One of the biggest misconceptions people have about introversion is that we are all shy, quiet and social recluses. It’s just not true!
In fact, both introverts AND extroverts can be shy – it really all depends on other social factors and life experiences.
In short, introversion/extroversion is more to do with where you get your energy from. Introverts tend to get their energy recharged by spending time alone, whereas extroverts tend to get their energy from being around people and interacting with others.
OK – with that cleared up, I’d like to move onto another myth – and this is one that I’ve held in the past – clung onto it, in fact.
And that is: that if you’re an introvert, you’re better off doing as much as you can alone. I took this energy from spending time alone thing SERIOUSLY.
Five years ago I quit my job as a web designer in a busy little London agency in order to go freelance. I wanted to work for me, myself and I. The less people I had to deal with – the better.
I was also under the impression that I would get clients and commissions purely from people finding me online, through my fancy website.
I sat back, and waited for the jobs to come in.
And before long… I started to panic. It turns out, my theory of just attracting clients through my website was not going to fly. I actually had to go out there and meet other people. Yikes.
Now, I don’t know about you but I am pretty allergic to networking. A bunch of strangers standing around, pushing business cards in each others face, totally bored and uninterested – most people just desperate to get a new lead. Pretty gross.
This creates a bit of a dilemma, if you’re an introvert trying to build a business or go self employed. If the one thing you need is people – connections, recommendations, referrals – but you only have so much energy for these networking events – what do you do?
I struggled with this for quite a while until I – accidentally – realised there were other ways to meet people, connect on an authentic level and actually get a lot of new business. All without having to play ‘extrovert’ or be something you’re not.
Now, I’d love to share with you the three discoveries I made in my years of experimentation. These are the discoveries that led to me ultimately being booked out, collaborating with people who are top of their game, and doing things that I couldn’t have fathomed doing alone – like co-hosting Wildfire Women, a live event for ambitious, creative women coming up this October.
Ok so without further ado… let me share the first of these three discoveries:
1) We need Community
I grew up thinking that community was something for people who lived in small villages, not for someone who grew up in London suburbs. In the same way, I assumed that as a small business owner, I could do everything myself.
I assumed that as an introvert, I was better off alone, and that anyone doing the same work as me was competition. This mindset is a scarcity mindset. It assumes there isn’t enough of the pie to go around.
Not only is this totally untrue – it is actually harmful to hold this belief. It prevents you from getting the support that emotionally we ALL need, regardless of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.
Having a community of like minds who you can meet for coffee, co-work with, bounce ideas off, get questions answered and get encouraging words of support is so, so vital – especially if you’re attempting to build a business or take on a big project.
And I’ve found that the more you cultivate a community, the more opportunities arise – the pie starts to expand, not get gobbled up.
When I moved to Brighton, I didn’t go to intimidating networking events – I went to Meetup groups – if you’re familiar with Meetup.com you might know there are tonnes to choose from – something for everyone.
And if there isn’t one that suits you? Start one! I started my own creative meetup group and before long, I had formed solid friendships, gained clients and contacts and I did it all in a way that felt suited to my introverted tendencies.
So, have a think about how you might be able to join in in your local community – it might be yoga classes, mum’s coffee mornings, creative writing groups – have a look around and give it a try. I promise they’re much nicer than most formal networking groups and you never know what might come from it.
Ok next up, discovery two is…
2) Magic happens when we Collaborate
Something else that came out of my dabbling in community is collaboration. This is the combined effort of two or more people, for a mutually beneficial cause.
Again, my introversion made me very skeptical about collaboration – i figured if you want something done right, you’ve got o do it all by yourself.
How wrong I was. For one, I was missing the fact that I didn’t have all the skills required to do many of the big dream projects on my bucketlist, like create a live event.
I so badly wanted to create an event that was introvert friendly, that inspired us without leaving us feeling slightly depressed because the speakers were so perfect and so different from us that we can’t possibly soar to their levels of success. I wanted an event where I would feel welcomed, comfortable and included. I wanted to be able to talk to the speakers, learn from them and ask questions and walk away feeling ready and raring to take action, and make my wildest dreams happen.
Oh – but I knew doing this alone would never happen. I needed an extrovert, someone with a very different skillset to mine, and someone I could get on with and giggle with even when things got tough.
Amazingly, I did find this person, Thea Anderson – who you heard from on this episode of the podcast, but I would never have found Thea had I not been open to community and collaboration.
I had to let go of my control as a self-sufficient introverted solopreneur, and be open to sharing the workload, and admitting where I needed help.
The result was hosting a phenomenal live event last year that was everything we had dreamed of, and coming back this year once again to level up even more, at this year’s Wildfire Women.
Where in your life can you share the load? Where can you collaborate? This doesn’t have to be in business or work related – it might be in your personal life. May be it means asking for help when in the past you’d try to take on even more and struggle with the load. Who in your life has complementary strengths and skills to you? Have a think and may be ask them if they’d be up for joining forces.
Finally, we have my third discovery:
3) Success depends on Communication
Now, one of the things that kept me stuck in my lonely loop of doing everything myself was… I was afraid to ask. I was afraid to communicate what I needed to anyone else.
Without this piece, communication, you’re unlikely to get very far with community or collaboration – because no one will know what your dreams are, what you can offer or how you can help each other.
It’s true: good communication does require a level of vulnerability that many of us, introvert or extrovert, do struggle with. It feels like we’re laying down our armour as we prepare for a reply that isn’t what we hoped for.
Of course, no one says this better than Brené Brown:
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
And communicating our needs is anything but a weakness. What I’ve discovered time an time again is the pleasant surprise that: people on the whole, really like to help. People really want to connect and they want to collaborate.
When you give someone the opportunity to join forces with you, anything is possible.
More on asking for introverts >>