Introvert | noun
A term introduced by the psychologist Carl Jung to describe a person whose motives and actions are directed inward. Introverts tend to be preoccupied with their own thoughts and feelings and minimize their contact with other people.
As someone who’s always been told to “speak-up,” “come out of my shell” or stop being “shy” by parents, teachers and bosses alike, you may think it strange that I now find myself a PR professional.
In a world of cold calling media, brainstorms, client presentations and new business pitches, the PR industry can be an extrovert’s playground. And to be honest, I’ve often felt the pressure to be bold, audacious and assertive for fear of not fitting in and being seen as less valuable than my outgoing counterparts.
But, did you know that a third to a half of the world is introverted? In a 2012 TED talk, Susan Cain, a former corporate lawyer and self-proclaimed introvert, shared her thoughts on the personality type. She’s adamant that today’s society is biased, placing too much importance on social and outgoing behaviour and in turn shaming those who are not. Cain argues that introverts do make great contributions (Chopin, Rosa Parks, Gandhi) and that we must foster, encourage and celebrate this temperament. Otherwise, it’ll be the world’s loss.
Why? Creativity. Although collaboration is necessary, solitude is also a key to success. When brainstorming in a larger group, it’s very easy to sway towards the opinions of the loudest in the room – and something that can happen without notice. By providing the opportunity to digest information and think independently outside of the ensemble, people can then meet and exchange thoughts and good ideas.
To add, introverts can be excellent leaders. In her talk, Cain suggests that this subset is routinely passed over for promotions because of their nature; however, the innate tendencies of an introvert also make for a great boss. Introverts are less likely to micromanage or overshadow others’ ideas with their own. Instead, they encourage their colleagues to run with programs, helping foster team growth and development.
They’re also great listeners, a skill paramount to crafting effective messages – a core function of PR. For a message to deliver the desired effect, it must connect with an intended audience. The best way to understand the audience is to listen, reflect and analyze a situation before moving forward with a strategic response.
Just because you’re not proving yourself hard and fast in every meeting doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful PR professional. How does one manage an introverted self in an extroverted world? Here are some tips I find helpful:
Build relationships one-on-one:
Large groups can feel intimidating, even if it’s a room full of colleagues. Although meetings, presentations and brainstorms are part of the job, it’s beneficial to put time and energy into building and maintaining relationships one-on-one whenever possible. You’ll feel more comfortable speaking up when you’ve built rapport with the people in the room.
Have confidence in your strengths:
Often introverts are misunderstood for being shy, and truthfully it’s very easy to feel insecure about exhibiting introverted traits. As mentioned, I’ve personally tried to pass as an extrovert, attempting to prove that I can be loud too. But this tactic didn’t improve my communications skills, and I found myself acting in ways that weren’t true to who I am. Instead, it’s important to concentrate on your strengths and feel confident in what you bring to the table.
Look for opportunities to practice
Group interactions can spark fight or flight mentality. Without reverting back to animal instincts, take time to practice, practice, practice. If a client presentation or meeting is on the horizon, prepare far in advance and schedule several rehearsals – even if it’s by yourself, at home, in front of the mirror. This proactive stance will help instill confidence and calm butterflies.
Don’t be afraid to be an introvert. There are certainly perks to being a wallflower.
Ali Azzopardi is a Senior Account Executive at Citizen Relations.