One of the big myths is that introversion is synonymous with shyness.  Introversion is not shyness as an introvert can be shy as well as an extrovert can be shy.  It is really a matter of confidence or a lack of confidence in approaching certain people or situations.  Shyness is not necessarily caused by introversion, but not understanding introversion can cause a person to be shy or lack confidence.  In this episode, we will discuss different aspects of introversion and how understanding them can help you gain confidence and overcome shyness. 

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Transcript

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.

This show will be full of myth-busting on introversion and our personalities.  One of the big ones is that Introversion is not synonymous with shyness.  An introvert can be shy as well as an extrovert can be shy.  It is really a matter of confidence or a lack of confidence in approaching certain people or situations.  Introversion is a measure of how one processes information (internally vs. externally) and this process is very natural for you. You do not choose introversion or extroversion, just as you do not choose being right or left handed. Shyness is a measure of self-confidence or insecurity and often varies by the situation. The great news is that there are things you can do to gain confidence and overcome shyness.  I am not talking about being something you’re not or changing a life that you are happy with.  I am speaking to those that are not as confident as they want to be and are not getting what they want out of life. And some introverts are already very confident.  Some learned how to be confident and some have always been that way.

So I am not saying there is anything wrong with being “quiet” or living a quiet life. What I am going to be talking about is when you want your voice to be heard, want more social connections, or want to approach life in a way that your lack of confidence is preventing.  Maybe there is someone in your life such as your child or other family member or colleague at work that you want to understand and be more helpful to.  

We are going to talk about some things to consider as an introvert to gain confidence or overcome shyness.  There can be many causes so I am not pretending that this is an exhaustive list and I am not saying that all shyness could be related to introversion.  I just know that there are some things about introversion if you don’t understand could make you shy or take away some confidence.

I used to be shy when I was younger. I am no longer shy, but will always be an introvert. Now, I say not shy but happily introverted. Early on in my journey, I read a few books on shyness to try to “fix” whatever it was that I thought was wrong with me. Unfortunately, the books I read on shyness really did not help me at all.  Looking back now, I realize that these types of books — at least for me — did not get at the root of who I was, or why I was the way I was.  These books were not talking about my introverted traits, such as spending a lot of time thinking and needing to think before speaking, or how to work with these traits instead of against them.

I realized years later that I could overcome shyness, but introversion was with me to stay. Again introversion is a beautiful thing. A great part of my success in life has been my introverted gifts, such as the ability to think deeply and analyze things and look at the big picture to see how all the details fall in place.  As I have become more aware of my unique strengths and abilities, I have become more confident in social situations. Because I know that I may not be like everybody else, but thats a good thing, I have my own gifts and strengths and so do you. Your gifts and strengths are not necessarily going to look like mine either. You have strengths and you need to remember that is what makes you unique.

A book on overcoming shyness not considering your introverted nature may helpful to you as there could be many different causes, but in my opinion, if introversion is the root of your shyness, it’s more important to understand the components that are inherent in your personality that cannot be changed, as well as strategies to use your strengths for success. And learn from a fellow introvert strategies to overcome your shyness. I am going to share a few ideas on how introversion may contribute to shyness, but how an understanding can lead to a greater self-confidence.  As your self-confidence grows, your shyness will fade away, and you can embrace your introversion.

It’s all relative, and you are the judge of your happiness. For example, if you goal is have your voice heard and make more social connections, no matter how much you speak or say you may be too quiet for some. In a meeting with someone one on one, I thought I was carrying on my share of the conversation.  There was much back and forth discussion.  As we were finishing up our meeting, the person said to me that I was a man of few words. I was taken back at first as it felt like an insult. I was talking plenty, what was he talking about? But instead, I choose to take this as a compliment. I am a thinker and a deep thinker at that.  I have many constant thoughts and my mind is always putting them together.  It is a gift to think before speaking and put all your thoughts together in a succinct manner, not wasting words. Yes, I am a man of few words compared to an extroverted friend… but I have so many thoughts. I naturally think before speaking and my extroverted friend speaks in order to think.  There is not a good and bad or right and wrong.  Everyone has a very natural way of being and everyone has a unique set of gifts.  If you are a man or woman of few words, be proud!  If you encounter a man or woman of few words, listen!  The words they express are likely to be their best pieces of wisdom.  They are only sharing what they feel are their best thoughts.  Never assume that because someone is not speaking continuously, that they are not engaged. Just listen and give them a chance to speak.

Often, introverts may be incorrectly perceived as being shy, because some of us need time to think before speaking. As introverts we are thinking before speaking, not in a self-censoring way, but very naturally. We are asked a question, the question goes in and spins around in our brain and after a period of time we respond. When I didn’t understand this about myself, I could get run over by those that talk in order to think.  I felt less than adequate in these situations, and my self-confidence waned.  But by understanding how I operate — that I think first then speak — I have come to accept this trait. Now I let people know when I am thinking, so I can take the time I need.  As peolpe get to know you they will learn to respect that about you. I have a friend that more than once has stood up for me in a meeting and said David needs some time to think about that. Its really nice when you get to know your friends and colleagues and what they need and they learn the same about you. I have learned that I can prepare for certain conversations, meetings, and presentations ahead of time so I don’t always have to take as much time during the situation to think before speaking (as I’ve already thought about it – A LOT). And in conversations where I am the expert, I’ve already spent so much time thinking that my words come much more freely.  But when I am in situations where I have to pause and think, I have learned to relax and let my thoughts do their best work. Say things like give me a minute to think about that or Im thinking or let me get back to you tomorrow.  You can come up with some strategies. Again, be confident and let those in your work and personal life know what you need to do your best work.

Unfortunately, as a result of being labeled as “too quiet” over time, we may also become more wary of social situations. We start believing that something is wrong with us, possibly even making the “shyness” label become a reality.

I’ve often heard people tell others, especially children, that they just need to “come out of their shell.”  It’s usually used negatively, meaning that they need to be more friendly or confident or outgoing. I have never liked this expression. Have you ever been told “why are you so quiet?”  How does the quiet person respond? It usually makes things worse leaving them with nothing to say. Have you had this experience as a child or an adult?  If you encounter a “quiet” person, just engage them, don’t judge and give them a chance to speak. If you are told you are “too quiet” enough times, especially as a child you might feel shy.  So help me and let’s please tell others to stop saying things like this. Again saying “you are too quiet” or “you need to come out of your shell” to either adults or children tends to leave the quiet one even more speechless!

A better approach is to keep your judgments and labels to yourself, and instead, provide a positive and nurturing atmosphere that encourages expression when the “quiet” person has something to share. Relax and don’t feel uncomfortable in the silence that is allowing the introvert time to think. Pause so he or she has a place to comment. And recognize that introverts have usually given a lot of thought to what they have to contribute, so it’s probably important enough to listen to. You’ll find that once you get to know a “quiet” person, they actually have quite a bit to say!

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 much confidence in myself through gaining self-awareness and understanding my strengths and needs.

At a past conference I attended, I reflected on some examples of how becoming more self-aware has helped me gain confidence. I often go to conferences for work; this past year they have all been virtual.  Conferences are usually on different topics and are in a variety of formats.  Because the topics and settings are always changing, these types of activities can be uncomfortable situations for introverts.  

This particular conference I attended was a 2-day conference. There was some lecture, some panels, and a lot of small group discussion.  Throughout the conference, we were placed in small groups to discuss various topics.  I knew a few people attending, but most of the people I was meeting for the first time.  There was one discussion where I was not that familiar with the topic, but everyone was supposed to express an opinion.  As an introvert, I usually need to think before speaking and I like to have given the topic at hand some thought before expressing my view.  In this case, I didn’t have a fully-formed opinion that I was ready to discuss.  The self-doubt began to creep in. What if I had to speak?  An introvert can feel great pressure in these situations. 

In this case, I relaxed, listened to the discussion and made a couple comments on the comments of others.  I was not put on the spot, but if I had been I have learned to be honest.  I could say “let me think about that,” “someone else took my answer,” “this is not something I am directly familiar with so I will pass,” or “let me get back to you.”  I also could have done a little preparation and studied conference topics I was unfamiliar with ahead of time.  This of course is not always possible with a busy schedule, so I have learned to be comfortable with my expertise and admitting when I am not the expert on a particular topic.

In another discussion, I was an expert, and probably monopolized most of the conversation.  The topic was something I had given much thought to and had a lot of experience in.  I had a lot to say without further thought needed.  I am very good at seeing the big picture of things and analyzing all the information I can get my hands on and then coming up with some great ideas.  With this strength of mine, I need to recognize that I do need some time to think and often think alone.  I also need to recognize that when I do come across an unfamiliar topic in conversation that there is nothing wrong with me, I just need more time to process.  I may admit this or try to prepare ahead of time.  I don’t worry if I am being too “quiet”, but learn from the conversation and make my appropriate contribution.  I may need to ask for time to think about something and I may even need to get back to someone after the conversation or discussion.

This is one example of how self-awareness has given me more self-confidence.  I think this is a common struggle for introverts as we often need to think before speaking.  And often we need time to prepare and ideally think about ideas ahead of time.  

Where else do you need a boost in confidence? 

Another area is what I call Going from inside to outside

As an introvert, I naturally spend more in my head and don’t always notice my surroundings.  This can produce feelings of anxiety as you try to navigate new situations and places, because you are trying to process your surroundings and what is going on externally. This shift in processing may be uncomfortable if you spend most of the time “in” your head.  I manage this by trying to arrive places early, maybe doing some research online ahead of time about where I am going and what to expect, slow down, taking a deep breath, and remembering that most people don’t like unfamiliar situations.

I am a deep thinker. Do you think deep thoughts? 

One of my strengths as an introvert is to think deeply and often.  There have been many times in my life where I shared a deep thought and got a funny look.  So in my case, sharing deep thoughts has made me shy in the past.  I have come to realize that often when others have not put in the time to analyze and synthesize information, my well-thought-out ideas may seem a bit crazy. But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong… It just means I may have to spend time explaining concepts that are obvious to me, and stand my ground when I’m not being heard.

I have learned that my analytical ability is something great about me.  As I’ve gained more experience in sharing my deep thoughts, I have been able to put forth some truly innovative ideas that have been successfully implemented.  And now when I share ideas, people listen. Just remember that it is thinking differently that has changed the world. Its important. There is much that we can do to make the world a better place and often it is that person who has that different thouht that will make that difference. So be proud and share your thoughts, work on them, take your time and prepare. Just because someone else hasn’t had the same thought don’t be discouraged, be confident,  and keep pushing for what you know is right.

How about small talk? Do you like small talk?

I have never enjoyed talking about the weather or the price of gas and have often avoided these situations altogether.  In the past, if I did find myself in a small group or one-on-one with a person I didn’t know well, I found that if I wasn’t interested in the conversation, I really didn’t have anything to say. Others probably thought I was too quiet, and I thought I was too quiet.  As people either introverts or extroverts, we all need relationships and connection and I have learned that in building relationships, you have to start somewhere and small talk may be the necessary gateway to get to those deeper discussions I crave.  I have gotten better at small talk and we could spend another episode on strategies for small talk, but I accept that I may never be a master at it. Although now I often actually enjoy it. I also have learned not to worry about awkward silences, because if it is silent then you are not the only one not talking.

The next tip is to stop comparing yourself to others

We all have unique gifts, and no one person has all gifts. My son is taking Calculus 3 and he has a gift for math.  I am good at math, but the way his mind works naturally he is far more gifted in this than me. He has the ability to see and understand concepts that are a bit beyond me. In the past, I have compared myself to someone that is brilliant at something I am not and the comparison has made me feel inferior. I often listen to motivational speakers with great charisma and sometimes would catch myself thinking badly about myself for not having that particular talent. Instead, I now realize that those I compare myself to may not have the analytical gifts.  I may not have the charisma as in this example but I can use my abilities to do preparation for a presentation and I do believe I have gotten so much better over time by using my strengths. You do have to work at practice and improving in your gifts, but the key is YOUR gifts. I have and we all have our own important contributions to make.  There is only one of you so be yourself and Recognize your own strengths and the value of what YOU have to offer, without comparing yourself to what you see in others.

Don’t listen to labels

If people tell you that you are too quiet and shy long enough, you might eventually begin to believe it. However, if you understand what a label such as introvert means this can be useful when it is used to help someone understand themselves in general terms and explain how to overcome challenges and move forward in their strengths. If you are a fellow introvert hopefully you are learning some things from me, where we might be similar and if I got to know you I could learn from you. But labels can also hold people back from their full potential. For some reason, people like to categorize other people into neat little boxes — and these boxes can be very limiting and confining. People might call someone slow, stubborn, strange, or even stupid.  Is this helping? I have learned to reject negative labels as they are harmful. Instead, focus on what’s great about yourself, where your strengths are, and traits or actions you can change and improve. If you’re not locked into or limited by a label, there’s no telling what you can accomplish.

Another tip, You know what you like right? and don’t let anyone tell you your way is wrong. What is fun to you? You know what you think is fun and what you don’t. You don’t need someone else to define this for you. I am not saying that we should not try new things and change our comfort zone, notice what I said there “change your comfort zone” I didn’t say “get out of your comfort zone”.  I believe you need to change your comfort zone.  Let me explain. So if Im afraid of something, I am afraid of approaching a situation and somebody will say just get out of your comfort zone. So if I am thinking this is a scary situation and I approach it, but don’t change my thoughts, then the next time I approach it I may still think it is scary. So instead as I approach the situation and analyze why is this scary to me? And tell myself you can do this and why it is not really scary, I am changing my comfort zone and it won’t be scary or not as much the next time. So let’s not get out of our comfort zone, but change or expand our comfort zone.  But back to what you like, I am saying it is silly to let someone else define for us what we like or what we think is fun. Maybe you like to go out on weekends, maybe you like to stay in, or maybe as in my case I like to do some combination. Maybe your extroverted friend thinks you stay in too much. You could be made to think that your way is wrong and you lose confidence. Maybe sometimes you want to go out and sometimes stay in and watch a movie or read a book or a number of different things and it is up to you what you find enjoyable. Of course there is always give and take in relationships and you may go out sometimes when you may not feel like it for a friend, I was talking to a couple and she said I love to go out dancing, but my husband doesn’t.  Talking further, he said he did enjoy it but after a few hours and it was getting late he was ready to go home and relax. In her case, she was just getting warmed up after a few hours.  And of course as an extrovert she feeds off the social interaction.  There is nothing wrong with either person, but an understanding goes a long way.You know yourself, so don’t let others define you. Don’t feel bad about the things that you like.

So I am not shy anymore. I have greatly reduced my anxiety, by just the things that we have discussed today.  I have a new sense of confidence and calmness by understanding my introversion. Its funny when people say I used to be an introvert or I used to be an extrovert.  It doesn’t work that way. I am a deep thinker and always will be and this is natural to me. I have come to realize that I am an introvert forever, as my thoughts are directed inward more than not, but shyness can be overcome and confidence gained. 

Do you relate to any of the things we discussed? Are there other things that you realized were making you shy?  Again, it may not be a misunderstanding of introversion that causes shyness. What are the issues that are still holding you back? I am sure we will visit this important topic of overcoming shyness and gaining confidence again.  We could have some guests on the topic as well. 

I may still appear quiet at times.  I am always going to spend time in my head. Its a great thing about me, I come up with great ideas, I enjoy it, sometimes I need to be alone, sometimes I don’t mind being alone, and sometimes I need company often. I have learned that I can create the friendships and connections I want. I can be very successful and make my voice heard. I have the power to change my thoughts, control my fears and have a calmness in my life, and be strong.  And so can you.

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. 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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