Self-Promotion for Introverts

Career advancement tips, quips, and insights for the quieter crowd

Improv for Introverts

Unexpected bedfellows unite on the spot

Beth Buelow and I share a passion for improv—and we’re both introverts, those creatures who roam the quiet, dark corners of the earth and are not known for speaking on the spot—if at all. Yet, we’re changing that. Buelow, a coach and blogger who runs The Introvert Entrepreneur, is also the author of Insight: Reflections on the Gifts of Being an Introvert.

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I just chatted with Buelow on Twitter about the hidden gifts that improvisation offers introverts—and how you can practice some simple career-enhancing techniques every day. In case you missed it, check out a transcript of our tweets below about opening doors with two small words, answering tough questions on the spot, and reliquishing the pressure to be perfect.

NA: We're both passionate about improvisation for introverts. What about it excites you?

BB: That it is a fun, relatively safe way to practice the things that scare us, esp. thinking on our feet!

NA:  Yes. Thinking on our feet is not one of our many natural gifts. So say more.

BB:  Introverts R internal processors, so thinking out loud is uncomfortable. Improv gives us *tools* 2 practice in a safe space.

NA:  Yes, and one of my favorite tools is the words I used to start this tweet: "Yes, and...." How do you relate to that?

BB:  Absolutely! It's 1 of my favs, too. It's abt accepting someone's offer+bldg on it, which diminishes fear of rejection.

NA:  Saying yes keeps the conversation going, encouraging creativity and possibilities.

BB:  Yes; once U start practicing it, U starting noticing how many conversations are shut down by "Well, no..." or "Yeah, but..."

NA:  Indeed. "Yes, and" is a great tool for everything from job interviews, negotiations, to fielding Qs during Q and A sessions.

BB:  Works at home, too! :-) It serves to acknowledge the other person's viewpoint + eases tension w/partners, kids, friends

NA:  Right. We've been demonstrating "Yes, and" through this dialog. How about if we give an example of "blocking"?

BB:  OK, in the spirit of daring to fail, you'll have to elaborate on that one. You go first :-)

BB:  Oh, I think I know! :-) And no, let's talk about daring to fail first.

NA:  Say you're in a sales conversation and the prospect says, "Do you have that in chartreuse?" and you don't. What do you say?

BB:  Blocking: Sorry, we don't have that. We only have purple, yellow and red, and there are no other options.

NA:  Yes & the prospect goes elsewhere. Instead you could engage the prospect, find out more about what they need. Build a bond.

BB:  Exactly. "Oh, it sounds like you want to stand out! We have other colors on hand that might do the trick. What do you think?"

NA:  Right. And let's say you get a lead for a gig and it's not right for you. You could just say, "No, thanks." What do you do?

BB:  U cld say "Thanks for the opportunity. I'm better suited for this role over here + think Sally wld be perfect for the lead."

NA:  Exactly. This way, everyone benefits, and you position yourself as a valuable connector (assuming Sally is an ace!).

BB:  Yes, & that's an opportunity to make ur partner (in this case, Sally) look good!

NA:  Indeed. How do you handle it when you're put on the spot with tough questions in a business conversation?

BB:  If the ??s feel tough, it might be b/c I don't have enough info. My first instinct is to ask ??s of my own for clarification.

BB:  I might also say "I don't know right now. Can you tell me more?" That's forwarding action + releasing pressure to be perfect.

NA:  Agreed. I like to paraphrase the question and/or comment on the question to buy time to let my introvert's brain process.

BB:  Yes. Keep the other person talking, LOL! It gives me time 2 pick up words/ideas to riff off of until my thoughts are gathered

NA:  Yes. The more they talk, the more I get to think!

BB:  Agreed! Then the challenge is breaking into the talk when I'm ready to speak. That's when "Yes, and" is a gracious interrupter.

NA:  Absolutely. Any other ideas about interjecting, which can be a real challenge for us introverts?

BB:  I've used the universal (?) hand signal for "time out!" with a friendly :-), or a polite "I want to jump in here..."

BB:  I also think introverts have to remember that talkers often *expect* to be interrupted. It's not always rude to them.

NA:  That can work well. Also, I like to say the other party's name to get their attention. Important to smile when interjecting.

BB:  Oh, yes, their name! I love that. It's like a snap back to the present.

NA:  Any other improv techniques you'd like to share to help introverts succeed in business?

BB:  So glad U asked. My FAVORITE is "be average." We think we have 2 "shine"+"be big"+"clever/funny." Trust that your offering...

BB:  is going to be just right, perfect in its imperfection. Release the pressure that can come w/having to think of all sides...

BB:  of an issue before speaking. Improv is great 4 practicing average. When we *try* too hard to be smart/funny/clever...

BB:  it often backfires. It's when we trust ourselves to be ourselves that we're relaxed enough to shine in our own powerful way!

NA:  Thought provoking advice. Insisting on being perfect is paralyzing. You'd never get out or say anything.

BB:  Instead of wrapping myself up in worries abt perfection, I shift to curiosity, "I wonder what's going to go wrong here?" ...

BB:  and then I trust that I can handle whatever happens (thank U Susan Jeffers+"Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway"!)

NA:  Yes, and if you can't, there's no use stressing over it. You can always say you'll follow up with more information.

BB:  Stress is such a waste of time+precious energy! Breathe through it all + trust–that's my bottom line.

NA:  We've covered a lot of ground: "yes, and," blocking, A's to tough Qs, interjecting, and boo hissing perfectionism.

NA:  Any parting advice on improv for introverts?

BB:  Find a workshop or class + give it a try! Or, just pick a principle, like "Yes, and" + practice it daily. Just like...

BB:  anything that's new, it'll be uncomfortable 4 a while. But that will fade + ur confidence will build. It's worth the effort!

BB:  Oh, and you might just surprise yourself and have FUN.

NA:  Thank you for all your advice and insights for the quiet crowd. Yes, make improv a daily practice - starting today.

NA:  Yes, the magic is often in the moment, the connection with others in surprising ways, and the creativity that can emerge.

BB:  Thanks, Nancy- this has been fun! Here's to introverts+improv=new introvert superpowers!

NA:  Er, not to mention the business results....

BB:  Always! Sounds like fodder for another Twitter chat... :-) Until then!

NA:  What can I say, but "yes, and"? Until then, happy improvising.

 

© Copyright 2013 Nancy Ancowitz

Minor edits were made to the exchange above.

 

Nancy Ancowitz is a business communication coach, an adjunct instructor at NYU, and the author of Self-Promotion for Introverts (McGraw-Hill).

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