Guest Post by Jane Finkle
You may not be a glib small-talker who enjoys publicizing yourself on a billboard for all to see. You may also struggle at the idea of promoting your admirable achievements and personal qualities. In today’s work world initiative is rewarded, speaking out is cheered, and taking action is applauded. For an introvert, this reality can leave you walking in an extravert’s shadow.
How Introverts Can Command Attention
Introverts can step into the limelight with confidence if they appreciate their strengths, and rely on what comes naturally. Recognize as an introvert your natural tendency to listen, focus, and pose questions can further a conversation and fuel the discussion in a meaningful direction. The key is to balance your introverted strengths with a touch of borrowed, extraverted energy.
With some careful reflection and planning, you can jump into a conversation or contribute your thoughts at a meeting with confidence and ensure that your valuable voice rises to equal the volume of the trumpeting extraverts.
The Three Golden Rules for Speaking Up
Below are my three rules for speaking up that are simple to follow and easy to apply. Over time, they will boost your confidence, reduce anxiety, and strengthen your approach to group conversations or meetings. You will come to realize that you have influence, and are a commanding force in the organization and life of your colleagues, clients and customers.
Reflect: Time to think for introverts is a powerful element in generating new ideas and solutions to problems. Before meeting with leaders and colleagues or attending professional events, reflect on key points, questions, or new concepts you want to convey. Think of examples that make you shine. Share your genuine excitement about a project in which you are involved. Or mention some accomplishments that might intrigue or impress the listener.
Prepare: Whether it’s a networking event or office meeting, organize your thoughts or questions in advance. Fire up the synapses in the brain by writing things down. Outline a few pertinent ideas or generate a bulleted list that represents the points you want to convey. Come armed with organized thoughts and relevant questions on your iPad or notebook to help you maintain focus and stay on point during a discussion. Preparation acts like a GPS to keep you on the right track so you won’t get distracted during showtime.
Rehearse: Practice what you plan to say in bold relief for your audience. It may be as simple as reviewing your notes in a quiet and relaxed space. If you are feeling nervous about an important event or meeting, or you will be appearing in front of a large group, enlist a colleague or trusted friend for support and feedback as you practice.
Despite your planning, you may still feel silenced by the big egos in the meeting room. Learn to use what I call “diplomatic interruption” so you won’t disappear in the crowd. Without any hint of offense, you might gently interject: “Excuse me, but something you just said made me think of a different way to look at the problem.” Or you might jump in with: “Before the meeting ends, I would like to present some quick data analytics from our website.” Your “interruption” gives validity to the speaker’s comment while simultaneously presenting your creative spin on the theme.
Sometimes all the head-spinning extroverted energy in the room can make it difficult to find an appropriate time to jump in. Don’t allow that lost moment to defeat you. If you have a pertinent comment or suggestion regarding issues discussed, follow up with the leader or group by e-mail. You can also volunteer to write a meeting summary and forward it to all the attendees. An afterthought with a fresh idea or approach can win you some praise too.
Your job might require you to develop and present a workshop, webinar, deliver a talk, or, if you are lucky, even a Ted Talk. A big myth is that introverts are not good at public speaking. However, it is exactly your love of careful, methodical thought that produces unique content and an insightful and well-researched presentation. If you don’t have a lot of on-stage experience, you may need to give more attention to rule number three, Rehearse.
Turn the Camera’s Eye on Yourself
Consider what truly matters to you and what you want to say. Think about which topics draw you out of your shell. Others will sense when you are speaking from truth and energy. Not only will you be more likely to offer a vibrant portrait of your experience and talents, but your energy will also engage others and make for an animated conversation.
Featured Photo by Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash
Photo by Marcos Luiz Photograph on Unsplash
Jane Finkle is a career coach, speaker and author with over 25 years of experience helping clients with career assessment and workplace adjustment. Jane served as Associate Director of Career Services at the University of Pennsylvania where she created and led the Wharton Career Discovery seminar, and served as liaison to recruiters from major corporations. Her newest book is The Introvert’s Complete Career Guide.