Cutting-Edge Leadership

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Introversion: 5 Strategies for Pushing Out Your Comfort Zone

How introverts can better express themselves and feel more at ease

Over the years, a number of friends and colleagues who are self-professed introverts (and some who have actually been assessed via personality tests) have shared strategies that they use to better engage others in social situations. Each of these strategies has something in common: It requires that the person push beyond his or her comfort zone.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with being introverted, but these are individuals who don’t feel completely at ease in certain social situations, and have developed ways to deal with those feelings. Here are some of the strategies:

1. Be the Greeter. A very close friend said that her strategy when hosting a party or open house is to stand near the door as each person arrives and greet each individually. She introduces herself, learns their name, and tries to find out something about them (such as the names/ages of children, job, etc.) to help in both recalling names and having something to talk about later.

I’ve found that this strategy works even when you aren’t the host, you simply greet as many people as they enter the event. It makes them feel welcome and at ease and allows you to interact with many people.

2. Pushed Public Speaking. That same friend mentioned her fear of public speaking, and she is in a job that requires occasional public presentations. As an exercise to deal with her anxiety, she has pushed herself to take advantage of any chance to speak publicly. For example, she told me she recently went to a poetry reading and pushed herself to be the first one to recite a poem when they opened up the microphone.

3. Stage Acting. A colleague named Richard is one of the most introverted persons I know – ironic because as a psychologist he has studied introversion and extraversion. Much to my surprise, I heard student often tell me what a humorous “character” Richard was in his classes. He told jokes, did impressions, and clowned around – not at all like the inwardly-focused professor I saw each day. When I asked him about it, he said, “I use the classroom like a stage and play a role of an extraverted and entertaining professor.”

4. Humble Inquiry. A recent book of the same name by psychologist Edgar Schein suggests that asking questions of others that represent a sincere effort to get to know the other person helps put others at ease and helps to develop meaningful conversations and good interpersonal relationships.

5. Be Prepared. Sometimes introverts will feel uneasy when they are suddenly “put on the spot” by being asked to introduce themselves, respond to a complex question, or give an informed opinion. Shyness expert, Bernardo Carducci, suggests that it is important to prepare beforehand when you know you are going into a social situation. Anticipate the kinds of questions you might be asked and have some answers ready.

As one of my introverted friends put it: “I realize that there are a number of social situations that make me uncomfortable, but I’ve found the best way to deal with my uneasiness is to practice pushing out my comfort zone. I make it a personal challenge, but I also find that I feel better afterward.”

 

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http://twitter.com/#!/ronriggio

 

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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