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How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

As an introvert, I value my tendency to reflect and think deeply and to crave substantial connections. I love to listen. In fact, part of my decision to become a psychotherapist was based on my affinity for listening and understanding rather than talking. However, no matter how much more comfortable it might feel as an introvert to listen, it is necessary on occasion to be able to talk, and to talk with some authority, feeling able to voice your opinion when you need to. Over time it can become frustrating and depleting for introverts if we find that we’re not able to express ourselves much at all – or that when we do, no-one is listening!

When it comes to friends and partners, you can choose who you spend time with and can navigate those relationships in your own time and in your own way. But when it comes to relationships that we can’t choose, such as colleagues or family members, trying to be heard amongst loud groups or people who are extroverts can be exhausting.

It’s vital not to try to override your introvert qualities for the sake of being heard, but being introverted rarely sets us up to ‘shout the loudest’. So, being an introvert but wanting to be heard can sometimes feel impossible. An introvert needs to have time to consider, reflect and prepare first means that by the time we’re ready to contribute a well thought-out comment your extrovert colleague has probably made their point and moved the conversation on to a different topic!

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Here are some tips, from one introvert to another, on how to be heard and find your voice in group settings and around extroverts.

Pick your battles – learn how to interrupt 

Interrupting is difficult for introverts. As an introverted psychotherapist, I’ve struggled for years to get comfortable with interrupting people at salient moments to add in something of benefit. I’m still not comfortable with it overall, however. Interrupting goes against the grain for introverts but sometimes it’s necessary to interrupt in order to be heard. Other times, however, it’s simply not worth it. Well-timed interruption, or intelligent interrupting, is a skill that can be learnt and is a skill that is sometimes vital if you want to get in a word in with some more extrovert or chatty counterparts.

I’m not suggesting that interrupting is always the way to go, but if you don’t find a way to do it from time to time it’s likely that you’ll be railroaded in most conversations. I know we introverts prefer to listen but sometimes we need to communicate some of our thoughts so that we don’t feel perpetually overlooked or excluded, and so that an alternative perspective is offered. Interrupt when you either really want to contribute something or when you’re starting to feel downtrodden or used as a sounding board.

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If there’s no natural pause just start talking…as I write that it goes against everything I know and treasure about relationships. It seems unbelievably rude to just start talking over someone, however, I’ve come to realise that the reason I find it such an awful concept is because I would hate for someone to interrupt me harshly. However, people have different levels of sensitivity and not everyone will be  as offended by being interrupted as you might assume. I’ve found that extroverts or very talkative people often don’t actually mind being interrupted (this was quite a revelation for me following years of withholding information for fear of being rude!). Test the waters a bit for yourself. Now and then interrupt someone when they’re not leaving a gap for you to talk and observe their response.

Work with your introvert strengths

Generally as introverts we tend to find giving instant responses in conversation challenging. Contributing to conversations off the cuff isn’t usually easy because it doesn’t allow any time for the reflection and thought that we crave. As Susan Cain writes about introverts, “They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.”

Marti Olsen Laney has written about the reason introverts take longer to respond saying that “it’s because they have a longer neural pathway for processing stimuli because introverts process information through a pathway associated with long term memory and planning, so it’s more complicated (and takes longer) for introverts to process events interactions and their surroundings.” This longer processing can slow down input into conversations. Quick responses and starting up new topics of conversation might not be your strong suit but you will probably find that you’re naturally curious and have questions during most interactions. The tendency for introverts to ask why and to want to understand is one of our most valuable social assets.

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If contributing new information or telling a story doesn’t feel natural (and it almost never does!) then work with your strengths and ask questions instead. It’s a good way to contribute and become part of group discussions in a way that’s less jarring than trying to match our extrovert counterparts. Asking questions gets you heard in a more subtle way than trying to interject with a captivating story or by speaking the loudest. It can help you to influence the direction of your conversations whilst playing to your strengths.

Another introvert strength is that we often find solace in writing. Depending on the circumstances a well-timed and thought through email can be more beneficial that a face to face conversation. Although emails or texts can’t replace face to face interactions, there is definitely a time and a place to get your message across by writing it versus not communicating your point at all.

Be patient 

It’s often the case that extroverts seem to make quick gains in situations that require social interaction; in the workplace, when socialising and at family functions. Introvert qualities, however, like listening, reflecting, considering and thinking deeply all contribute to playing the long game instead. It will probably be hard to always be heard sometimes, but your actions and the way you might naturally execute your plans will allow you to be seen fully at some point rather than just heard instantly. Be patient as the introvert route is likely to take longer. As Sophia Dembling writes “Extroverts sparkle—introverts glow”.

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Strength isn’t always found in numbers

It’s likely that you naturally form bonds one on one with people rather than in groups. If groups aren’t your thing then don’t expect yourself to have a loud voice in a group. If, however, you find it frustrating because decisions are made without you in group settings, try to connect with group ‘influencers’ instead. You can be the voice in the ear of someone who is happy to ‘shout the loudest’ and spread the word. If commanding authority in a group is likely to take you hours to build up to and a few days to recover from then buddying up with someone who naturally likes get their point across can be a less draining way of getting your point out into the group ether!

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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Sian Morgan-Crossley

Psychotherapist and Coach

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Last Updated on January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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