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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 April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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