When we think of introverts and extroverts, we might describe introverts as shy or antisocial and extroverts as outgoing. But this is not entirely accurate. Yes, some introverts may be shy, but being an introvert does not necessarily make you shy.
The real difference between introverts and extroverts is the location from which they get their energy. In other words, introverts draw their energy from and recharge by spending time alone in their thoughts. They still enjoy people. But they can find this draining and prefer quieter environments. Introverts prefer being with a few close friends. Extroverts, on the other hand, get their energy from being around others and often with large groups of people.
Extroverts tend to jump into things and talk out loud to problem solve while performing an activity. Introverts, however, think and reflect before taking action.
Although it would seem that extroverts are more confident than introverts, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, many extroverts and introverts feel the same way – apprehensive when in a new situation. Therefore, you cannot assume that just because someone is introverted, that he has less confidence than the extroverted person in the room.
Unfortunately, the outside world gives the impression that it’s better to be extroverted than introverted. We might even encourage this in young children. Most people have a combination of characteristics but are predominately one or the other.
So how can introverts demonstrate their confidence in a world that reveres extroversion?
1. Socialize for short periods
First of all, remember that there is nothing wrong with being introverted. However, there are times when you may find it’s necessary to get together with large groups of people.
An example of a situation where this might be necessary is your spouse’s holiday work party. You prefer quiet, small get-togethers with a few friends or a quiet evening of watching a movie. However, it means a lot to your spouse to have you attend, so the two of you decide to compromise – you will go, but only for a few hours. This means mingling and socializing with more people than usual. If you think it sounds like you have to be phony, that is not the case.
Consider this. If you’re feeling grumpy and you start smiling at everyone (the action), you soon start feeling happy (the feeling). It’s the same with this. Although it will feel weird at first, act like you enjoy mingling and socializing with a large group of people, and you will feel like you do.
Because you’re likely to be drained after several hours of interactions with others, plan to be there only for a short amount of time (ex. no more than three hours). Then you can go home where it’s quiet and you can recharge.
2. Don’t ignore people
Maybe you work as an accountant. It’s the type of position which might minimize interaction with others. However, parts of your workday may still involve human contact, as you have to interact with your receptionist or other employees. It would be a drain on your energy to act like an extrovert all the time when you’re at work. No one expects that, and it’s not realistic. But be a friendly and interactive introvert. Say “hello” to people you work with.
Ask them about their families, and offer information about yours. This allows your confidence to shine through too. People will respect you more and respond better to you if they feel that you’re interested in them. They’ll also see you as more approachable and they’re less likely to consider it weird when you say that you need to work alone or need some quiet time.
Another idea is related to lunchtime at work. You may not enjoy eating lunch in a group because you find that mentally draining. However, you may be able to compromise by spending ten minutes with the group, and the other 20 minutes on your own recharging. That way, people get to know the real you – the friendly, but introverted, person – and you still get quiet time to yourself to recharge before returning to work.