I am pretty well known as a social type of person.
But far less well known is that underneath it all I'm actually an introvert.
This causes an inner conflict each and every day.
We work within a sector which demands continuous interaction and discussion, and as well as presentation of self and information.
From one-to-one and team meetings, to client meetings and to larger events like roundtables and conferences, we're all required to interact and engage with others – and to do so often.
Introverts can find this incredibly stressful, and our natural desire for privacy and to preserve our own quiet personality in an ever-noisier world can be quite overwhelming.
Social media just makes it worse.
If we do engage, this leads to even more ‘on display’ activity that doesn't always sit naturally with our true nature.
I envy the natural extroverts. They are those with an easy charm and a quick wit, though I admit I am sometimes taken aback by their willingness to share absolutely everything.
Extroverted behaviour is often seen as the way to get on, to be seen as a success and to advance in a role.
Everywhere introverts look there appear to be extroverts succeeding.
Social media gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk and others constantly expound their theories of being loud and being everywhere.
Popular culture would have us believe this is how to behave in order to progress. While I can somewhat see the point, I don’t necessarily agree.
So, to give some insight as to how I manage to juggle my external social personality with my natural tendencies, I've worked out the following coping mechanisms.
I offer them to my fellow introverts in the hope you may find some value in them.
1) Be true to your own personality but adapt as far as you feel able.
You are an introvert, and that is absolutely OK.
Where others may seek charisma, an outgoing personality or being able to present to huge rooms, you need to reconcile yourself to the fact that what you offer is just as important.
Hard work, diligence, ability and thoughtfulness are personality traits that are at least as valuable to any employer, or in any wider social situation.
2) Go deep rather than wide.
Know your subject and learn your craft to the absolute best of your ability.
There is real value in technical or specific knowledge over the much more common ‘jack of all trades’ approach of knowing something about everything.
Reading helps enormously with this – and reading a lot. It will appeal to your introspective side in any case.
Be eternally curious, and seek to be better each and every day rather than merely being more sociable. Your growing abilities will boost your confidence and interactions with others.
3) Start your days earlier than others.
Get work, study or other tasks done before the noisy crowd arrive.
Having to deal with the chatter of others when you don’t feel like it, or when you're trying to start work, will impact your concentration and application.
4) Block out time in your calendar for work where you let people know you'd rather not be interrupted.
You have every right to do so.
5) Understand that it takes all types to make a world.
The person who approaches you and seems like an interruption is only being sociable.
6) My final coping mechanism is nothing new, but it really did work for me.
Challenge yourself, even in small ways, every day. Present an idea to a colleague, speak up at a team meeting, or bring a small win you have thought about to the boss.
To sum up, your personality is you.
Stay scrupulously true to yourself. Personal integrity is paramount.
Every one of us has doubts, and I have a suspicion that the noisier among us have more self-doubt than most.
Don’t accept comments from colleagues calling you ‘unsociable’, ‘a lone wolf’ or any other such guff.
These comments only demonstrate envy at your focus, your introspection and your ability to achieve detailed work in what may be shorter timescales or of a higher quality than they can.
As I read somewhere recently, 'lean in'. Or in other words, embrace your inner introvert.