It’s alright to be an introvert. Keeping relaxed and staying calm are powerful traits that help you to radiate a powerful presence when meeting new people.
Is this a familiar situation? You’re standing next to a very interesting looking person in the coffee line and nobody is talking. You have an ideal opportunity to say ‘hi’ but something makes you hesitate – all because you feel a little introverted.
(When you want to say hi, your anxiety increases. Anxiety leads to hesitation. Hesitation leads to failure. Failure leads to the…. –well, you get the idea, Padawan).
Too many people make the mistake of feeling trapped by their idea of being an introvert. Because of this assumption, the result is you avoid the bold, yet simple, step to communicate. Why? It’s outside the box of who you really are.
Know this – what I want to tell you is not even ‘bold’ (another label – ha!) but it is truly ‘simple’ 😉
First, I’m going to show you how to avoid the mistake of believing you’re an introvert.
Second, I’m going to help you to remove some of that anxiety before you start any conversation.
How? The answer is to develop presence.
Avoiding The Labels
Lots of personal development training focuses on the transformation from ‘an introvert’ (somebody who is typically quiet & shy) to ‘an extrovert’ (somebody who is normally outgoing & talkative).
Remember, these are just identity labels.
Here’s a fact: Behavioural Psychologists and Social Anthropologists have been heavily researching (and labeling!) what people say and do for decades, and you know what?
Everyone sits on a slightly different point on the scale, and every point on the scale can be interpreted as ‘bad’.
It’s Normal to be Different
Everyone you will ever meet will be a little bit more, or a little bit less, introverted or extroverted than you. However, anyone can make happy conversation with anyone else, no matter what their label. And the method is the same.
Here’s another definition which breaks the stereotype: an introvert directs their emotional energy inwards. An extrovert directs their emotional energy outwards.
We can think of this like either end of a see-saw. It’s continuously in flux. Sometimes you feel like you can talk to anyone about anything. Sometimes you feel like you’d like to have a little ‘me’ time.
What you really need to cultivate is a balance of both. It really is good to be both, and use them at appropriate times.
Why is it good to be an introvert? Directing our energy inward is brilliant for logical thinking, problem-solving, and great ideas. We need introverts. But when it comes to the realm of charisma, it isn’t very useful. Being an extrovert is also good. It makes you very talkative, and fun which is great during social situations.
I really want to draw your attention to something even more powerful. Something that allows
you to enter a room and electrify it – without even saying a word.
This power is presence.
Presence balances the ’see-saw’ which creates a very grounded energy. It also allows the people you’re having conversations with to see that you’re actually listening to them, rather than thinking about something that happened last weekend. Many people who think the reason nobody listens to them (and why they get drowned out of conversations) is because they’re introverted, not extroverted. What they don’t understand is that they need to be present.
Being present in the moment means that you’re not thinking in the past, the future, or any of the day-to-day ‘stuff’ that can clutter your mind. You’re aware and focused on your present environment and that’s it.
How can you cultivate and practise presence?
The easiest thing you can do is control your breathing. In through your nose and out through your mouth. Humans are designed to breathe like this but few people in today’s world do this!
Next, maintain a regular rhythm to your breathing during your daily activities. Talking, walking, doing the dishes.This will help you to keep calm, lower your anxiety, and in-stick you from awkwardness.
Then, and especially during conversation, try the 4x4x4x4- technique. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds. This will put you on a path to maintaining your emotional energy in any situation.
So that’s it! Go out now and make new connections with people from your present state, and see how they react. Being introverted and being extroverted have their uses, but it’s the balancing act of presence that makes it okay to be both.
An Exercise in Presence & Further Reading
It can be frustrating when you start practicing things like being more aware and conversations skills! But, as with everything else, it just takes a bit of practice.
An exercise for improving presence is to spend a quiet 20 minutes a day, focusing your awareness on the now. Right now. Nothing else matters. Not your bills…your relationship troubles, the food shopping you forgot to put in the fridge. No matter what it is, just focus on what is going on around you. Be aware of the sensations in your legs and fingers. Begin breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Don’t think about breathing, just take notice that you are breathing. This will begin to anchor you to the present moment.
For further reading on how to become present, Eckhart Tolle has written a wonderful book called A New Earth