We live in a society that favors extroverts over introverts. From working in groups in Kindergarten to presenting in front of the whole class to pitching ideas in work meetings, the extrovert qualities of being talkative, outgoing, and even at times, attention-seeking are often seen as superior to self-sufficient or quietly observant.
I believe that there is a fluid spectrum ranging from introvert to extrovert and that most people fall somewhere in the middle rather than at the extremes.
Unfortunately, I can understand why society naturally favors the qualities of an extrovert. Extroverts are more open to sharing their voices and therefore simply more represented in everyday life because they are more heard. The problem with this phenomenon is that introverts are often overshadowed by extroverts in normal conversations even though they have just as much or more to offer to the conversation.
I identify as an ambivert most of the time but often lean slightly towards being an introvert. I enjoy my alone time, from going to the gym alone to studying alone to just mindlessly surf the web along. But I definitely have extrovert moments too, where I feel like I can do the craziest things in public and go out, explore, and literally meet every single person in the room. I also love spending time with others and having the company while doing all of those things. That being said, my favorite hang out spots are definitely coffee shops and my favorite study spots are libraries or cafes where other people are also doing their own thing. I love the hustle and bustle of the public but also the freedom and serenity of being able to do my own thing. Thus, I often hang out in small to medium-sized groups.
If I had to choose though, I’d say I’m an introvert at heart who has adopted a lot of extrovert qualities. I first moved to the United States from Taiwan when I was around 6. I think not speaking English had a lot to do with it, as well as the culture shock of moving to Western society, but I was literally the definition of the shyest and most introverted kid that anyone has ever seen. Public speaking was my biggest fear and I really only made two friends in three years, whatever that meant in 1st grade.
Going through the American public education system, I quickly learned that it was favorable to, even as a kid, be the most outgoing student in the team, the most sociable on the playground, and be the most obnoxiously eager to answer any questions in class, even if you were wrong. This was wild to me. This revelation was especially eye-opening when we had discussions and debate-styled classes. I had always spent my time thinking through and perfecting my thoughts before I mustered up the courage to share them. But by the time I had it all figured it out in my head, it always seemed like someone would beat me to sharing a less thought-out version of my exact idea.
It became apparent that the world just functions in a cyclical game where the first person to speak wins. Beyond the middle-school Socratic discussions, I started to see this phenomenon in the workplace too, where the first person to pitch an idea naturally got credit for it and when I started drafting a patent for an idea, I found out that whoever patents first gets the right to it.
I learned that introverts are underrated in today’s world, and while that’s not anyone’s fault, an introvert can fight that by picking up some extrovert qualities to make sure that they too are heard.
An Introvert’s Guide to Adopting Extrovert Qualities
1. Welcome rejection
There is a great TED talk on this idea of welcoming rejection by Jia Jiang titled What I Learned from 100 Days of Rejection. This TED talk has helped me a lot in coming out of my shell over the last couple of years. I love this philosophy because it has taught me a lot about how to take things less seriously and to not fear rejection. The fear of rejection was, for me, and is, for many others, a huge reason we as introverts are limited by our own selves. An important mindset of extroverts that bring them their extrovert qualities is that they are unapologetically open to criticism and rejection when they share their thoughts with the world. Of course, rejection is a difficult thing to go through, but if fear of rejection stops you from speaking your voice, sure you will never get rejected but you will also be robbed of any chance at success.
2. Get comfortable in front of people
Practice Public Speaking
The shared fear of introverts everywhere is definitely public speaking. I know it will feel like an impossible hurdle to jump over at first, but it’s not and it’s worth it. With public speaking, the goal is to get comfortable being in front of large crowds. The best way to do that is to actually practice. Get in front of whoever will listen to you and just start speaking your mind. Once you get the hang of it, it can be extremely empowering. Public speaking is an important fear to get over because it will save you so much anxiety once you see that the people you are speaking to are just people, like me or you.
Got a big presentation coming up? Build up your courage and presentation skills by casually bringing up your topic in conversations with your friends. Go out and introduce yourself to random people on the street. Don’t be afraid to go up to everyone in the room at any networking event. There are so many ways to start small with the people you talk to and work your way up to pitching your ideas in front of huge crowds of people. There’s no shame in starting small and working your way up. No one gets there overnight, because you’re in it for the long haul!
Take It Lightly
Speaking to others or public speaking is difficult for many introverts because they treat it like it’s the most important thing that they will ever do. Decrease your nerves by reminding yourself how small the stake actually is in the grand scheme of things.
3. Practice sharing your thoughts as they happen
Basically, don’t try to be a perfectionist all of the time. I, like many introverts, are methodical thinkers who feel the need to think everything out before words start to come out of our mouths. From my experience in education and work settings, it is helpful to guide whoever you are speaking to be transparent and work your way through your thought process out loud. If you have ever done a technical interview of any kind, I think it’s the same type of concept, but adapted into everyday life.
4. Find what makes you feel powerful
I would have scoffed at this piece of advice years ago. Personally, power poses and telling myself that I rock in front of a mirror does nothing to me but crack me up. But I know that it works for many people. And that there’s something out there for everyone and anyone to feel their most powerful. For me, that’s playing a power playlist before going into an interview or going to a BodyPump class. It’s important to find your power exercise!
5. Ask for feedback
Don’t be afraid to ask for criticism. We may all be introverts but we are all still very different. While it’s certainly beneficial for us to adopt extroverted qualities sometimes, it is important to find a balance that is comfortable for you and those around you. That balance is delicate and hard to find sometimes. Ask your friends or anyone who you speak with if you’re comfortable with that, for some feedback as to how you can keep improving so that you are not unnaturally presenting yourself.
It’s a neverending journey.
I’m very happy with where I am now, but I’m still a work in progress. Adapt as you see fit, and I will too as time goes on and circumstances change.
Best of luck!