Written on July 5, 2010 by Sandy in Learning & Personal Growth
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I am an introvert, someone who gains their energy from being alone with their own thoughts, versus an extrovert, someone who gains their energy by being around others and thinking out loud.
First, I have to tell you that just because I may be an introvert, this does NOT mean I am shy. I am far from it. I might be a slow starter when entering a new situation filled with people and I may leave a little early to maintain my sanity, but in between I’ll talk to lots of people and have fun doing it.
I wasn’t always like this. Most of my life I allowed my introversion to define me and I kept mostly to myself. This led to a lonely, sad and small existence.
Finally, I had had enough at that. I wanted to live. I wanted to follow my heart. I wanted to live the life of my dreams. I wanted to live a happier, more fulfilling life and I wanted to make a difference and help others live happier, more fulfilling lives.
But, how could I do any of this if I never put myself out there and interacted with people?
I had to learn to embrace the extrovert in me and to discover what that meant to me.
Learning how to be sociable late in life isn’t easy. It takes effort. But, connecting with others was incredibly important to me so I rose to the challenge.
First, it meant simply remembering to say good morning to people when I arrived in the office.
This may sound a bit odd to most people, but I was the type of person to arrive at work, get my cup of tea and go straight to work. I didn’t see the value in morning chit chat.
But, I made a game if it. Every morning I tried to remember to smile and say good morning to as many people as I could. Some mornings I’d forgot and it would be 9am or 10am before I realized I hadn’t greeted anyone that day. So, I’d get up, leave my office, go to the cafeteria, get a cup of tea and engage people in conversation. Since I am a naturally curious I’d start a conversation with a question.
This one simple gesture allowed me to meet and get know just about everyone I worked with, including office staff, warehouse men, drivers, etc on a first name basis and to really connect with them.
This one simple gesture enhanced my life in ways unimaginable. I discovered that I truly enjoyed connecting with people and getting to know them. I also discovered that my dream of helping others sometimes just meant listening.
This one simple gesture opened a whole new world to me and a taught me how to become a sociable introvert.
I’ve learned how to be a sociable extrovert by honoring my introverted self:
When attending meetings or workshops:
o Arrive early and whenever possible sit near a door or a window on the perimeter of the room to provide a little extra personal space.
o Choose one or two people, maybe someone who looks more uncomfortable than me, and engage them in conversation by asking them about themselves.
o During breaks, spend all or part of the time alone. Take a short walk outside, check your messages, get a cup of coffee.
o Try to avoid scheduling back-to-back meetings (in-person and/or via phone).
o Schedule phone meetings/calls in advance whenever possible.
o After a long day of being around others, at work, at a workshop, in meetings, at school, or even a family function, take some time in the evening, alone, to do something relaxing and enjoyable. (a hot soak in the tub, read, meditate, write, paint, run, etc)
o Commit to meeting someone new every week, even if it’s online via email, Twitter or Facebook.
o Stay connected with people. Have lunch. Meet for coffee. Schedule a meeting. Chat on the phone or Skype. Organize an event. Answer an email message. Send an email message.
o Offer to help. Ask for help.
o Be present in the moment whether with others or alone and embrace each experience.
Learning to be a sociable introvert wasn’t easy and sometimes I still struggle with putting myself out there, but it has opened my world to some of the most amazing experiences, opportunities and people – all of which I would have never known if I’d allowed my introverted nature to define me and keep me locked in a small box all alone.