The Surprising Truth About Introverts (& What the Rest of Us Can Learn About Connecting)
“All personality traits have their good side and their bad side. But for a long time, we’ve seen introversion only through its negative side and extroversion mostly through its positive side.” – Susan Cain
Do you freak out at the thought of social situations and meeting new people? Or are you the life of the party running around connecting with others like crazy?
Either way, the truth is that no matter how easy or challenging you find connecting, we all have moments of feeling uncomfortable and nervous when we connect with others, especially for the first time. We tend to lump people into the extrovert or introvert bucket, but the truth is that in any given situation, someone who is normally extroverted can become introverted and vice versa. It’s all about the comfort threshold for that particular person in that particular situation.
And given that next week 1200+ people in 102 cities and 65 countries around the globe are meeting up and connecting at our Live Your Legend World Party, it got us thinking about one of the biggest myths when it comes to connecting.
- Being introverted = low connecting ability
- Being extroverted = high connecting ability
So whether you consider yourself introverted or extroverted (or somewhere in between), today we are going to bust the myth around introversion and share with you the most powerful connection trait most introverts have that the rest of us can learn from.
Because after all, some of the most successful people we know are self-proclaimed introverts and have created incredible businesses and lives because they leaned into their powerful introverted traits, people like:
- Jonathan Fields – Good Life Project
- Leo Babauta – Zen Habits
- Chris Guillebeau – $100 Startup, World Domination Summit
- J.K Rowling – Creator of Harry Potter
- Derek Sivers – Founder of CD Baby
- Bill Gates – Co-Founder of Microsoft
- the list goes on….
Busting The Introvert Myth
“The most important things in life are the connections you make with others.” – Tom Ford
Like any behavioural preference, introvert/extrovert is a spectrum and we all have the capacity to fall anywhere along that line. So whether you identify as an introvert, extrovert or otherwise, it’s just a reflection of what your behavioural preference is. Your real power comes from being able to get off your default mode, and start to gain flexibility across the entire spectrum. Why? Because it will make connecting much easier and more impactful.
You see, it drives us crazy when we hear some version of: “Oh, I’m an introvert so speaking in front of a crowd/connecting with new people/socializing/being the ‘face’ of a business/running my own business/etc. does not come naturally for me”.
Why? Because being an introvert (or extrovert) has nothing, zero, zip, nada to do with:
- your ability to connect
- your tendency to shy away from scary challenges
- speaking up
- whether people listen to you
- to influence
- to be a leader…and the list goes on.
Using introversion (or extroversion) as a reason why you can’t do something is simply a big, fat excuse to keep you safe, to let you play small, and to get you ‘off the hook’ from fulfilling your true potential.
Because the truth is: having access to introverted qualities is actually an incredibly powerful asset, especially when it comes to connecting (which we’ll get to shortly) and they are traits that all of us can practice and become skilled in.
Scott Dinsmore, Founder of Live Your Legend, was a great example of someone who demonstrated a heavy preference for extroversion. However, that is not what made him one of the best connectors we know. One of the reasons he was able to connect so well with everyone was because he took the time to practice traits embodied by introverts – and those traits became some of his superpowers.
The #1 Question You Should Be Asking Yourself
“Many people believe that introversion is about being antisocial, and that’s really a misperception. Because actually it’s just that introverts are differently social.” – Susan Cain
So if introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with confidence, shyness, connection skills ,etc… how do you know where you sit on the spectrum? Note: Many of you may already understand what it means to be extroverted or introverted and how it’s actually measured, but we highly recommend reading on and also taking the free test below to see where you currently sit on the spectrum and if that has shifted at all.
At its most simplistic level, there is just one question you need to ask yourself to figure it out:
How do I refuel my energy?
Introversion and extroversion (and the ‘in between’: ambiversion) are predominantly determined by how you refuel your energy or how you recharge your batteries.
And as the image below shows, like everything, introvert/extravert is a scale, a spectrum and a behavioural preference, not a fixed way of being.
- Do you feel energized and alive during and after interacting with people? Then you are likely an extrovert.
- Do you feel drained during and after interacting with people? Then you are likely an introvert.
- Are you somewhere in between? Do you have a tipping point? Do you get energized to a point and then tip into being drained? Then you are likely an Ambivert.
If you’re still unsure, Susan Cain from Quiet Revolution has a fantastic (and free) 10 Question Survey here. Don’t take our word for it! Take the test!
The Most Underrated and Underused Power Connection Tool
“Introvert conversations are like jazz. Each player gets to solo for a nice stretch before the other player comes in and does his solo.” – Laurie Helgoe
So now that you’ve figured out whether you have the behavioural preferences of an introvert, extrovert or ambivert we want to be clear that wherever you sit on the scale, there are things we can learn from each other. Each part of the spectrum has its strengths and weaknesses.
But today we want to focus on one of the most powerful connecting characteristics out there that just happens to be possessed naturally by most introverts and that all of us can practice. It makes all the difference in the depth of connectedness you can feel with another person:
The ability to powerfully listen and to hear others.
Sexy, isn’t it?!
I think we have all had that experience of someone talking at you. How connected did you feel to that person as they finished talking all about themselves only to swan off to the next person? Exactly!
It’s easy to watch people go crazy at an event, telling their story and meeting tons of new people but what those people often forget to do is actually listen to the other people. It sounds so simple, but if you don’t take the time to hear someone’s story and get interested in what their life is about you simply cannot have a real connection. A mostly one-way relationship is most definitely not the best way!
And this is where introverts have the upper hand. They have the power to:
- create deep connections with few, as opposed to surface level connections with many
- connect the dots, and find meaning and links for others through their active listening
- learn from what they hear (because they are actually listening!)
- observe nuances in people and conversations that many miss
So how do the rest of us take this connection power tool and put it into practice?
How to Implement the #1 Connection Tool
Charlotte Hosier, LYL community member and graduate of the Connect With Anyone course, is an amazing example of someone who, despite being a self-proclaimed introvert, uses her natural listening skills to help others unlock stories of what matters to them.
Not to mention that in 2014 she faced her fears and hosted a workshop around uncertainty, moved from London to San Francisco for 3 months, and in October 2015 pushed herself even further by hitting the streets with a sign asking random strangers ‘What matters to you?’
Her introverted ability to listen deeply helped her interviewees open up and her introverted quality of ‘connecting the dots’ meant she could compile a succinct video of all the answers, which she published last October in honor of Scott. 🙂
As demonstrated by Charlotte, an introvert’s ability to listen is built on the foundations of focus (by staying present), deepened when they repeat back what they hear, and then strengthened by asking clarifying questions ‘on topic’.
Not only does this demonstrate to the other person you are actually listening and encourages them to go deeper, it creates one of the most powerful human experiences of all: being heard.
So let’s get into the details of how you too can implement this connection tool with a ‘What to do’ and a ‘What not to do’ list:
What to do:
- Listen: Take regular deep breaths while in a conversation and become present to the person in front of you.
- Repeat: After they’ve finished sharing, repeat back what you just heard by saying something like ‘Wow, so you work full-time but what you’re really interested in in writing children’s fiction stories. Amazing!’ (Hint: Simply by using words like ‘Wow!’ or ‘That’s amazing!’ will encourage the other person to continue – but only & always be genuine with these words and comments).
- Clarify: Get curious about them by asking clarifying questions like: ‘So what you’re telling me is that you spent 3 years building up the project that you just launched, is that right?’ ‘What’s that been like for you? How did that make you feel? What do you mean by ‘xyz’?’
What NOT to do:
- Don’t turn the conversation to you at the first opportunity. Has that happened to you? It’s absolutely a connection killer!
- Don’t be disingenuous – if you don’t find someone’s story very interesting, that’s ok. Don’t fake it. You can simply say, “Thank you for sharing with me.” Or you can always find a way to be more compassionate (thinking less about you, more about them) and the story will likely become more interesting. 🙂
- Resist the urge to look around the room for someone more ‘interesting.’ We can almost guarantee that the other person notices.
- Don’t interrupt or share how this reminds you of a similar story from your life – it hijacks the conversation, which can be highly irritating!
- Don’t just wait for your turn to talk, practice dropping expectations that the conversation will eventually turn to you and be present.
The first step to any sort of growth or personal evolution is awareness that you can and want to grow – and in that, you are recognizing that you need to learn from others! And that’s why it is so powerful to highlight that everyone has something to offer, no matter what stereotype society places on someone or something.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, you can learn from those opposite of you – when you go into your connections and conversations with that mindset, and you’ll be amazed by how differently you start to hear others. Try it out today!
Let us know in the comments below – where do you fall on the spectrum and how would you benefit if you were open to learn from your opposite?
And for those of us that don’t find that this style of connecting comes naturally, remember that it takes practice. The only skills that are mastered are the ones repeated over and over again!
Here’s to the introvert in all of us shining bright,
– Leah, Naz & the LYL Team
P.S. If all this connecting talk scares the hell out of you, then now is the perfect time to test this out in a safe environment! Don’t forget to join us next week at The Live Your Legend World Party on February 9th…woo hoo!!!