I am an introvert, and for years I struggled with the prospect that many extroverts were achieving the fame, accolades and recognition I deeply desired. Yet I felt I did not have the enormous energy for people and self-promotion that extroverts naturally possessed, and was too sensitive a person to achieve this. The rift in my identity that this began to create in me engendered a passion to discover and address the question of how to get what I truly desired in life- those lofty ambitions that kept me up at night.

I am not alone. The truth is that Western society favours extroversion. We are generally taught that introverts are people who prefer to work and stay in the background. However, a major concern for many introverts is achieving a life worthy of recognition while being authentic and true to oneself in an extroverted world. Many worry that they don’t have the energy to do all that the extrovert does, but yet they deeply desire to be just as accomplished, recognised and celebrated. Indeed, both groups are equally endowed with the capacity for great achievement.

This describes what I like to call the dilemma of the ambitious introvert. In a sense it’s not a dilemma at all if we understand introversion and extroversion as sitting on the opposite ends of the same continuum. When we take this perspective the two concepts become more fluid and allow for varying degrees of introversion among the body of introverts and the same for extroverts. This perspective also allows that we stand at a fixed point in relation to each other on the continuum. This means the “ambitious introvert” is really one who is closer to extroversion on the continuum than others.

The use of the word ambitious does not imply that because I may dream of receiving Damehood from the Queen of England that another who desires to see all her kindergarten students grow up to be healthy and productive citizens is not ambitious. We are both ambitious. The word here is simply to describe those persons who presume to want to achieve anything in life.

Another point to consider is that, if we live long enough to grow old, as we get older, we will become less self-focused and more interested in others and contributing to society and the world. We develop into more well-rounded individuals, and the lines of introversion and extroversion are blurred to the onlooker who holds these concepts too rigidly. Our greater orientation to being other-centered may make the introvert appear more extroverted, and the growing need for introspection makes the extrovert appear more introverted, and I’d like to believe we meet each other at the idyllic middle.

If you really think about it, can you tell whether your 63 year old grandfather is an introvert or an extrovert? All you know and care is that he is a person. It may well be then that the contention of introversion and extroversion is a preoccupation of Gen-Yers, and Millennials, or the young.

So how can you mitigate the chasm between who you are and what you want to achieve? How can you get what you truly desire in life?

1. Know who you are

Introversion is the preference for introspection, and internal processing of information as a way of life. Introverts do their best thinking alone, and gain the most energy from quiet time with self, reflecting, processing, planning, and doing. Introverts think before they speak and do not readily share their values and beliefs unless prompted to do so. While extroverts gain energy from interacting with many people, introverts do not. Therefore the crux of the matter for introverts is their energy and how they manage it.

Complementary to this is to get a good sense of your personality type and how you function best, what motivates you and what your definition of success is. Doing a personality test with a tool like the Carl Jung’s 16 Personality types or the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator is an excellent place to start. From a place of knowledge you will be equipped to grow your vision.

2. Think like an extrovert 

If you want to achieve like an extrovert, you must think like one. Ask yourself what would the extrovert do, and do the same. I do not recommend that you attempt to try to become an extrovert but rather take patterns from them. Without trying to show-up like one, you can adopt positive key lessons from observing them. They are not afraid to tell others about their skills, and abilities, and you shouldn’t be either. After all, you will not be recognised for work the world does not know that you do. So show up and introduce yourself.

3. Be strategic – cut to the chase

If you desire to be visible, strategy becomes key in making connections, networking, and visiblity. One of the ways we are taught to be visible is to be active on all social media platforms, show up in facebook groups constantly posting, commenting, and engaging to build momentum and visibility, in other words constant talking.

While extroverts excel at this and may relish it, most introverts find this an unappealing prospect – impractical, inefficient, and downright draining. Instead of doing this, I recommend that you shoot straight for what you desire. Only reach out to key persons, building rapport, informing them of the purpose for reaching out, seek to cultivate a relationship, and demonstrate how you see your contribution can add further value to what they are creating.

4. Create your own path

I believe the best way to achieve what you desire is to create it for yourself. Do not solely rely on more extroverted persons to facilitate you. Do not wait for people to book you, I recommend that you create your own opportunities, and establish yourself as the expert. This will give you a great sense of satisfaction, and a new level of self-respect.

Besides, people will still need a frame of reference for what you say you can do. Therefore there must be ready social evidence to support what you say about yourself. Go ahead and create your life.

5. Delegate to Extroverts

Even though you are great at planning, structuring, and organising behind the scenes, if achieving your dreams requires mining a Facebook group 20 hours a day in order to promote and sell your products and services, I recommend delegating all marketing and promotion activity like these to the experts (aka the extroverts). This frees you up to spend energy on the things you do best.

6. Go ahead and promote yourself

Promoting yourself, making connections, pitching how great you are at what you do is not sleazy or inauthentic, but quite practical and sensible. Not achieving your dreams can be woefully unsatisfying, and not an option for ambitious introverts.

So…go ahead and promote yourself. Tell the people with whom you desire to connect (and the world) how great you are at what you do, because you are highly introspective, thorough, caring, and precise, and that’s why you will add tremendous value to their lives.

7. Take consistent, methodical steps

Introverts are kings and queens of the methodical; we are great planners and can structure our lives very well. Therefore instead of trying to mimic the spontaneity of many extroverts, you should do what you do best, plan and construct. I recommend these four steps.

First, envision what you desire clearly. Then determine what it takes to get there, without making a judgment about how simple or difficult it is. Next, create a list of clear and simple action steps to match, and finally, methodically work your plan to achieve your dream.

8. Stay focused

As you observe your extroverted colleagues take action toward their goals, ever so often you may be tempted to act out like an extrovert, or may doubt that the path you are taking will get you to where you desire to be. But it’s important to stay focused and not be deterred from your path.


If you follow the above steps, then you will accomplish what you desire. Be authentic, be yourself, and do not force your energy beyond its limit. Be methodical and you will achieve what you truly desire.

 

Lleuella Morris is a Personal Development Consultant based in Trinidad & Tobago. She creates tools, techniques, systems, and frameworks to grow and develop people, bringing them a greater understanding of themselves, develop their capacity, and help them solve difficult ‘thorn-in-the-flesh’ existential life issues. She specialises in Personality and Personal Growth and enjoys bringing new knowledge and perspective on old issues to change outdated thinking and promote emotional and cognitive well-being. You’ll find Lleuella at AMZ Consulting Company Limited.


Every memory of childhood is about me spending time in nature, spending time with the animals or wandering around in the neighbourhood on my own.

Pretty much all my life, I’ve always loved solitary time and I lived with the silent feeling that I didn’t fit in… until I realised that it wasn’t true.

Opposites attract each other; the majority of my friends that I had and have are extroverts. What I didn’t know was how much I enjoyed being around them because they did all the talking and I did all the listening. This had eventually led to me to do what I do today which requires a lot of attentive listening.

Even now, people sometimes consider it a a weakness that when I attend trainings, I’m shy, quiet and that I don’t mingle with groups. Now this is different when I lead my own events and workshops. More on that later. Of course, they probably didn’t say that out of bad intentions, but for a long time, that really made me believe that I have a major weakness – I don’t fit in.

I’m shy. I’m quiet. I can’t mingle with groups. That’s what my inner-critic says.

It became an affirmation in my head which made it worse. So if you’re someone who goes through similar things, I’ve got great news for you.

As an INTP by Myer Briggs Personality Test and someone who has experienced the not-so-favourable side of being an introvert, I get you.

I’ve done a lot of research over the years, and especially recently, on this very topic, with the intention to be more like them and to work on my weaknesses. Little did I know what I’d find would change my life.

So first up, it is not a weakness. In fact, it’s a strength.

The world is set up for extroverts

If you look back at the early 20th century, women were expected to be quiet, modest, reserved, shy and mild-mannered. Fast forward a hundred years later, the requirements in workplaces and businesses have changed. We now want people who are driven, energetic, sociable, outgoing and of an extroverted nature.

The person who speaks louder, who’s more out there, and has more dominance seems to be a better fit for leadership positions. Verbal fluency and sociability are the two most important factors for success, according to Stanford Business School. I’ve been part of so many masterminds, workshops and trainings. Every time we had to pick a leader, 9 out of 10 times, people would naturally pick someone who has an out-there personality and loud voice, and exudes dominance.

As an introvert, I watch. I sit back. I learn. I listen. So I see.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that being an introvert is hard not only in the workplaces and businesses but also in the society. When we’re seen as timid and shy, we automatically lose people’s subconscious votes for us to become leaders.

So we very hard to be extroverts. In fact, back in 1999 a drug called Paxil was produced to enhance extroversion and to cure shyness.

As a result, introverts go against their natural tendency and pretend to talk confidently and loudly, however uncomfortable it may be. We then feel more stressed and take longer time to recuperate from it when we finally have the time to be ourselves.

This was definitely my experience. When I found myself in situations where I had what it took for me a leader, but my natural tendency wasn’t to talk loudly, my voice wasn’t heard. Then someone who could speak louder, but was not necessarily a better leader, was given the leadership position.

Or I would push myself to speak louder, act more outgoing, and go to networking events with a big grin as if I was a complete extrovert, just so I’d be noticed or heard. That worked, and it got me business, but then I wouldn’t go out for the next five days because I was recovering all the energy I’d used.

How introverts and extroverts operate

So before we go any further, it’s good to understand the differences between introverts and extroverts. This table only scratches the surface but this will give you an idea of how we operate differently.

On top of that, one thing that really blew my mind was the in-depth research done by a scientist named Jerome Kagan – which shows how our natural tendencies influence how we perceive the world and how we show up every day.

One thing about me that people comment on, both in a negative and positive way—depending on who’s making the comment—is that I’m very sensitive. Being sensitive has such a negative connotations, but being sensitive also comes from a place of deep care for others and also how we’re wired.

Highly sensitive people not only just pick up the slightest cues from those around us that happen within split seconds, we also feel the words and expressions of others deeply. Surprisingly, we also feel other people’s energies twice as much. In the spiritual world, we’re called “empaths”—those who feel and take on other people’s energies in our bodies.

I’ve sat in countless numbers of transformational workshops where we do deep mindset work, and also in the jungles of South America working with indigenous shamans on traditional healing modalities. When I sat in groups and circles where people experienced healing of their past traumas, I’d feel them as my own in my body. Most of the time, with healing comes a lot of pain and I would be confused as to why I was feeling so much emotional and physical pain. I used to think—because of the comments I’ve received over the years—that I was too sensitive, and simply dramatising the whole experience.

But are we really dramatising it or are our bodies made genetically to be that way?

The answer from Kagan’s research, where he monitors 500 people from infancy to adulthood, shows that although it’s not black and white clear-cut, we’re highly influenced by the temperament and the genetics we’re born with that defines how we take in information daily.

So the question is, how do we go about in our lives as introverts?

As Susan Cain says in her famous TedTalk on introversion, her way of socialising is to be in a room full of people who love to read and internally reflect, but enjoy each other’s company.

We’re all built and wired differently, and the first step is to recognise and acknowledge our natural tendencies and to optimise our performance based on it.

So here are some of the things that I would suggest and that I personally do to navigate a world that favours extroversion in interpersonal relationships and leadership positions.

Connect with people one on one

Although I can switch gears to my adapted extroverted self, I prefer to connect deeply with people one on one. So when you’re with a group of people, you will intuitively pick out a person you can connect with. Although the rules of networking is about getting to know as many people as possible and getting seen as much as possible, that one profound connection will create not only a more meaningful relationship, but also open several exciting doors.

Practice

If, like me, you give talks to large groups of people, practise, practise and practise. Find out what’s required of you, what’s expected of you and what you need to deliver. Again, connect to one person each in the audience. This will transfer that energy that you’re transmitting to the group like wildfire.

Solitary is paradise

I’m a lone wolf and I absolutely love my solitary time. This time alone allows us to reflect and go within to start the introspection process and come up with many ideas. How do you think Steve Wozniak (the co-founder of Apple) or Ghandi can make such impacts on the world? By spending alone time to recharge, reflect and create.

Listening

One of my strengths since young is my ability to listen with the intent to understand, and to ask questions that make people think. It’s what led me to where I am today in my business. Many people like to talk, and not many listen. When there’s someone who listens and ask questions, that makes people feel heard and special. That also allows you to understand people better. One of the traits to win friends and influence people—from the famous book by Dale Carnegie—is to listen, and by doing so you put the spotlight on others which makes people appreciate you more.

Use social media

From watching my social media videos and livestreams and judging my energy and enthusiasm, many people believe I’m an extrovert. The thing is, that energy and enthusiasm comes from being able to spend majority of my waking hours alone—thinking, reflecting and creating. So if you struggle to connect with large groups of people in person because it drains your energy levels far too quickly, social media is the best way to spread your message.


So there you go. Being quiet, soft-spoken and needing a lot of time on your own isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the majority of leaders who are making an impact in the world are introverts.

The key here is to honour our natural tendencies and learn ways to navigate in our daily lives so we can optimise our performance to the max. Let’s put an end to suppressing who we are and start showing up in our authentic selves. The world doesn’t need more fast-talkers, big personalities and dominant characters. The world needs more leaders who honour their true self and show up with courage, conviction and authenticity.

 

Arabelle Yee a nationally recognised Speaker, Life Strategist and High Performance Coach. She helps individuals, entrepreneurs and professionals become the best at what they do through the power of mindset. “A cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Tony Robbins”, as her peers would say, Arabelle teaches Leadership, Mindset, Human Behaviour and how to optimise performance. Arabelle works with clients from professionals and change makers to multiple 7-figure entrepreneurs. She’s also been featured on Sunday Times, The West Australian, 7 Days News, Huffington Post and many more.


There are a lot of articles, books and TED talks at the moment about Introversion. There are 3 key things that you should know about Introverts and how they can be at their most effective at work and in life.

1 – It’s about energy

Introversion and Extraversion refers to how we get our energy and where we focus our attention. Extraverts are energised by interacting with people and Introverts find it draining. Introverts need alone time to recharge.

For Introverts to function at their most effective, they need to take recharge breaks. Whether that is a quiet office space (open plan offices bring out the best in extraverts), a quiet break in the park, or even a corner to shut out the world for a few minutes, Introverts need to manage their energy levels and recognise the need for a top up. Extraverts can help the process by recognising that it’s necessary and not overwhelming Introverts.

Like your phone, Introverts need to plug in and charge quietly when the batteries get low. Introverts often get good at creating their own “cone of silence” even in a crowded place. They can zone out and will literally not notice someone speaking to them. They don’t intend to be rude, they are just inside their own heads. This happened to me the other day at the airport. I was walking along the concourse inside my cone of silence and realised someone was calling out to me. It was someone I know and I hadn’t noticed her even though we nearly bumped into each other.

2 – Introversion is not shyness, or social ineptness.

Extraverts are interested in and pay attention to the outside world of people and things around them, while Introverts are focused on their internal world of thoughts and impressions. Introverts tend to have a small group of close friends with whom they are very comfortable.

Because they are less interested in the world of people, they may find it more difficult to make small talk with new people, until they find some common ground. Introverts tend to be quite private people and are not comfortable talking about themselves. This can make small talk challenging for them also. Find a topic in common with an Introvert and the conversation will flow.

Networking, while a crucial part of business, is not something an Introvert looks forward to. As a clear Introvert, I know I need to network, but find it a real struggle. I set myself targets to help, like “I will meet 5 new potential clients, chat to them about their businesses and exchange cards”. Setting myself a task prevents me from taking the safe option of only talking to people I know. I have also included networking events in my business scorecard to keep me on track.

3 – Introverts process by thinking

When a group of Extraverts work together they create ideas using “draft speak”. This means that what they are thinking comes out of their mouths and they build on each other’s thoughts. I had a very clear Extravert tell me one “I don’t know what I’m thinking until I say it”! Meanwhile, the Introverts in the room are thinking quietly about the issue until it is fully processed and they have their final idea or thoughts. Then, and only then, will they speak.

The challenge with groups and teams is they are more than likely going to consist of both Extraverts and Introverts. So, the Extraverts are creating thoughts and ideas by speaking, and unless the Introverts get space to speak, they are often not heard. Something they will say is “by the time I am ready to say what I think, either I can’t get a word in or the conversation has moved on and it’s too late”!

Groups I have worked with have developed processes to manage this issue. Some groups agree to circulate the agenda and papers in advance, to give people time to think about it before the meeting. Others create a respectful process where before moving on to the next topic they do a round table to capture everyone’s thoughts. Introverts can accept that draft speaking is a valid way of processing and learn to participate, and to interject perhaps before they feel 100% ready or risk missing the moment.

The big learning? It’s about understanding and accepting each other’s differences. What works for you won’t necessarily work for others – and that’s perfectly ok.

Are you an Extravert or an Introvert? Let us know in the comments!

Image via flickr

Rosalind Cardinal is The Leadership Alchemist and Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.

Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 25 years.  Ros brings an energetic and proactive approach combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Her expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.

Visit www.shapingchange.com.au to pick up your complimentary copy of Ros’ e-guide to Leading Change. Written for managers who are tasked with leading organisational change, the guide presents practical steps to leading successful change.