Confidence Looks Different for Introverts

confidence looks different for introverts

When I started this blog almost three years ago, it was called “The Confident Introvert.”  I chose that name because I think there is a perception that many introverts are not confident.  After all, we’re still often defined as anti-social, shy loners – and that doesn’t sound very confident, does it? I think introverts can be – and are – just as confident as extroverts.  So why that inaccurate perception?

It’s the difference between what confidence feels like and what confidence looks like.  Anyone can say, “I feel confident.” But only the speaker will know if it’s really true or not.  An observer will decide if someone else is confident based on their behavior.

In our extrovert-centric culture, there’s a generally accepted view of confidence.  It’s bold action, decisive body language and lots of talking.  We know it when we see it.  And when we don’t see what we expect to find, we wonder if confidence is missing.

Which is where most introverts run into difficulty.  Our outward behavior doesn’t look like what most people think confidence looks like.

Words – Let’s face it.  We do not talk as much as extroverts.  Extroverts tend to think out loud.  Introverts prefer to let a thought out into the world only if it’s been thoroughly inspected and tested for flaws.  Talking – and being able to fill silence, which seems to make so many people uncomfortable – is a way for people to determine if someone is confident.  If you’re not talking, you’re shy or quiet – and therefore not confident.

Body language – Because we are so internally focused, our body language can sometimes suggest to others that something is wrong or off. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me they thought I was angry or unhappy when in fact I was feeling quite the opposite. My serious face happens when I’m listening or observing or analyzing.

Especially in public situations, we tend to conserve energy for the important task of dealing with people.  So we don’t stride into a room, walk up to a stranger, thrust out a hand and start talking.  Our slower, less expansive body language tends to look like timidity and fear to others.

Thoughts vs. Actions – Introverts think.  A lot.  And almost all of it happens inside our head, which of course no one can see.  I sometimes think if our skulls were transparent and people could see all the activity going on in our heads, it would simply astound them.

We have such a bias toward action that inaction is seen as a negative.  It’s okay to want to sit back and think about a problem or an issue before reacting to it.  Extroverts will solve a problem by immediately trying different solutions; an introvert will think through every possible solution before actually picking one.  Neither is right or wrong; they are just different.

Finally, I think there’s a factor that actually gives introverts an edge when it comes to confidence.  We have such a deeply rooted, internal belief system that we don’t need any external validation.  We don’t need accolades and applause (though they are certainly nice to have!).  But our introspection and self-knowledge tell us all we need to know.

While others may not see our confidence, that doesn’t mean it’s missing.  Remember that your sense of confidence doesn’t come from what others think – it comes from what you think.

Image credit: almagami / 123RF Stock Photo



Dear Extroverts — Please Don’t Worry When Introverts Are Quiet

don't worry when introverts are quietYou know how sometimes an idea keeps presenting itself to you in various ways until you feel it’s a sign of something? That’s how this post came about. In a couple of other blog posts I’ve read lately, the idea of silence as a negative kept popping up. So here’s an open letter to all extroverts on the topic of introverts and silence.

Dear Extroverts,

We know it’s of great concern to you that introverts are sometimes — or often — quiet. For some reason, this kind of freaks you out. I think you have some misconceptions about what it means to be quiet.

We aren’t upset. Or angry. Or depressed. Or scared. Or nervous. Or any other negative emotion you can think of. We aren’t talking because we’re probably doing something else. We’re thinking. Or listening. Or watching. Sometimes we just don’t have anything to say (which may be hard for you to believe, but it’s true). We need to take in an enormous amount of data before we can output any data. Please don’t mistake silence for problem. That’s almost never the case.

It’s not a reflection on you. I know some extroverts who seem to think that introverts being quiet means something is wrong with them (the extroverts). Please don’t take it personally. We aren’t being quiet to offend you. It’s just the way we are.

We’re thinking about what to say next. Sounds silly to you, probably, but our brain pathways are much longer than yours. It literally takes us longer to come up with a thought and then put it out into the world. Here’s your process:

1. Thought
2. Mouth

Here’s the process for introverts:

1. Thought.
2. Is this what I really think?
3. Is this something I really want to say out loud?
4. How should I say it?
5. Waiting for a lull in the conversation to get a word in.
6. Wait, maybe I should rephrase that.
7. Okay, now I’m ready.
8. Mouth

We know you have the best intentions when you are worried about us. You are genuinely concerned and we love you for that. But when you start asking questions like “Are you okay?” you imply that something is wrong. And sometimes — when we lack a little bit of confidence or are in a new or unfamiliar situation — we might start to believe you.

Imagine what an introvert child will think when parents or teachers are constantly asking, “Why are you so quiet?”  The child may grow up thinking that there is truly something wrong with them.  In fact, quiet is a natural state for introverts.

So — don’t worry. We’re fine. When we fall quiet, just let there be silence for a moment. Experience it. Observe yourself in silence and see what it’s like. You might learn to like it (well, at least a little bit.)


Introverts everywhere


Image credit: dirkercken / 123RF Stock Photo


Life Lessons

So I was hoping that after taking my unplanned blogging break, I could come back to you with all sorts of lessons learned and serene outdoorrealizations arrived at and I would be able to report that I’d figured out the meaning of the universe.

Sorry to say, that didn’t happen.  I’m not exactly sure what to call what I went through; for now, I’m just calling it a funk.  I don’t think it was as extreme as a midlife crisis.  But it was definitely more than just an average bad day or two.

I think we all have these times occasionally.  What I did differently this time was just to allow it to unfold without fighting it.  I wallowed.  I did the absolute minimum that I had to: my client work and enough shopping to keep food in the house.  I read, watched TV, played games, slept.  The only thing I tried to consciously do every day was not to feel guilty about what I was doing.

As I relaxed and accepted the way I felt, I started to think about what I wanted to do.  And then I started to write it down.  Messy, at first, random ideas jotted down quickly.  The more I wrote, the more I wanted to think.  The more I thought, the more I wanted to organize what I was creating.  It was very organic and free flowing (and really, nothing about me is organic or free flowing – maybe that’s why it worked).

Slowly, each day I started to do a little more.  I made plans, I set goals.  There were no big changes; I did not suddenly wake up one day and feel that everything fit into place.  I feel much better than I did, but I still have days where I feel like everything I do is still very pointless.

But I try to put those days behind me when they are over.  I just resolve to try again tomorrow.  It’s really that simple.  Just try again tomorrow.

A few of the things I realized:

I am enough – I am far too embarrassed to tell you the amount of money I spent last year on courses, ebooks, lessons, etc., to learn how to blog better, how to “find your passion,” how to “live the life you’ve always wanted,” blah, blah, blah.  So much of the self-help industry is built upon a depressing fallacy: there’s something wrong with you and I can fix it.  I just got tired of constantly feeling like I was inadequate.

You know what? I am enough.  I don’t have all the answers and that’s okay.  But I’d rather figure them out on my own than pay someone to sell me a bunch of clichés.

I don’t work as fast as other people do – I’m an introvert.  I’m slow and deliberative.  I have to think a lot about something before I do it.  That’s just the way it is.  I’m going to stop beating myself up for not producing as fast or as much as others do.

There are some things I will never be – I’ll never be the life of the party.  I’ll never have a huge network of people to call on for help at a moment’s notice.  I’ll never be that person everyone’s eyes turn to when I walk into a room.

Yes, despite my preaching about how wonderful it is to be an introvert, I still sometimes feel like I should be things I’m not.  More outgoing, more “proactive,” more … something.  But there’s just no value to thinking that way.  I am what I am.  And I am enough.

Doing new stuff is hard – Everybody blogs.  Everybody uses social media.  Everybody is a producer of some kind.  So it gets easy to think that because everybody is doing it, it’s easy and should be easy for you too.  But doing new things is hard.  Blogging, writing ebooks, developing courses, building a business – it’s all hard.  And not letting myself accept that fact was only making me miserable.   So I accept – it’s hard.  I just need to keep trying.

Planning works – I used to be an excellent planner.  As a museum project manager, I once successfully managed a 5-year, $8 million dollar project – on time and under budget.  But around the time I started working out of my home, my planning skills seemed to atrophy.  I blamed it on a lot of things – working out of my home was a new experience; the nonprofit I worked for was so small I was the only staff member, so planning was less important; I didn’t have a planning system that I really liked.  All excuses.

So I pulled out David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity to refresh myself on his system.  I don’t use all of  GTD, but much of it is helpful.  I found an Android task management system I really like.  And I did what I do for my clients: I came up with a content plan for this blog and my business blog.  It covers blog posts, ebooks, courses, etc. for the entire year.  It’s all mapped out in one place.  And I feel enormously more settled with that work done. (And I try to ignore why I never before followed the advice I give my clients.)

Don’t let what is undone or what happened in the past weigh you down – I suspect this is true whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.  Although since introverts think so much, I wonder if this affects us more.  But I can’t let what isn’t done bother me; it just wastes energy and doesn’t produce anything useful.  And with a better planning system, I think this will be less of a problem.

The past is the past.  If yesterday wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped, I just try to let it go.  Tomorrow is a new day.  There is another opportunity to try again.  Because, really, what other choice is there?

Thank you for sticking with me if you’ve made it this far.  As I said, there are no grand lessons here; it’s mostly just simple common sense.  But I find we can forget common sense, sometimes, as we get caught up in the rush of life.  I hope you found something here that strikes a cord with you.  If you have some advice for getting through the bad days, I’d love to hear it in the comments.


Why Introverts Rock At Social Media FREE Ebook!

thank youHi, everyone — I’m back!

I can’t thank you enough for all the kind emails and comments I received on my last post.  This is exactly why I love this medium so much. The encouragement and support was almost overwhelming.  I’m deeply grateful.

I’m not sure I learned any big lessons, but the break was helpful.  I just needed that time and space to think without worrying about creating anything.  I’ll be doing a blog post sometime next week with a few thoughts on my time off.

But now, at long last, the frequently rumored and often-promised ebook I’ve been talking about for months is finally DONE and ready for downloading!  Many, many months ago, I came across this quote from Clay Shirky:

“Digital media is an amplifier.  It tends to make extroverts more extroverted and introverts more introverted.”

I couldn’t believe that someone who actually teaches and writes about social media could say something that was so far off the mark.  That’s what really inspired me to write this ebook.  In fact, I think introverts have TONS of great skills already that help when using social media.  And to help introverts get the most out of it, I’ve outlined an easy 5-step process for learning about and using social media more effectively to meet your communications goals — whether personal or business.

I have to say one of the reasons I was dragging my feet on this is because it’s scary to put yourself out there.  Even today as I was getting everything ready, I wanted to find reasons to wait another day to make just one more change.  But it finally got to the point where NOT hitting the publish button was harder than doing it.  So here it is.

I hope you’ll take a few moments to download the ebook and let me know what you think.  You can download it on the new Ebooks page of my Web site (Hint: That means I have more in mind!)

8 Tips For Introverts To Survive The Holidays

8 ways for introverts to survive the holidaysSo the holiday season is upon us once again.  Lots of people to see, lots of places to go.  For introverts, this can actually be a really stressful time.  We feel guilty when we don’t go to events and parties, but then we feel cranky and exhausted while we’re there.  It’s often a no-win situation.

But there are some things you can do to help you survive the holidays.  Take a look at this list:

1.  Plan Ahead

If you know you’re going to be doing a lot of socializing, make sure you schedule yourself some alone time.  Make sure you can take some time to decompress and re-energize.  If you just go from event to event without re-charging, it will take its toll.

2.  Find Another Introvert

Remember, we make up about half of the population.  There are going to be many people like you at any event you go to.  They may be hard to find, but when you see someone sitting in a corner by themselves, looking uncomfortable or constantly staring at their cell phone, think about saying hello.  You may get lucky and have a deep, meaningful conversation with someone that will make that party or event totally worth it.

3.  Hide

Let’s face it, we’ve all done it.  I can remember retreating to my dad’s car during one family event, where I quite happily read by myself.  It’s okay to take 5 or 10 minutes to be by yourself.  Take some deep breaths and remember, this too shall pass.

4.  Escape Plan

If you are going to an event with someone else – and especially if that person is an extrovert – try to agree ahead of time on how long you’ll stay.  You’ll have to compromise, because an extrovert will quite happily party all night (and more power to them!).  But you will reach a limit.  Instead of getting frustrated because one of you wants to go and one wants to say, have your escape plan ready.

5.  Be Patient

Patience is your friend in these situations.  Parties have a finite end; they have to come to a conclusion (even if it’s near dawn).  So does the holiday season.  In about 5 weeks or so, this will all be over.  It may be exhausting while it’s here, but it will end eventually.

6.  Say No

It’s okay to say no to invitations.  Really.  If you feel like you need permission, I’m giving you permission.  Just say no.

7.  Have a Sense of Humor

Don’t start out dreading the occasion; that will only make it dreadful.  The right mindset will make any party or event much more manageable.  When you get trapped in a corner by someone who just can’t stop talking, think about how you’ll remember this situation in your memoirs.  Or maybe in a blog post!

8.  Be Yourself

Never, ever feel like you have be an extrovert.  You may need to act a little more extroverted than usual — for a short period of time —  but don’t feel like you have to be someone you’re not.  Most introverts dislike parties and that’s okay.  Or maybe you have a very limited tolerance.  That’s okay too.  Just remember you always have to advocate for yourself; no one is going to do it for you.  If you’ve reached your socializing limit, don’t let someone push you into more.

Hope these help you get through the holidays a little easier.  Have more tips? Please share them in the comments!

Image credit: tonobalaguer / 123RF Stock Photo

Don’t Be Afraid of the Big Scary Spider That Is Social Media

Spider on glass

Social media is like a big, scary spider.*  It’s kind of awkward-looking, it has a lot of legs, it moves really fast.   It lives in a web. (Get it?)

Bad jokes aside, social media is an amazing medium that is changing the world.  And to promote your brand and your message, it’s essential that you participate.  As big as social media is, there’s always room for more.  Let’s calm some of the typical fears about getting started with social media.

1.  No one will follow me.

Don’t worry — this is NOT a repeat of junior high school and that clique you could never crack.

It’s easy to connect with friends on Facebook.  When you join, Facebook will ask to scan your email contacts.  When it does, it will find tons of people you already know on Facebook — and they will be happy to be friends with you.  And Facebook Pages are perfect for promoting your business.

You will always get followers on Twitter.  First, because for some people on Twitter, it’s all about the numbers.  They will follow anyone in the hopes that they get followed back.  They just want to show a high follow/follower count. But there are plenty of real people on Twitter who will be interested in what you have to say and will genuinely want to connect.

LinkedIn will also scan your contacts list when you set up a profile.  You’ll find plenty of people to connect with.

2.  I can’t be me.

Actually, being yourself is the best possible thing you can be.  Authenticity is something that’s highly prized online.

Remember, your goals with social networking aren’t random.  You have a reason for spreading your message.  Work toward those goals.

The only way you can do that over the long term is to be yourself.  Social media actually rewards individuality and authenticity.  It’s easy to spot the fakes and no one wants to connect with those people.

3.  I’ll lose my privacy.

You don’t have to be one of those people who shares everything they do.  Or say.  Or think. Or eat! I’ve unfollowed plenty of people because they are posting what’s going through their head every five minutes.

And you don’t have to share anything you don’t want to.  That’s the beauty of it: You make the choice.  If you’re using Twitter to promote your business, for example, just tweet about that.  But I will say that the occasional personal remark creates a more well-rounded profile.  Despite the “mechanization” of being able to touch thousands of people at one time, it’s still personal.  You want your customers/followers to see the person behind the brand.

4.  I don’t have anything to say.

Well, that certainly doesn’t stop some people!

Seriously, though, you have plenty to say.

If you just want to promote your blog, for example, you can tweet your blog posts and post them to your Facebook page and LinkedIn profile.  You can share information that you think others might find helpful, whether it’s another web site or an online article.  You can — and should — interact with others too.  People love to be retweeted!  If you like what someone else has said on Twitter, share it on your own Twitter stream.  You will expand the value and create a great connection.

5.  I don’t have the time.

You need to find it.

We’ve reached the point where social media is no longer an option.  So many people are using it that it’s an essential part of any promotions or communications strategy.

Facebook has 900 million users worldwide; Twitter has 127 million and LinkedIn has 150 million.  You ignore social media at your own peril.

Don’t think “I have to do social media.”  From a business standpoint, you need to communicate.  Social media just provides another channel from which to do that.  It’s not an extra “thing.”  It’s a part of a strategic communications plan that includes many other channels.

And really, it’s a lot easier to make a blog post or share some images on Facebook than it is to write, design and mail out a postcard to your audience.  And a lot cheaper!  Social media isn’t free; you need to consider the cost of your time.  But I believe it can have a better return on investment than more traditional marketing channels.

See? Not really that scary. Be kind. Be yourself. Help people. Have fun!

*With apologies to entymologists everywhere.

A Lesson In Quiet From A Pro

I just finished reading the first volume of the great Sir Alec Guiness‘s autobiography, Blessings in Disguise.  In one chapter, he describes a rehearsal for a production of The Seagull and working with theater legend Edith Evans.

A moment came when it was Edith’s cue to speak.  Gielgud was sitting next to her and, after a moment’s pause, he whispered, ‘Edith, it’s you.’  From where I was standing in the wings I could see she hadn’t dried up; she just had no intention of speaking.  The stage-manager gave a prompt which was firmly ignored. Komis, in the stalls, sat still; a deep silence fell on the stage and no one moved. I glanced at my watch.  After four minutes Edith gave a slight shiver with her shoulders, as if touched by a chill breeze, and then quietly said her line, ‘Let’s go in,’ with infinite sadness and yet somehow callously.  And that’s the way it stayed, through the remainder of rehearsals and the run; a four-minute pause, an unheard-of length of time in the theatre, in which actors and audience seemed to hold their breath. It came of Edith’s supreme daring, confidence and imagination.

Can you imagine? Four minutes?  That’s how powerful quiet can be.


Why We Need Structure for Understanding

Structure du pont Corneille

I got a bit of a reality check last week.  My sister read the draft of my ebook that I thought was pretty close to a final draft.  Turns out – not so much.  She made a lot of really great points; because of my closeness to the subject matter, I made a few too many assumptions about what readers would understand – and how the information was organized.  It got me thinking a lot about structure.

When I was teaching my social media course earlier this year, one of the things I struggled with was putting structure around such a massive, often shifting topic.  Obviously, in teaching, structure is important.  But I also think it’s something that we instinctively look for – and not just when learning a new idea.

Structure means affirmation.
Chris Brogan wrote a post last week about plans and permission.  His premise is that when we’re looking online for ideas, what we’re really looking for is a plan for how to do something or permission to do something.  In the sense that plan = structure, he’s right.  We are looking for someone or something to tell us – yes, you’re doing this the “right” way.  Now, I’m not sure there’s always a “right” way to do something.  But I think it’s a part of our human nature to follow the pack; it gives us a sense of comfort.

Structure means it’s knowable.
Structure means that you can wrap your head around something – that it’s finite (or almost finite) and there’s a pattern or process that can be recognized.  It’s a step toward saying, “Okay, I can get my head around this if I try.”

Structure means it’s understandable.
Which is different than knowable.  If knowable means I can wrap my head around it, understandable means I can learn it, reproduce it, even modify it for my own needs.  When I learned French in high school, it was a very traditional method: you learn the French equivalent of English words, you learn the French equivalent of verb tenses, etc.  It’s based on something you know.  Several years later, I took a college-level course in French, which was based on total immersion.  All the lessons were in French – the theory was that you picked up what you needed based on context.  Maybe it works (I’d already learned the traditional way so I can’t say for sure) but the total immersion method seems tougher because the structure is much more loose.

When structure is lacking or not clear, we get tense, confused, uninterested.  The sense of overwhelm is huge.  Although I find mind mapping still a bit too loose for me, I’m going to try using it to help me arrange my thoughts on the ebook a little more clearly.

What do you do to try to put structure around the unclear things?

Don’t Take Your Expertise For Granted

It’s easier in life when there are absolutes.  We feel secure in knowing that black is black and white is white.

But life is rarely ever black and white.  And it’s those shades of grey  that can trip us up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “expert.”  It’s a word I specifically choose not to use when I refer to my experience with social media.  Frankly, I don’t think anyone should be calling themselves an expert yet.  It’s too new, and we’re all still figuring it out as we go along.  Yes, some people know more than others.  But I mistrust those who use terms like guru, wizard and ninja.  They’re selling the concept of the word – not their expertise.

I was nervous about teaching my social media class.  Who was I to teach others something I was still learning?  I have to admit I was shocked that my relative expertise become apparent pretty quickly.   I was talking about various social networks that are part of my daily vocabulary – and most of my students had never even heard of them.

When you live in a certain world – like social media – it’s easy to take your expertise for granted.  You’re always hearing about new platforms, trends, best practices, etc.  And because it’s such a huge topic, it’s easy to feel that there’s no way you can wrap your head around everything.

And while that is true for many, many topics, it’s not an objective way of viewing your expertise.  You can’t judge your knowledge based on the total sum of what is knowable; you need to base it on your relative knowledge as compared to someone else.   One person’s novice is another person’s expert.

I was surprised at how quickly my teaching experience gave a boost to my ego.  That’s not why I did it.  But it helped me put my expertise into some context, and the result was entirely unexpected.

Unsure about your expertise in a certain area?  Try teaching it to someone else.  Write a blog post.  Teach a course.  Create an ebook.  Yes, it’s a scary proposition.  But it will be an amazing shot of pure confidence.





Fabulous Fridays

quietly fabulous -- fabulous fridays logo

I’m starting a new feature on Quietly Fabulous — Fabulous Fridays!

For June, Fabulous Fridays will focus on why you are fabulous.  Everybody is fabulous in some way; we all have gifts to share with the world.

But introverts aren’t always good about sharing our fabulousness.

We generally don’t like to draw attention to ourselves.  We want our work or our actions to speak for themselves.  But that doesn’t always get the message across.

We’re not so good at self-promotion.  It seems so easy — and effortless — for extroverts to share what they’re good at.  We need to adopt that attitude!  Why should they have all the fun?

We too often engage in negative self-talk.  We’re so conditioned to judge ourselves by extrovert standards and we often come up short (well, in our own heads anyway).  I want you to talk as positively about yourself as possible.  Be as kind and giving to yourself as you are to others.

Why am I fabulous?  I’m a fast learner.  I like to immerse myself in a topic completely and absorb all the information I can in the shortest period of time.  When I started working as a proofreader at an advertising agency, I had to learn the job in three months, before the other proofreader left for maternity leave.  I was able to learn everything I needed and did the job by myself for several weeks until she returned.

Later in my career, I was working on alumni communications for the University of Michigan-Dearborn.  Even without any direct experience, I became editor of the alumni magazine and basically learned the job as I worked on the first issue.  I had a lot of help, but I was driving the bus.  It’s one of my most valuable accomplishments.

So now I want to hear from you!  Share your fabulousness in the comments.  Or write a blog post and link here, or share your post in the comments.   The point is to take a moment to celebrate yourself!