The Rise of the Social Introvert

by Kevin on April 4, 2011

Over the past few weeks, several bloggers in my network have been discussing the role of the Introvert in social media.  Take Mack Collier for instance, someone I have been following for over four years now.  His recent post “Why Intoverts Love Social Media” is a perfect example of how social media has given a voice to people who traditionally opted out of the conversation.  In fact, many of the most recognizable folks in social media could easily be classified as Introverts.  Without the fear of judgement, or instantaneous ridicule, many individuals have taken to the digital conversation because of the control it provides.

That’s right… I said control.

By nature, Introverts are uncomfortable around people they don’t know.  Large crowds can cause anxiety and as that anxiety increases, it causes more anxiety.  For many Introverts, social settings make them feel out of control.  They cannot control the opinions of others, they cannot control how people will receive them, and they cannot control the way in which they communicate.  For most introverts, they walk away from conversations wishing they had said something else or responded in a different way when interacting with other people.

Unfortunately, many introverts have yet to realize the impact participating in a digital dialogue can do for your social skills.  As Mack states in his post, he is using his online persona to help him cope and evolve in real world settings.  While some of these interactions are not “natural” for an introvert, the skills obtained through online dialogue can be applied to real world settings.  With a little practice, you’d be surprised at how you can be an Introvert with Extrovert tendancies.  Here are three things that have worked for me:

  • Know Yourself: Ask yourself if you truly know who you are.  Now ask 10 friends who know you well to tell you who you are.  Are they the same?  If I asked 10 of my closest friends whether they thought I was introverted or extroverted, 7 out of 10 would claim I am an extrovert.  They’d be wrong.  See, there is so much confusion around behavioral tendancies that we often make assumptions with little information.  Even those closest to you will never know you as well as you know yourself.  That’s why it’s important to declare yourself as discussed in this great post from the CEO of Campbells Soup Company, Douglas R. Conant.

 

  • Find The Triggers: There usually are a few things that make an introvert retreat into their shell.  Sometimes it’s meeting new people.  Sometimes it’s a fear of saying something stupid.  While this happens every minute in a digital dialogue, I don’t have to choose to listen to you.  If I feel uncomfortable and walk away, you have no idea and probably move on to the next discussion.  This doesn’t happen in the real world.  Most of the time, you are left struggling to think of the right thing to say.  Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.  What is the one thing people like more than anything else?  Talking about themselves.  Have a few questions in your back pocket and flip the conversation around.  After all, introverts are usually great listeners.

 

  • Identify The Opportunity: The great thing about Twitter and Facebook is that you know the people on the other keyboard are interested in a dialogue.  Why else would they be there.  In the real world, it’s hard to spot the people interested in speaking with you.  Because of this difficulty, many introverts assume that people are not interested in being engaged.  Unfortunately, your inaction could result in a missed opportunity – for business, collaboration, friendship and more.  As Douglas R. Conant stated in the Harvard Business Review post linked above, bring a buddy.  A good wingman/wingwoman can help you break out when the time is right.

Over time, and with a little practice, even the most introverted person can become the center of attention.    Remember though, just because your introverted in one situation, does not mean you are in another.  Circumstances can always impede our willingness and ability if we let it.  So, fellow “

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