For Those Shrinking Violets
If you are an introvert, then this post is definitely for you.
And if you’re an extrovert who wants to better understand the introverts you know, then you may want to keep reading – it might help you see the potential and promise of those people who “energise by being alone”.
So you’re introverted.
You may be shy and sometimes awkward. You can be reluctant to talk about yourself, or engage in small talk. You sometimes shrink back from interaction with other people. Not all of this is true for every introvert, but you’ll likely resemble some of these points.
That’s why you are described as that “shrinking violet”, much more likely to #shrinkback than #standout. Violets are “plants whose small flowers are often hidden among its leaves and they are frequently inconspicuous among larger and more aggressive plants.” (Worldwidewords)
But who cares? Maybe you won’t be known for confident behaviour, being gregarious or entertaining those around you with witty banter and funny stories. Fortunately there are many other (better?) ways you can #standout.
Here are my six tips for introverts:
Use your shyness to your advantage
Never apologise for it. It’s endearing, and intriguing. Focus on making that positive initial impression, and then relax and give yourself time to make an impact on the people around you.
Play to your strengths
Make sure it’s obvious to others what your strengths are. I don’t mean that you shout about your skills and attributes. It needs to be clear to others what you’re good and great at doing and being. For example, introverts have (generally speaking) better empathy, self awareness and listening skills. So practice those skills until you are brilliant. And use them everyday. People will notice.
Learn to tell the best of your story
Practice being comfortable talking about your background and skills, without any hint of embarrassment. Highlight the special points that are uniquely you. Use metaphors and examples so that, when you talk about yourself, you don’t feel like you’re the “me, me, me” person you can hear in your head!
Choose where you will make your impact
Stretch and push yourself to do some of the things an extrovert would do. My wife gave me a great example – she’s a Headteacher at a large primary school. She’s happy to speak to an audience, but doesn’t enjoy the MC or compere role at big events. So she gets someone else to do that. But she doesn’t hide – while the event is going on, she goes and talks to individual parents, and those standing in groups. It’s uncomfortable extrovert-like behaviour, but something she does really well.
Create yourself a niche or specialism
Work hard to expand your knowledge. Being seen as an expert gives you inherent value. It lessens the need to have to constantly prove yourself. It also gives you something to talk about, when it’s time to speak and contribute. Remember, I said you don’t like small talk… So make it big talk instead.
Build a reputation for delivering results
Make sure those results are about more than just the obvious. If you don’t like the limelight, then don’t be the centre of attention. Be confident that you will be recognised and valued for what you deliver. Simplistically, think of it like this. Let the extroverts focus on achieving the individual and headline results that make THEM look good. The introverts are often better at achieving what makes us ALL look good – those quantitative and qualitative measures that show a team and organisation is becoming more successful.
My use of the term “shrinking violet” in this post is very deliberate. It doesn’t mean I’ve gone a bit soft and tree-hugging. It’s a plant long-known for medicinal qualities, beautiful shapes and the sweetest scent. But remember that “it colonises vigorously by seeds and underground runners”. So these “pretty little flowers” (the dictionary definition) could naturally take over the garden. Nice thought.
If you like the idea, then why not try out three of Mark’s tips today? And please let us know how you get on. But we won’t expect you to tell us how brilliant you’ve been. You’ll still be an introvert, and that would be taking things much too far!
Director of Partnerships at Henley Business School
Find out more:
Grad Bites: Interview Tips for Introverts
Mark Swain gives some great interview tips for introverts and explains why you have a lot to offer employers