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I’m An Introvert At Heart… But No One Knows

I’m An Introvert At Heart… But No One Knows

Have you ever stood in front of a group of people, and in the middle of speaking, you just freeze? Your mind goes blank. You start sweating. Your fear and self-doubt paralyze you.

I’ve been there. Many times.

On the last day of my internship during college, I called in sick just so I wouldn’t have to deliver a short, 15-minute presentation to less than 10 people. I was crippled by fear. I’m not alone with this kind of thing.

In fact, according to a Gallup Poll, 40-45% of people are afraid of public speaking. It is often listed as the most common fear, after snakes and even death itself. Researchers have also found that introverts make up 26-50% of the population.

It stands to reason that the same people afraid of speaking are also introverted. That was me—about five years ago. But if you met me today, you would have no idea. That’s because I’m an introvert at heart but no one knows it.

What is introversion, anyway?

According to this Scientific American article, the extrovert-introvert spectrum comes down to two aspects: enthusiasm and assertiveness.

Extroverts have more, whereas introverts have less. Ambiverts—or, if you prefer, extroverted introverts—are somewhere in the middle.

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Enthusiasm is about sociability, excitement, and friendliness.

Assertiveness is about leadership, persuasiveness, and dominance.

How outgoing are you and what’s your social status? Do you make friends easily, laugh a lot, take charge, captivate people, and have the ability to talk others into doing things? If not, you’re an introvert.

Can an introvert become an extrovert?

There’s a reason I started this article off by talking about public speaking. That’s because, until I finally learned how to become an accomplished speaker, nothing I did gave me the confidence to engage with other people, take on leadership roles, or influence others.

Learning the skill—and art—of speaking transformed me so profoundly that I can honestly say you would think I’m an extrovert if you met me. Even though, really and truly, I am not.

I’m the guy who never spoke up at meetings and avoided making presentations at all costs. Today, I regularly compete in speech contests, hold webinars, deliver training, and speak in front of cameras and crowds.

How can you conquer your fear of public speaking to become an outgoing introvert?

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Two of the most powerful ways are:

  • Join the non-profit organization Toastmasters
  • Take an improv class

Toastmasters will encourage you to learn and practice in front of others in a safe, non-work environment. An improv class will take you out of your comfort zone and help you explore the positive, humorous side of speaking.

Why public speaking?

Here are 7 reasons why becoming a proficient public speaker can make even the most timid introvert come across as an outgoing extrovert.

1. People will get to know you

Introverts often have trouble making friends. It’s tough to open up to strangers.

If you work on the skill of public speaking, whether it’s through a training course, at work, an organization like Toastmasters, or an improv class, you will have to talk about something. And, your most knowledgeable subject is, well, you. By talking about your story, your experiences, your struggles and successes, others will get to know you, and you will get to know yourself. This will gradually bring out your confidence and inner extroversion.

2. You will become more enthusiastic and excited

When you’re on a deadline to come up with a speech topic, you learn to constantly look for ideas. Then, when you find an idea you like, you will start to dive in, read about it, research it, and put together your talk. This process, which many of us haven’t done since grade school, is a perfect way to ramp up your enthusiasm.

I recently gave a speech on grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef. Sounds boring, I know. But the process of learning about the food industry, agriculture, and nutrition motivated me to learn more and focus on my health.

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This enthusiasm and excitement builds on itself, and you build a repertoire of knowledge that makes dinner parties much more enjoyable. Without even trying, your introverted self becomes the life of the party!

3. You will have fun

Don’t get me wrong, introverts can have just as much fun as extroverts. But there’s a new sense of enjoyment that comes from gaining confidence speaking in front of others, and it brings out a side of you usually reserved for yourself. The same fun you get from reading a book or walking alone to think is suddenly expanded to encompass your audience, mentors, and peers.

I recently gave a humorous speech at a contest. Let’s just say comedy is not a strength of mine. But knowing that my speech had to be funny pushed me to learn about writing jokes, using punch lines, creating drama, and using my face and body for humor. It definitely brought out the comedian in me, and it was lots of fun getting there.

4. You will learn how to persuade others

This is a big one. Influence is a subtle art, and we as introverts believe it is out of our grasp.

Don’t despair. Becoming a more confident speaker also means you learn the skill of delivering your message, in a way that appeals to the audience. By practicing the use of your voice, appearance, and body, along with the structure, story, and words of your speech, you will have a recipe for persuading others that few learn or practice.

This ability will extend into your personal circle, enabling you to make friends more easily and open up opportunities in your career or business.

5. You will start to captivate people

Part of influence is the ability to gain others’ attention. To captivate your audience. You will learn to ask questions, appeal to “what’s in it for them,” use multiple methods of communication (stories, data, hands-on), and create calls to action.

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All of these serve to draw in your audience—whether it’s a room of people or a small group at a party. You will learn to captivate them.

6. You will gain tons of confidence

This entire process of developing your speech, learning the skills to deliver it, speaking in front of others, and, most importantly, getting feedback so you can improve, will make you more confident than you ever thought possible.

After six very awkward speeches, the feedback I had received started to come into place in each successive speech, and I became more and more confident. As with any skill, the more you practice, iterate, and learn, the more sure you are that the next iteration will have a certain outcome. This, in turn, breeds greater self-confidence.

7. Your newfound confidence will make you a leader

When you have greater self-confidence, you speak up more during meetings, seek interactions with others (no matter how intimidating they used to seem), and volunteer for more roles where extroversion is required. This creates amazing new opportunities.

After about six months of developing the skill of speaking, I had the confidence to try a new leadership position at work. I had new responsibilities that required me to mentor and speak to others, but I wasn’t afraid of this any more. In fact, I relished it. As a result, I found advancement where I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Create your own luck and become an outgoing introvert by learning the skill (and art) of public speaking.

Start by reading some good books, and then joining Toastmasters or taking an improv class.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via pexels.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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