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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Building Conversation

I can remember sitting at the cafeteria tables with my high school friends listening to spirited conversation about fashion, music or relationships while I nodded my head and smiled between bites of my lunch.

I wanted to appear interested eventhough I hadn't a clue what to say. Although my mind was chatting away - I really don't care about what dresses Jane wears....Spiro Gyra - that's a band name not a ride at Cedar Point? - nothing seemed to come out of my mouth. I was stuck.

Today, dinner parties, some networking luncheons and other social engagements lead me to feeling the same thing. Often the conversation is around topics which mean little to me. At these times I could use some guidance on how to build conversation, in meaningful ways.

In yesterday's post, E. F. Hutton moments, I shared the idea that the quiet leaders often say very little. We introverts don't need to keep up with extroverts on the quantity of participation in conversation . We want to be purposeful and valuable. In so doing, we simply want to know how to participate in meaningful ways while many around us simply add superficial comments.

Of late the following three tips on building conversation have served me well:
  1. Offer an observation based on what you have just witnessed, read or experienced. We introverts spend much of our time thinking and supply this activity with fuel from observation and reading. In addition, we reflect over our experiences and would relish getting feedback.
  2. Ask a question that seeks information about an opinion, instruction, etc. This is a natural direction for us to take. We introverts help others out by getting more information for others to reflect on.
  3. Share an opinion or idea with the listeners. Although this is often the last in our means of contributing, it is quite often the most important. As thinkers, we introverts can share perspective others are not considering.
It may not be surprising that the rich parts of conversation come from us introverts, at least if we actively build ourselves into it.

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    E. F. Hutton moments

    I was born in 1960, so growing up in the 70's I often saw TV commercials capitalizing on the power of E.F. Hutton's people engagement. I guess that meant he was wise, said few words and was deeply respected. He was a quiet leader. If you'd like to have fun with the 1970's TV commercial, click here.
    For some reason, many today believe the ones to be respected are the talkers that command attention by taking the floor the majority of the time. They have lots to say and are willing to share. They are loud, have great energy and often know how to make people laugh. They entertain.

    What leadership style works is generally different for people, yet one thing is evident - leaders come in all styles. This is great news for the introvert. If we are to advance and excel in our careers, using our strengths is key, and also taking advantage of opportunities to speak. Business meetings, networking events, public forums all offer opportunities for our E.F. Hutton moments.

    There's no need to feel we must become extroverted and change our personalities. When we embrace the quiet leadership style, accept the invitation to share, smile while sharing, we gain respect in quiet ways.

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    We really enjoy ourselves

    Introverts are known to spend time alone.

    For those of us who are not introverts, we assume when someone is alone we must call or visit them. Certainly they wouldn't want to be alone. Yet for introverts, being alone is a treat.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    On the Introvert Wish List - Part 3

    Last week I wrote parts 1 and On the Introvert's Wish List - read at your leisure. Today's focus is something I will be craving by the end of the week.

    We have several activities lined up to visit family over the Thanksgiving holiday. Starting with Thursday, which includes visiting, eating out, and probably more visiting. Then hitting the road Friday morning to get to the Ball State game for parent's day, then out with the family, then next morning the same adding more to the mix, then the long drive home. I will cherish the long drive home.

    It doesn't take long for the introvert to exhaust their energy when around people. A few hours, and instead of being recharged by those they're with, we get sapped of it. So a precious gift you can give an introvert is time to simply step back, perhaps within the same room, and watch. There's a concept of the flaneur which comes to mind.

    "As a member of the crowd that populates the streets, the flâneur participates physically in the text that he observes while performing a transient and aloof autonomy with a “cool but curious eye” that studies the constantly changing spectacle that parades before him." This individual gains energy by taking in his surroundings, writing the scripts in his  head of what is going on within those he sees.

    Our long drive home will give me the chance to participate as a flaneur in my quiet, observant way. Yet if given the freedom to be on my own, doing my own thing while with others - not needing to actively engage in conversation or games - I can then get my wish as well. Some see this as my being aloof, yet this is a treat for me, as it is for most introverts. Having time to observe without participating is relaxing and refreshing.

    Have a chance to give an introvert a gift? Consider allowing them the flaneur's freedom. You'll get them back later, full of energy!

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Validation or Education - Which feedback do you want?

    We watched her struggle through her presentation, rambling on about the points she thought she should make, voicing thoughts and finding examples, yet not sold on anything herself. Her stream of consciousness speaking, evident by her inner-focus and demonstrated by her commitment to talking through her thoughts, gave her the chance to produce some poignant, insightful remarks. But she didn't know this. She was still digging, still trying to clarify her message.

    She sat down, crumpled in her chair, glad to be finished.

    We applauded, knowing she needed support. Yet what we were all wondering about is, who was going to tell her how to pull these thoughts all together? How were we to offer the assistance she needed?

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    They'll Laugh at Me

    Being laughed at is one of the most devastating, dibilitating fears for the majority of us, especially for introverts. It keeps us away from speaking platforms, participating in meetings, trying out for group activities as well as from going out in public.

    If we have this fear, it's because we've directly or indirectly experienced humiliation, and we assume it will happen again. It's a story we tell ourselves to keep us from taking a risk that makes us uncomfortable. It's a story that plays over and over in our heads to keep us in our comfort zone. And the more this happens, the lower our self-esteem. Soon we have shut ourselves away and greatly limited our unique value.

    This is a story. And we are the authors who can change it.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Living along the continuum

    I've been doing it for awhile, and so have others. We classify ourselves as either introvert or extrovert, forgetting we have tendencies towards each temperament. We tend to view our choices in life as whether they support who we are - whether outgoing or reflective - before we finally conclude, "Yes, I can do this. It's who I am." While awareness in our temperament gives us wisdom, helping us understand ourselves, this awareness is not the means to the end.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    On the Introvert Wish List part 2

    Yesterday was part 1 of On the Introvert Wish List, focusing on giving them time to think. Today I'll address what's to me the second most important item on that wish list - the chance to get away.

    Retreat is a coveted desire of introverts.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    On the Introvert Wish List

    Extroverts, by nature, want things that go fast. Introverts, by nature, want things that go slow. The holidays are coming around the corner, and as we become more mindful of what those we love really appreciate, we can better support their wish list.

    Included among the few things introverts wish for (and there are several future blog postings to address these) is Time to Think.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Getting the Introvert into Practice

    In Cypris Chat I ran across an article on Readers' Theatre Circle written by Professor Merryman. In the article Merryman focuses on the exploratory activity of gathering folks together to read aloud cinema scripts, focusing on intonation, timing and other conversational and improvisational elements. As a theatre director and performer, I recall doing similar things and getting such creative insight as a result.

    Of late, I made use of a variation on the activity to build my confidence prior to presenting a teleseminar.

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    #Introverts One on One

    Although we tend to think of introverts as lacking social skills, when it comes to one on one relationships, introverts shine. And last night I felt on top of the world because of it!

    A coaching client who has been with me for just over a year deserved recognition, so I took him out for dinner at a classy restaurant in Columbus. Through the meal we transitioned from one conversational topic to another, easily, for we have grown to enjoy each other's company. Ultimately, he asked me, "How can I help you grow your business?"

    Perfect. At that point we launched a plan to again meet, review his contacts, and identify those who are isolated and want like-minded individuals to share new perspective for business growth through master mind group members, are using or plan to use public speaking for marketing purposes and want support or want a more involved communication coach. My client's wheels were spinning on my behalf.

    After jotting a few notes down he looked up at me and said, "This next year I will be using you in more ways as well, especially with public speaking."

    One dinner resulted in expanded services and referral support, not because the food was good. It was outstanding, though. It was because this client relationship was based on results, strong rapport and my continued interest showing I value his trust in me. Introverts shine one on one. The more we use this asset, the better.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    For the Introvert Reader

    Introverts can't have too many self-help resources. We eat them up! So today I want to focus on one for the job seeker.

    I have already shared the resource, self-promotion for introverts, by Nancy Ancowitz. In my posts The Introvert's Marketing Game Plan and Now for the Don'ts of the Introvert's Marketing Game Plan you'll learn a lot of useful tips for the introvert business owner/sales person. Even the job seeker will benefit from some self-awareness insight.

    But today, let's focus on another resource - The Successful Introvert: How to ehnance your job search and advance your career, by Wendy Gelberg.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Introvert Pain Point #1

    There comes a day when we introverts say to ourselves, Won't it get any better? I had just hit my 40's, a time when I was heavily reviewing where I had been and where I hoped to go. I had been teaching high school English, speech and theatre and felt I had reached the pinnacle of my career in regards to what I could accomplish in the school district. But I still felt isolated.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Introvert Energy Needs

    I've been keeping to a disciplined schedule of early morning blogging, exercise and then on to my day of appointments/research/marketing, etc. Add to this the evening networking and then reading for research and that brings the "No, not yet!" response when the 4:30 alarm goes off prior to the same schedule that includes an early morning networking breakfast.

    All introverts need downtime. Put networking events and face to face meetings in their schedule, you better also insert time for themselves. Yesterday's schedule left me feeling exhausted by day's end. However, I know that if I forsake my routine of exercise and writing, my day is not given the boost of energy it needs nor do I feel purposeful in sharing my strengths with the world. So my discipline of coaching myself into what I need is key. By end of the exercise routine my step will be quick, my mind focused and my attitude ready to roll.

    I've only 2 outside appointments today - which allows me the alone time to be purposeful in planning, taking a walk outdoors to reconnect with nature and build my energy reserve. In 52 years, I have learned my energy needs and what it takes to be purposeful.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Networking Tips for Introverts

    At a recent networking event, my goal was to create ease with introverts. What may be surprising is my intention was easily accomplished. Once I walked into the event I noticed exactly what I expected: lots of social activity in the center and pockets of individuals at a small distance from the exuberant groups. It was to these individuals and pairings that I slowly connected with.

    Attending a networking event means attending a non-structured environment. And the test of a non-structured environment is determining how to handle ourselves, when to make adjustments and finally deciding how much is enough. For the extrovert, networking is easy. Walk in and mingle. Enter existing conversations, introduce yourself and continue until the group thins out and you no longer have anyone left to talk to.

    But for the introvert there are the constant butterflies while facing a group you don't want to expose yourself to. Managing the desire to walk away is the biggest challenge. At least until you exercise a few key tips.

    Networking tips for the Introvert
    • Tip: Look for someone who is hanging off to the side. We don't have to step into groups and existing conversations. We aren't wired that way. All we need do is find someone on the edges who is looking like the way we feel.
    • Tip: Then walk up and say what you're thinking - "I don't know about you, but I prefer one-to-one connections at these events." They'll almost always agree with us, grin, shake our hand and say what they've been thinking, too. This opens the communication to one of true connection.
    • Tip: Use your slow, natural pace. You'll have time for thinking and the introvert you're connecting to will have time for thinking as well.
    • Tip: Set a goal of how many people to meet. This could be 3-5 people that we can handle before we need to walk away and recharge. I usually set a goal of three business cards to walk away with. I know I've met my goal when I've connected with 3 people that I want to reconnect with, for whatever reason. Maybe I've had 6 conversations - my goal is to walk away with 3 cards from new people or those I've met before that now I realize is someone to have coffee with for a particular reason. The cards in my pocket tell me when it's time to leave. Otherwise I keep walking along the fringes of the group to seek that next person, who like me, would rather be somewhere else. Except that they need to network to keep business going.
    • Tip: Just say your first name. Folks connect easily when we simply say who we are vs. what we are. In time the work that we do will surface, but we don't have to push it out in front of us. We just need to be who we are.
    Networking isn't just an activity for extroverts. If  you are an introvert, you now know the tips of how to make it work for you. It's a quiet game of knowing who to look for, where to go, what to say and when to leave.

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    Introverts' Phone call anxiety

    I can't think of many things more anxiety ridden than picking up the phone to make a call. The apprehensions around what am I about to say, will it come out right and what if I need to leave a message all flood my mind, causing me to stall. Suddenly the refrigerator calls to me, or the need to use the bathroom, or wondering about my email inbox.

    For one, unless I've thought through my call's intention, I won't dial. As an introvert, I think through everything. Process is comfort. So ask me to do something at the spur of the moment and it happens within 10 minutes or so.

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    The Hardest Part is What We Crave

    Where I grew up in Findlay, Ohio is a pizza parlor that was the first in the area - Jac & Do's. Their thin crust pizza with ground beef and cheese is the best! You can roll the tiny square-cut pieces right into a roll and pop them in your mouth - so delicious! With a pitcher of beer, it's the destination place of almost the entire community!

    Lately I've been craving pizza, so yesterday when I attended a luncheon to preview a presentation of a local contestant prepared for a national speaking contest and saw that pizza was served, I thought: Oh no. Can I control myself? In front of us were varieties of pizza, including some that resembled the type I used to enjoy back home in Findlay. Messy, ingrediants rolling off, the type you just wanted to make a mess with. What happened was what I had anticipated - I started off with control (2 strips and garlic bread) and then I gave in to it. After two bites I knew I wanted more. So I took another two. And enjoyed it!

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    Where's the Faith?

    Yesterday I was returning to my office from a morning coffee meeting downtown Columbus, and I began to notice a pattern in several pedestrians. Many are unafraid to make eye contact. This encourages me. I am quick to smile at those who are willing to connect, to which they often share a greeting.

    Now that I'm tuned in to my surroundings I notice a lady in a scarf clutching the wrap around her neck while staring at the sidewalk. Instantly my mind reflects to earlier beliefs. Things aren't working. What am I doing?

    The introvert's self-view is often one of doubt. Thoughtful and reflective, we question ourselves, quick to believe others' over our own thinking. We assume the second-seat in our own courtroom. Although we are expert in ourselves, we defer to the opinions of others. Such has been my struggle throughout life.

    Tap, tap, tap. Exiting a bus and turning left onto the sidewalk towards me is a blind lady with her cane poised, searching out the signs she is on the right path. Head high and open to the world, she quickly passes by, jolting me by her faith. Her world view is that of confidence. She steps forward expecting to be supported, not waiting for assistance but taking charge. What a value system! Although she has the right to seek assistance - entitled - she has faith in her abilities and in the world around her.

    And in case I questioned my own perspective of what I just saw, next come three more pedestrians, their blind canes in hand, some with seeing eye dogs. Smiles on their faces, heads positioned forward, they were taking on their day, full speed ahead! What a sign for me!

    Introverts, where is our faith? We, the reflective, the contemplative, the thoughtful are best served with our positive energy not only towards others, but supporting ourselves.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Putting pen to paper

    Yesterday a friend gave me some quality time over coffee. This resulted in my remembering one of my unique gifts. Thank goodness. It got me out of bed this morning!

    While at Starbucks we were talking about what has been holding us back in our businesses. This struck me, for it's been an area of focus for me for quite some time - how can I get a better grasp on growing my business? It seems I know the answers - I've just been focusing on the numbers and not seeing my strengths. One of them is in telling the truth, especially through honest reflection of my own experiences. As an introvert, I reflect on myself frequently, usually in self-deprecating ways. Yet I know the value of shifting that focus to break down my introvert barriers, barriers that keep me in a box.