Here’s a blunt confession: I am an introvert.
“But you are a Brand Strategist who designs strategic plans for brand’s communication. You work in the field that requires you to do a lot of talking, you go on meetings a lot, you have to be a people person to be in communications!”
Not true. It’s my job to tell stories, deliver the message, and help connect the dots for people. It’s not my job to be the life of the party.
Contrary to @DausGonia, who happens to be the most people person I have ever met, I tend to avoid an excessive amount of social interaction with people, while still maintaining relationships.
There are days where all I wish to do is just to get in a secluded room to work alone, having an intimate dialogue with my inner thoughts, without any disturbance for the needs to do social interaction at all. I’d say I am way more productive that way. But it isn’t always possible.
Of course, meetings with clients and several conferences are unavoidable. Especially with a job that requires me to listen, pitch ideas, and be responsible for the communication strategy I designed for them.
Is the world tailored for extroverts?
Yes it is. It’s definitely easier to be a confident person who knows how to express your feelings and say directly what you think.
Do you think people will notice you and your values if you’re staying put all the time? If you want to achieve something, you have to know how to represent your values well. In addition to that, we are living in an era where social media interaction becomes habitual daily life of a person.
I know I am not alone in this. I mean, being an introvert myself, I tend to recognise others with the same awkward eye-contacts during meetings and conferences. I take that as the first sign of people whose energy has been drained from social interaction.
It’s not that I don’t like you.
It’s not that I don’t like you or talking to you or listening to your mind blowing ideas. No. It’s not you. Okay, sometimes it’s you. But most of the times, it’s not about you.
It’s just that I really appreciate time alone and would prefer getting stabbed over revealing the serious stuff happening in my mind.
BUT, yes I do admit that meetings or conferences are wonderful places for learning, connecting, being inspired and reminding yourself to take your job seriously.
If you met me today, you’d probably see a happy, smiling girl chatting with a bunch of people around her. I bet, hidden beneath this smile, you’d never recognize the quiet, shy girl I used to be. I am an introvert, yet at some point of my life, I made an effort to change and open up a bit towards other people, which was a nice change for several moments and needs.
It took a lot of practice and mental work to become more social. It’s not a process that’s accomplished overnight. It’s a process that takes place in many small steps. But I’m sure that becoming more social is possible for everyone.
Here’s (probably) how:
1. Take a deep breath.
I know how s0me events with bunch of people can make you feel like you’re under attack. You walk into a massive space with lots of people, noise, and activity. It’s hard to know what to do first.
Before walking into a room like this, take a few deep breaths. And I don’t mean right outside the door, while looking in. I mean before you even leave your space to go to the event. Take a few quiet moments to close your eyes, breathe deeply, and center yourself.
After the event is over, I promise you can come back to your quiet place. For now, visualize yourself enjoying the event, meeting new people, and smiling, laughing, and having a great time. Hypnotise yourself: you are ready.
If it doesn’t help. Fake it. Fake a smile. Pretend that you’re totally 100% in the room. Believe me, it will be over soon.
2. Learn the trick to appear smart and attentive in a meeting.
Sometimes, what makes meetings/conferences so terrifying is the obligation to talk/speak. Here’s the thing: you are not obligated to talk all the f-ing time.
Bring a notepad, lean back, scribble intensively and flip pages often to make sure the people sitting close to you can’t see that you’re actually just writing the word ‘boring’ over and over. Nod continuously while taking some notes. If it’s not really necessary for you to talk, don’t. Save it for later.
When it’s your turn to talk, go straight to the point and pass the baton to someone else. If you don’t know what to talk, repeat the final thing that they say in a slow and deliberate manner, “I agree, why wasn’t this site optimized for mobile?”
Use these tricks to still appear smart and attentive even when you’d rather be anywhere else but here.
3. Be strategic with eye-contact.
If possible, avoid initiating the interaction by shooting your eyes in any direction besides the person. But once you’re socializing, don’t fool them to believe that you care by holding steady, intense, locked-in eye contact. (Note: There is potential for said person to ignore you henceforth due to your intimidation factor.)
Lock your eyes into the presentation deck on the big screen instead of looking at the person who’s currently talking. (Note: this, obviously, not applicable when you are the one who presents the deck.)
4. If you really need a time to breathe, excuse yourself.
Don’t berate yourself for needing to crawl off to a dark, quiet space from time to time during the conference or meeting
We introverts need quiet time to recharge. If you need to get out of the room, or out of hotel for lunch alone, or if you need an afternoon power nap, go for it. Just get back in there when you’re refreshed.
Also, don’t think that just because you’re a bit of an introvert, you can’t be sociable. Some of the most charming people I know are introverts. But they do need to take time to recharge or they become cranky and unhappy. Be yourself. Pay attention to your body. If you’re getting fidgeting and cross, take a break. Alone. It’s OK.
Make pretend phone calls. If you feel as though you’re on the brink of a breakdown due to social overload, this is a great technique to simply gain the sweet bliss of sitting outside, alone with your thoughts. Or use a toilet excuse, this will also do.
5. Find your partner (in crime).
(Use this with care. You don’t want to be a parasite.)
There are people (or colleagues) who will understand you better than most people in a meeting room. If you can connect with someone whose skills complement your own (i.e. an extravert), do so. With a single glance of eye-contact with them, hopefully they will understand you and back you up in the meeting/conference.
As introverted as you might feel, practicing the tips above will help you look and behave like an extravert. At least, for a day or two, right when you needed to be. And most times the payoff is worth it: new connections, new deals, new friends, and new opportunities await.
Introverted people usually like silence. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Once you accept the fact that during your interactions you may experience silence, it will cease to be awkward. Introversion is not about being shy or lack of social skills, there are more of that, and again, it is OK with being one.
Sooner or later, you will be home and tucked inside your warm blanket, away from all those forced social interactions. So until then, I hope there’s no need for you to be present in many meetings and/or conferences.
May the coffee be strong and the meetings be short.