11 Jan 2021

The Extrovert Introvert

I have always struggled with self confidence, yet I seem to be able to cold call, make appointments to meet with high profile strangers and put my hat in to the ring on occasion.


How does that work? Why is it that in the presence of highly expressive extraverts, introverts like me tend to withdraw and step back into the shadows, yet find ourselves doing some very extravert things?

Over the years I have developed a sense of what I can and can’t do, what my limitations and boundaries are, and what I can get away with. I have learned enough about myself to play to my strengths and be confident in what I know. I have learned that I can get up in front of a thousand total strangers and speak confidently to them about a topic I am familiar with, yet on a one-to-one basis I find that I get tongue-tied and blunder my way through explanations.


Introverts are inward looking and highly self-aware. Because we’re uncomfortable at expressing something in a group in case we get it wrong an embarrass ourselves, we tend to think a lot more before we speak. Thus when we do say something it tends to carry more weight – if our extraverted colleagues are used to us not saying much, they tend to take more notice when we do. There are always exceptions, and those who are deep thinking extraverts and can speak authoritatively on the fly, can stop reading at this point and go buy the beers. And since such a combination can be rather lucrative, you can go and buy the next round. And the one after.


As for those of us who are in-the-shadow introverts, because we fear getting it wrong, we tend to put the time into getting it right – embarrassment can be highly motivating. And in the process we discover that we know stuff. Interesting stuff – stuff that people want to hear. So we tell them what we have learned, and we learn that not only are we not embarrassed, we’re actually respected. Most of the time. For when we get it wrong, we tend to do rather a good job of it, with the result sends us back into the shadows. But we’re also good at learning from our mistakes and put more effort into getting it right next time.


Self confidence then, comes from a high level of self awareness, in which the fear of getting it wrong motivates us into getting it right. And in the process we discover that over time we have learned stuff, our opinions matter, and our extraverted colleagues have their own shadows that they step back into. They’re just different to ours.