to not think this about me. As I said people think I’m gregarious, friendly, out-going, confident. And as I’m an introvert these situations can get draining. I just think that I could be better at these situation. I’m hoping this How to Connect with Anyone course will help.