Recently one of my students said he was an introvert, felt that being such a person was not good, and wanted advice on how to become someone else, a person more extroverted. I get that question often from techies and first time entrepreneurs. They are often amazed at my response: "Don't change! There are a lot of introverts in the world and many are awesome leaders, founders of new enterprises and heros." So here is my advice to all you out there who might doubt the value of being an introvert.
- First, there is nothing wrong or inferior about being an introvert. Powerful, successful introverts may amaze you! Clint Eastwood is an introvert. I watched him today being interviewed on television and in spite of being quiet and a bit shy, completed the interview without showing signs of being awkward or fearful. Other introverts include Bill Gates and Michael Dell. These people do not apologize for being who they are. They simply discover who they are and go on to successfully apply it.
- Try to remember, tigers do not change their stripes, they learn to be better tigers. Are you uncomfortable speaking in public? Introverts can learn to be better speakers (by practicing in private and choosing venues at school and work on doing better public speaking). To be less frightened about people you can learn more about them (by reading, studying and deliberately taking time to grow in understanding how people behave, what they trust in when the dark days come, and how they use their special personalities to succeed).
- Introverts have an unfair advantage: They quietly watch people behave and absorb vast quantities of information that they later use to advantage. They digest thoroughly, analyze with calm and when they speak to people, they are prepared and typically gain respect, quickly.
- Remain the true you. Trying to become a different (“better”) personality is doomed to failure. A lamb in wolf’s clothing is quickly discovered and is still a lamb. Let the other personalities be themselves. You were created to be one of a kind, your own person. So discover your special characteristics and work with them. Actors in a pretend roll are not real. You need to be real.
- Use tools to help you understand your special personality. I recommend you take a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test to increase your understanding of who you are. You can purchase one of several books with tests and a guide to interpret the results. Here is one that I use: Myers-Briggs Book. There also some are online tests that can get you started; most cost $40 to $100 per use.
- After you have the results, ask a female of your age to take the test and discuss the findings. People of the opposite sex will assist you in seeing yourself. Ask a male friend to do the same thing. Then talk to a really old person (someone sixty years of age or older). Those discussions will reveal a lot more about yourself. It will especially open up your strong character traits.
- Low self-esteem is not a required characteristic of being an introvert. People of all personality types can have low self esteem. Loud talking extroverts are often people who appear strong and brave to introverts but are using such behavior to mask fear. Introverts can be very quiet and very brave.
- Read novels to discover more about real people. Look for introverts in the books who are tested under very difficult conditions. Great classics are filled with introverts. I just finished Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. It is filled with introverts who were heroic during the horrible conditions of the French Revolution of the 1700s.
BOTTOM LINE: It is not shameful or weak to be an introvert. Such people have important lives to fulfill. They can be outstanding at leading, inventing, managing and become stars. Startup leaders, real CEOs, are often introverts. So work on being a greater introvert and let me know as you succeed. I'm cheering for you!