We are immersed in the media’s interpretations of style, success, happiness, beauty. It’s really no wonder that some of us become so obsessed with the right look, the right man and or the right job that we lose track of our uniqueness, differences, our very selves. The pressure to conform to the expectations of another can be so intense that we choose a career or a mate in a dangerous attempt to please and to fit in. Are you trying to live someone else’s life?
For most of my adult life, I have been a closet introvert.
Since we live in the world inhabited by “The Extrovert Ideal”, author of Quiet, Susan Cain estimates that a third to half of Americans are like me, by nature, introverted, but do daily battle to persuade themselves and others that they are extroverts.
If you have spent more a week in the corporate world, then the Meyers Brigg Inventory is undoubtedly familiar to you; perhaps, like me, you hesitated when you were answering the questions which would clearly lead to the diagnosis of introvert versus extrovert.
The basis of the Meyer Briggs Inventory is Jungian. As with many complex theories, our culture has simplified Jung’s personality analysis for use in sound bytes: Introvert equals shy, passive and weak while Extrovert implies strength, leadership and courage. Although these simple ratios have some semblance of relation to Jung’s theory of basic personality, the reality is a good deal more complicated. The result is what Cain describes as the extrovert ideal.
Our corporate cultures are universally prejudiced against the introvert, therefore the thoughtful, reflective type of person is well aware of the expectations of her superiors and employees and most of us answer the questions in a way befitting a boss, a Director, a CEO.
Cain, a closet introvert who has recently come out, makes the argument that all major institutions, from church to corporation favor the extrovert with their relentless emphasis on group activities of all forms and purposes.
I had been married to my husband for several years when I realized that he is the extrovert and I am the introvert. While in my corporate life, I was immersed in the activities that befit my position and had considered me the out-going, personable one and him, the quiet and reflective one.
But when that phase of my life ended and I began to write more, read more, study more, I realized that I preferred books or writing to casual conversation; that in a crowd of strangers, that it was he would be out and about introducing himself to people and enjoying their conversation while I couldn’t wait to get back to the article I needed to finish or the great book I was reading.
In a phone conversation with a dear friend who has known me for many years, I announced my latest insight about my newly diagnosed introversion. Her response was hearty laughter followed by her comment that we were both introverts; it was just that it took us much of our lives to realize it.
In her book Quiet, Cain uses examples of personalities like Rosa Parks to demonstrate the fallacy of assuming that quiet connotes weakness or shy is indicative of a personality disorder as she lists those who consider themselves introverts: Speilberg, Buffett, Einstein, Yeats are only a few of introverted leaders in a variety of fields.
But how does all of this relate to what you and I do when we do our business of marketing, you ask?
It’s simple, I think.
The extrovert ideal is simply another ploy that our culture holds over those of us who tend to stand back and watch when in a big group; and if we buy that reflection equates with weakness or that a preference to write rather than speak is a predictor of failure, we are permitting those who have no knowledge of our skills or of our passions to dictate the direction of our lives.
If you are a closet introvert, isn’t it somehow liberating to acknowledge and embrace your nature?
Aren’t you more likely to close that next sale if you are true to your given nature; one that is best suited to listen, to ask questions and to think before a reply?
And won’t your prospect appreciate your authenticity?
Lin Wilder, DrPH is a former Hospital Director, now full time internet marketer, trainer and author
Lin’s website is lleads.com.