Many of my clients identify themselves as introverts. They don’t seek the spotlight, and prefer to listen before they speak. Trumpeting their strong points makes them feel like used car salesmen. And in today’s larger-than-life and louder-than-thou culture, my introverted clients wonder if they’re in danger of being overlooked.
Actually, I believe that introverts bring some significant assets to the table that extrovert’s lack. For example, introverts are more likely to prepare more for a meeting or presentation because speaking to a group is outside their comfort zone. Many extroverts “just wing it” and often, make a less-than-stellar presentation because of their lack of preparation.
Because introverts prepare more, they often are more knowledgeable about the topic at hand, while they speak less often, when they do pipe up, their input is more informed, and more likely to be fact instead of opinion. Introverts think before they speak, and speak only when they have something of value to add. This is a welcome trait since most people seem to be competing for maximum time at the microphone.
Introverts are more likely to actually listen to what others are saying, instead of being so focused on their own next words that they tune out everyone around them. Because they have listened carefully, they’re also likely to be able to speak intelligently to the pros and cons of what has just been said and to ask good questions, staying on topic.
While extroverts tussle over who has the floor, introverts usually have the best ideas, because when they speak they have something useful to contribute, like a plan, an idea or questions to clarify the discussion. But because introverts don’t love the limelight, they sometimes keep those good ideas to themselves because being in the spotlight feels so uncomfortable.
If you’re an introvert, how can you get past that discomfort to add your valuable input? The first step lies in realizing that you don’t have to become an extrovert. Next, think about what you would like to say and frame it as a short talking point or question. Now that you know what you want to say, you can feel more confident about speaking up. Be ready to back up your comment if need be, but don’t be surprised if your insight stands on its own merit. Once you’ve made your comment, sit back and let the extroverts have the floor again.
Freeing yourself from feeling that you have to compete with or copy the extroverts allows you to work your own brand of magic listening and analyzing. Even better, when you can speak up with confidence, others will recognize the value of your contributions. When they begin to praise your input, just sit back and smile—and be sure to listen!