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Dear Introvert

September 24, 2012

In my recent Dear Extravert post, I promised to share the other side of the coin with my readers and fellow moocers in #oped12, #fslt12, #change11, #cck12 and #ds106.  Candid comments, questions and critiques are welcomed, as always.

Dear Introvert

We haven’t had an easy go of things, have we?  The world isn’t set up for our success so that means that we’ll have to speak up and advocate for our own needs, which is risky, difficult and unnatural for us.  We’re often the sensitive peacemakers, the reliable go-along-to-get-along types, and we generally don’t like to enter into conflict if we can help it, right?

Here’s the thing:

We’re not going to be heard if we don’t start to speak up, in our own ways.

According to Susan Cain, there is a huge community of like-minded folks out there, possibly 1/3 to 1/2 of the global population, and we now have the tools to locate and connect with one another, on our own timelines, from our comfortable locations, in whatever quantity or quality that works for us.  Some collaborative technologies for connecting with others can seem overwhelming and non-linear but they can work very well for our needs once we learn how to customize and control them. 

We likely approach Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn or Flickr in different ways than extraverts do, if we use them at all.  Our volume of contributions on these social platforms may be fewer but more focused, deeper, more reflective.  We may pay more attention to individual posts and react to them with new insights and constructive feedback rather than just a ‘like’ button, especially if we don’t allow as much noise into our streams in the first place.

Don’t forget that many of us bring to the table what our extraverted counterparts seem to lack: the natural ability to process, organize, synthesize and curate huge quantities of detailed information.  By curation, I don’t mean gathering every bookmark you’ve ever read.  I mean the detail-oriented skills that include:

– recognizing something as valuable

– connecting it with other things that are valuable, in part or in whole

– tagging the resource for easier search and retrieval at a later date

– deciding where to keep the items and their tags

– knowing which tools are best for curation and how to use them

– sharing curation results with others

– weeding out expired, duplicate, broken or irrelevant items on a regular basis

Though I’m still learning about curation, I believe that I practice it fairly well and you may, too.  I maintain my ‘collections’ in a few different spaces as appropriate to my needs and the needs of my audience(s).  This includes five different email accounts (see Tools for Taming the Email Beast), personal bookmarks, social bookmarks (Diigo), my blog, my workplace SharePoint site collection and my electronic and hard copy files at home and at work.  I also offer pathways between some of the locations as appropriate.  Let your extraverted colleagues know that you have these gifts.  They may welcome your guidance and may hire or promote you in order to compliment the skill sets of the extraverts on your team.

I also believe that we, as introverts, tend to approach new tools and events with caution and demand that they prove their worth before we invest our time and energy in them.  My insightful friend calls this ‘value for my time’.  I wonder if the shiny people in our lives could benefit from developing a value-for-time filter so that they are less likely to stretch themselves thin across multiple engagements or magnetically attract the kind of energy into their lives that we label as drama or noise?

Let’s not forget that extraverts seem to want to play hard before working hard.  Work has to be ‘entertaining’ for them, as bizarre as that might sound to us.  We might insist on diligence, throughness, discipline and work before play but that is going to be a turn-off for them and they see us as rigid and boring because of it.

I know you hate this, the putting on a show and sprinkling glitter all over the drudgery.  It’s tiring for me, too, because it feels fake and we don’t do fake.   For extraverts, apparently, it’s not fake.  It’s what genuinely gets them motivated and I guess we have to pay some attention to that if we’re going to start insisting that they pay more attention to what we need.

Here are some concrete ways that we can interact with our extraverted colleagues and superiors during group events, as one extraverted colleague of mine recently noted:

“Introverts are drained when they have to extravert for long periods of time; and extraverts are drained when they have to introvert for long periods of time.

Sharing agendas, structures, plans, etc., ahead of time will definitely support the needs of the introvert, especially if they are expected to contribute openly about their thoughts and ideas.  They will need and appreciate time to think things through before speaking out.  Extraverts, on the other hand, are very comfortable speaking and often don’t need time a lot of time to express their thoughts.  In fact they often think as they speak, change their minds, build on what others have to say, etc. and are comfortable with this approach.

Anything we can do to help the introverts read, think, prepare before the <event> will be a win/win for everyone.”

Take some of these ideas to your managers, directors, facilitators and event planners, who are most likely extraverts who promote and socialize with other extraverts.  Ask them to respect your needs and not put you on the spot during group events.   Request a one-on-one meeting or suggest an asynchronous way to connect as an alternative or addition to the group setting.   Remind them that you are a willing and cooperative team member, particularly if your ways of contributing are genuinely respected and actively offered.

If we don’t start to speak up for what we need, we’ll continue to be drowned out by the loudest voices of those first to the table and we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.  Be strong, be brave, know your own strengths and be confident that you’re not alone in seeking change, even if your voice is quieter than others.

Thanks for making the time for this post and please add to it as you wish, in your own valuable ways.

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From → Smarter worker

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