I hear it often – in person, from clients, on the internet – “I’m told I’m too quiet, and need to speak out more.” I’ve had more than one client whose job review included that feedback. And the client says to me, “But I only speak when I really have something to say – and then it’s overlooked or discounted. So why bother?”
Why indeed do introverts so often feel their ideas and offerings are swept aside by other, louder people? Is the ability to influence other people really based on the ability to speak louder than other people?
I don’t think so. Some of the most effective people I have known were soft-spoken but relentless. They didn’t give up on presenting their ideas, wants, or needs to others until they saw the light of comprehension in the other person’s eyes.
The introvert brain is a busy brain, and when we do produce an idea publicly we have probably looked at it from all angles, teased out the many objections and answered them. Blurting out an idea about an idea before it’s fully formed is not our style. Our mistake lies in the fact that we then communicate it in a kind of telegraphic style to the world.
Here’s the problem, and I’ve seen it over and over. Heck, I’ve done it over and over. We somehow think our neat summing up of a complex issue is immediately apparent to other people, who have not been a witness to all the rich thought that went into the production of that idea.
We just give them a compact package, and then feel hurt when they don’t respond with the excitement (or at least the respect) we think it deserves. We got to that point of excitement and belief through a process that we haven’t shared, then we blame the listener for not appreciating it.
We need to learn to lead others to our good ideas, to teach them how to understand us.
An unconfident introvert too often starts with, “This is just my opinion, but … ” or, “This may or may not be a good idea, but ….” Overwhelmed with the belief that it’s hopeless to inform this person or group anyway, the unconfident introvert subsides easily, feeling overlooked and a little bitter.
The confident introvert starts with, “I’ve thought this through carefully, and I’d like you to follow my reasoning here.” Another good sentence to use, which reflects a high-level introvert skill, is, “I’ve listened to the various thoughts you all have, and I’d like to add what I have concluded.” When interrupted, the confident introvert may say, “I’d like to finish; then I’d be happy to discuss your objections.”
Since you are very likely to have thought in advance, find an anecdote or punch line that illustrates what you are trying to say. Help your listeners make pictures in their heads that match the pictures in your head. They can’t see those. After all, if you just describe the tip of an iceberg to someone, it isn’t reasonable to get mad if the person doesn’t see the whole iceberg. Would you show someone a snapshot and expect them to understand the plot of an entire film?
Which one are you – the unconfident or confident introvert? You see, it’s not about introversion and/or extroversion, nor is it about becoming either a chatterbox or a loudmouth. It’s about having the confidence to communicate well when you do have something to say.
And when you are able to do that, you have earned the right to sit back and be quiet in a group. Even your quiet presence can be influencing to people, who recognize that you can be a powerhouse of thought and that your quiet listening skills really do pay off.
It will look like this: Are Introverts just too quiet?