I can recall many periods in my life where people thought that I was shy. One moment in secondary school stands out in particular. Me and the boys and a group of girls from a neighboring school were walking and talking (except I wasn’t talking). Then on a later occasion I ended up speaking quite a lot to one of the girls and she commented on how she thought that I was shy. This was because I wasn’t one of the loud young boys trying to impress the girls. The reality however, was that I only spoke if I felt it was necessary and preferred one to one conversations.
I was lucky enough not be daunted by this aspect of my character and sports and music gave me a way to express myself in large crowds. The topic of expressing myself in large crowds, actually reminds me of another secondary school moment that was enlightening for me.
One of my close friends at school was a bit of a chatterbox. He was very popular and was also very outspoken. In a special assembly at the end of the school year, I performed a song that I had written in front of my year group and the year above. My outspoken friend was completely amazed by my confidence and said that he could never do something like that. Hearing that from him was really a shock for me, he was this loud character, but speaking in front of so many people was nerve wracking for him. It gave me an insight into one of my special powers.
My introverted tendencies have shaped a lot of my life experience and it also impacts how I like to spend my time. It is probably of no surprise that I absolutely love reading and writing. Both activities provide with me great opportunities to lose myself by myself.
As an introvert, my energy charges during that alone time and it is typically drained when I am in social environments. Social environments can boost me in certain circumstances, but mostly in small doses. Too much of it and I am often gasping for air. The size of the group and the closeness to that group also matters. Small groups that I am very close with is always preferred.
I recall a past manager saying that I was aloof. I took slight offence to it, but I also thought ‘hey, you’re probably right’. I am quite private for the most part and very selective with what I share with others. This can create a distance between me and people. However, I am still able to have great relationships when the vibe is right.
There have been moments in my life where I questioned this issue. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? Why couldn’t I just socialise without having to be cautious? But no matter how much I tried, it just never felt natural to me and I ended up feeling drained by the end of it.
A few years ago, I read Daniel Pink’s book called ‘To Sell Is Human’ where he speaks about ambiverts. Ambiverts are people on the fine line between introversion and extroversion. Here are 9 signs that you are an ambivert (taken from this Forbes article):
- I can perform tasks alone or in a group. I don’t have much preference either way.
- Social settings don’t make me uncomfortable, but I tire of being around people too much.
- Being the center of attention is fun for me, but I don’t like it to last.
- Some people think I’m quiet, while others think I’m highly social.
- I don’t always need to be moving, but too much down time leaves me feeling bored.
- I can get lost in my own thoughts just as easily as I can lose myself in a conversation.
- Small talk doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does get boring.
- When it comes to trusting other people, sometimes I’m skeptical, and other times, I dive right in.
- If I spend too much time alone, I get bored, yet too much time around other people leaves me feeling drained
One of the key discussion points in Daniel Pink’s book, is that ambiverts are more successful than extroverts and introverts at selling (see image below). This is despite the preconception that extroverts are the best sellers. This is because ambiverts can be great listeners (the introvert side) while also being highly persuasive (the extrovert side).
Reading Susan Cain’s book and many other introvert books helped me to embrace my inner introvert. Furthermore, one of my colleagues at work is from Finland. Generally, it is said that many people from Finland are introverts. My colleague seemed to be so comfortable with not conforming and seeing how they conducted themselves at work, helped me to feel more empowered to be my introverted self.
It took me a while to be comfortable with being openly introverted and lose the pressure to do things that I didn’t want to do (like going out every week). However, as I have got older and learned to embrace the strengths in my introversion, it has allowed me to come to terms with it.
I am now very grateful for my inner introvert and the perspective that it gives me. Some may continue to mistake it for shyness and a lack of confidence, but I know the real truth and I will blow them away with my special powers when required ?