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As an introvert, I have long been aware that what is going on in my mind does not always match the expression on my face. Have you ever been perfectly happy, then someone comes along and asks “what’s wrong”? Or be told something like “it doesn’t hurt to smile”? This can drive an introvert crazy. For this reason, I’ve been misunderstood by many for a good share of my life.  As a result, I have come up with some techniques and approaches, to be better understood, feel connected with others, have my voice heard, and to be more confident that are shared in this podcast so you can better connect with others by changing your body body language.

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David Hall
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Podcast Transcript

Body Language and Non-verbal Cues, Especially for Introverts

Hello, and welcome to the Quiet and Strong Podcast, Especially for introverts.  I am your host, David Hall and creator of quietandstrong.com.  This is a weekly podcast dedicated to understanding the strengths and needs of introverts. Introversion is not something to fix, but to be embraced. Normally we will air each episode on Monday morning.  Be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform. 

As an introvert, I have long been aware that what is going on in my mind does not always match the expression on my face. Have you ever been perfectly happy, then someone comes along and asks “what’s wrong”? Or be told something like “it doesn’t hurt to smile”? This can drive an introvert crazy. For this reason, I have been misunderstood by many for a good share of my life.  I have come up with some techniques and approaches, to be better understood, feel connected with others, have my voice heard, and to be more confident.

I have been giving this a lot of thought with some aspects of the pandemic such as wearing masks and attending zoom meetings.  For example, I smile more now, but now that is hidden in public behind a mask.  

We have previously discussed confidence. Confidence (or self-confidence) comes when you believe that you have great value, much to offer, and are worthwhile in your uniqueness.  Are you a confident introvert?  If not, this is something you can change.  You can gain confidence in your worth and uniqueness and the gifts you have to offer the world. We all have individual strengths and needs.  Confidence comes in knowing what our own strengths are and not comparing ourselves to others.  I have gained a lot more confidence in myself through self-awareness and understanding my strengths and needs. Also, another important aspect is being prepared for that meeting, conversation, or activity.  In general introverts do better with some thought ahead of time.

Too often we are misunderstood, perceived as uncaring, expressionless because others can’t see the wheels turning in our beautiful imaginations.  

Self Awareness is key – Embrace your strengths. You can learn to better express yourself both verbally and non-verbally.  Keep in mind that no one is perfect.  We keep learning and growing.  Learn from any mistakes you make and keep going.

So let’s talk about the non-verbal.  I have been in many virtual meetings this past year and of course even when we start meeting in person again, virtual meetings will forever be part of our world whether meeting with our teams, or clients, or others. So normally in an in person meeting you are not holding a mirror up to yourself.  You are not seeing how others are seeing you.  But when you are in a Zoom meeting you are seeing how you look to others.  Sometimes I look at myself and think, man you are looking a little serious there or perhaps a bit grumpy.  And I remind myself to smile a little more.  I am not advocating being fake in any way, but as it goes “if you’re happy and you know it.  I have also noticed others, either slouching, or not positioned very well in the camera.  Someone in my last meeting was just a tiny little head in the corner, and not centered.  It has been eye opening to see myself and others in Zoom meetings.  So again, you are a confident and prepared introvert, so let’s work on that non-verbal communication.

Posture is very important.  Sit up straight, posture shows your confidence, but also boosts your confidence.  For virtual meetings adjust your camera ahead of time.  Take up the right portion of the screen, right in the center.  And adjust the lighting.  I have seen a couple people that look like they are shaded out to be anonymous because they are backlit and the camera can’t compensate for the poor lighting. To make sure you appear more confident on camera, take a few minutes before the meeting to turn on your camera and adjust lighting, height of the camera and how close or far you are from the lense you are presenting your best self.  Maybe just use your camera software or try running a pretend meeting ahead of time with whatever platform you use.

Whether in a virtual or in person meeting sit up straight and lean in slightly and let your confidence show in a strong, engaged posture. 

Maintain appropriate eye contact, not a stare, but appropriate. Nod as needed.

Be confident in your tone of voice-  be calm and confident. Remember it is normal for an introvert to think before speaking, so let people know when you are taking a moment.

Smile from time to time.  Again, not fake.  I am not a bubbly person  and would never be mistaken for a gregarious person.  But in general I am a happy and optimistic person, and need to remind my face to show that.

Watch your fidgeting so you don’t appear nervous. I don’t stay on camera all of the time, but do find it is important to be on when I am speaking or leading the meeting.  It is important for connection.  If I’m not speaking, I may turn it off if I am eating or something. If I am not speaking I always display a good professional headshot.

So over the years, I have learned to smile more when I am feeling it.  But now in public we are wearing masks. Masks hide expression, muffle speech, and create misunderstandings.  So you have those awkward moments in the grocery store.  Kids run in front of you and the parents are embarrassed, and normally you might just smile and say no problem.  Now they can hear you, but your smile is hidden.  They say that people can see a genuine smile in your eyes and hear it  in your speech.  It can also be difficult to have a conversation with the mask.  Maybe you’re out somewhere like the bank and not only you have a mask, but plexiglass too. “What did you say?”  Smile with your eyes and speak clearly as you can. Keep a sense of humor. I do look forward to a day without masks.

Talking by phone has always been a big part of life. As an introvert, I grew up not enjoying talking on the phone.  Fortunately, early in my professional career, email became widespread.  And then, a few years later, I loved when texting came along.  I think I prefer to email and text over talking on the phone for a few reasons:

  • I like to think about what I need to say.
  • I can get right down to business and not engage in a lot of unnecessary small talk.
  • People don’t worry about any silence where I am taking time to think.

But I still do talk on the phone plenty, both professionally and personally.

  • Sometimes talking on the phone is the other person’s preferred method of communication.
  • Or sometimes particular conversations need some back and forth dialogue that would take too long over emails/texts. And currently for me it replaces dropping by their office for a quick conversation.
  • Or emails can be more easily misinterpreted and certain conversations may be better by phone.

I was talking on the phone with a client and as she was just a little into telling me her story, she started saying, “Are you there? Are you there?”  I, of course, assured her that I was listening to her.  I have learned that, especially when talking to those that are uncomfortable with silence, it is necessary to tell people that I am listening from time to time, or throw in the occasional “ok.”  Also for those uncomfortable with silence, I need to tell them when I need a minute while looking up some information.  I tend to not talk while I am doing this and this can also make some callers uneasy. Sometimes I actually ask to put them on hold if I think it will be a minute or so. Another important tip goes back to the smile. Yes even when you are talking on the phone, be sure to smile. It will come through in your voice!

Over the years, I’ve learned that, as an introvert, talking on the phone is still not my preferred method of communication. However, there are strategies to having successful conversations, and thankfully, several other options that make talking on the phone less of a necessity.

I have always assumed that people know how I feel and where I stand, but I have realized that this is not the case. While the introvert thinks and then speaks and the extrovert speaks to think, it may seem that the extrovert has more ideas because most of them are out there for everyone to hear.  This can be a hard battle to fight, since one’s perception of you is their reality.  I have been told that I can be hard to read and that sometimes I have a poker face.  This is not intentional, but just there is much going on in my head. My sense of humor can be a little sarcastic at times, and I need to be careful that my sarcasm is understood. I can also be perceived as calm, when I may not be calm on the inside.  This can be a good thing to bring a calmness to a chaotic situation., but I never want to be seen as uncaring, when I am.  

Personally, I have realized that I do need to make a better effort to let people get to know me and what is going on in my head.  I will always be an introvert, thinking deeply and not showing all of my thoughts. But I can do better.  I have great dreams and, not to sound too corny, but I really do want to make the world a better place.

I have found that it has been very helpful to start with an awareness that people do not automatically know how I am feeling.  I need to communicate what is in my head more and one way that has worked for me comes from having better relationships.  With me and among many introverts, relationship-building takes time.  Here are a few things that I have done and continue to do:

  • I try to make a little more small talk.  I have learned that sometimes you have to start small to go deep.  Relationships usually start with small talk.
  • Have regular meetings and check ins with those you work with or for. I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that people will not know what I am thinking and feeling unless I tell them.
  • I make an extra effort to try and remember people’s names and try to remember things about them.  This does not come naturally to me, but has been quite helpful.

There are probably many more things I could mention, but here is where I have started.  As people get to know me better, they do come to understand where I stand and the things that are important to me.  It all starts with stepping out of yourself and building relationships.

Is having a charismatic  personality a goal for everyone? I have charismatic moments from time to time, but according to my definition of charisma, this is not something that comes naturally to me.  It is not just as easy as deciding to be more.  As an introvert, I am not always displaying all of my feelings on the outside.  I can be passionate about topics I care about, and this does come naturally to me. But, just be more charismatic?  Not that easy.

While I do care very much about others, I am not warm and fuzzy and will never be. This was apparent when I was in a workshop on strengths and a woman at my table described having empathy for others as actually feeling their pain or joy.  I realized that this definitely is not me.  On another occasion I heard a man that seemed to be similar to me discussing that having empathy was not one of his strengths.  He said he could try to be empathetic, but it usually came off as “creepy” rather than genuine.

Of course, I am deeply connected and loving to my immediate family – wife, children, parents and siblings. I also feel connected to and care for co-workers, friends, and others.  But, empathy – actually feeling what others feel – does not come naturally to me. My empathy comes from my imagination, I imagine what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes. I can think about how someone might feel in a given situation, and consider how the options of a decision might impact someone’s feelings, but I don’t feel it.

I know other introverts that are deeply empathetic, so ability to show empathy is certainly not one size fits all as it relates to introversion.  For empaths, the challenge is to keep emotions in check rather than letting them rule, and also figuring out how to separate your own emotions from those of others you are dealing with, and from the situation. This may also take practice and skill, if it doesn’t come naturally to you. Keeping emotions under control will also help you be viewed as more confident- especially if you are working with others who are not strong emotive types. It’s important to be aware of your own level of emotion and how it is displayed in your communication.

Be confident and prepared and let it show through the things that you say and the things you don’t say. Understanding yourself and how you can be perceived as more confident will help you get your voice heard. 

Thank you so much for joining me.  I look forward to further connecting with you.  Reach out quietandstrong.com, david@.  I will add social media channels to the show notes. Please comment on the social media posts related to this podcast.  Send me topics or questions and we can address those on the show. So many great things about being an introvert and so we need those to be understood.  Let’s keep the conversation going.  Get to know your introverted strengths and needs and be Strong!

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