Modern society values extroverted people.
It can improve your relationships, your business, and even your health. Not everyone is a natural-born extrovert though, which is actually a good thing, as outlined by Susan Cain’s best selling book Quiet.
In some circumstances, it is good for an introvert to seem more extroverted than they really are. Definitely some professions – sales, business development, public relations – place a higher value on extroversion. But “faking it” can be tough for introverts, which is arguably a learned behavior that can’t easily be suppressed.
I would consider myself shy as a kid. I took steps in high school (joined the public speaking team) and college (joined the improv comedy team) to overcome this trait. For the most part, it helped. But then thrust into the real world as a 22-year-old, I reverted back to my earlier persona.
I had a fantastic job out of college at a television station owned by the Red Sox. This was the type of low stress, high fun job that others dreamed about. However, I created my own obstacles that prevented me from truly reaching my potential. Sure, I would get all my work done on time and as promised. But that’s only 50% of the job.
As I’ve gotten older (wiser?), and transitioned into both tech sales and consulting, I’ve really embraced the idea of giving off the appearance of extroversion. In many respects, this has made my work life and personal life more fulfilling.
Below I outline three steps I take to better convey extroversion, even though I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself an extrovert.
- Say “Hello”
At my first job at NESN, I would walk brusquely to my desk, check my email, and get started with my day. If someone said “hello” or “good morning” to me, I always reciprocated. But rarely was I the initiator.
As an introvert, the first step towards appearing extroverted is being proactive. Even something as simple as a “hello” or “good morning” engenders a feeling of goodwill in others. It’s a very low-stress thing to do, as it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to engage in a long conversation. But it does show you care.
Once you habitually start this routine, you won’t even notice you’re doing it. Make it a game to see if you can say it before your co-worker or client. After a while, it will become second nature.
- Engage fully in non-verbal communication
Man is by nature a verbal communicator. Before television and typeset, people would tell stories to each other to exchange information and provide entertainment. For some people, verbal communication is highly stressful. They go into a fight-or-flight response.
For those people, appearing as an extrovert through talking will be tough. However, thanks to technology, more and more communication is done non-verbally.
I work for a company called WorkSmart.net that has created a whole suite of online products to allow employees to collaborate in the cloud. There are many other fast growing companies in the collaboration space, including Slack, HipChat, and Yammer.
The key to these collaboration tools is to be actively engaged. Communicate proactively, share generously, praise others. You can also use sites like LinkedIn to network with others without having to engage verbally. By building up your network, and communicating through written word, you’ll remain top of mind at your company and with customers.
- Practice low-stress communication
Whenever I work on a new consulting engagement, the first potential customers I reach out to on their behalf I know are going to say “no”. Why? Because I purposely select their worst potential leads to practice with.
Malcolm Gladwell has postulated his 10,000 hours of practice to master something. I like to do my own 100 phone calls that I know are going to fail as practice. That way I can become comfortable speaking about my client, about their product, and about the benefits, the solution will bring to the customer.
Sales are not easy. But if you know you are going to be rejected, you can relax and speak authentically. Nothing is on the line. Then I know that 101st call – or that huge important enterprise deal – I’ll have confidence in myself and my ability to articulate my thoughts well.
Stephen Covey postulates in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that you should picture yourself at your funeral, and what people will say about you there. Whenever I feel tense in a situation that requires extroversion, I always remember that thought. Will this one conversation define me? Heck no.
Appearing extroverted requires baby steps. Start with hello, work on your non-verbal communication, and make a few low-stress phone calls. Before you know it, pretending to be an extrovert might just be fun.