Introverts and influence aren’t two words that you normally think of in the same blink. Yet, Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D.
, in her book Quiet Influence
, turns that misconception on its head. What can you learn about influencing others without necessarily making a peep? Check out the following exchange that Kahnweiler and I had on Twitter. An executive coach who speaks internationally, she is also the author of The Introverted Leader
and has been recognized as a “champion for introverts.” As an introvert, I appreciate Twitter because I get to think before I tweet, and I enjoy doing so in 140-character bursts. Conversely, Kahnweiler says that she appreciates being forced to think before she tweets and being succinct, two challenges for her as an extrovert.
NA: In Quiet Influence you show that introverts can be highly effective influencers without acting like extroverts. How?
JK: By making the most of their natural, quiet strengths. So much more impactful when they do that!
NA: Agreed. How do you define influence, and what is “quiet influence”?
JK: Make a difference: challenge the status quo, provoke new ways of thinking, effect change or inspire others to move forward.
JK: Big, vibrant personalities are not necessary ingredients. The quieter, more thoughtful voice often speaks the best ideas.
JK: QI folks acknowledge and tap into their internal energy to engage with the outside world. Ex.: think first, talk later :)
NA: Thinking first, talking later is a strong introvert need.
JK: Organizations don't often respect the need for introverts to think first. Bias toward action and against reflection. Agree?
NA: Indeed. We live in an action-oriented time and culture.
JK: Yes! But slowly things are changing as we thankfully see the “Rise of the Introverts!”
NA: You talk about QIQ, or the Quiet Influence Quotient. How can you increase your QIQ?
JK: By considering your influencing challenge and thoughtfully applying these strengths. Charting progress is cool!
JK: There is more than one way to have some sway. We can make a great impact by using the strengths of Quiet Influence.
JK: 6 strengths: Quiet Time, Preparation, Engaged Listening, Focused Conversations, Writing and Thoughtful Use of Social Media.
JK: I's move into having focused conversations where they put forth their point of view. Listen and talk.
JK: If you have to sell an idea try writing an email AND having a focused conversation. The strengths work well together.
NA: Peanut butter and chocolate. Eh?
JK: Absolutely! Or cream cheese and bagels.
NA: Yes, and an introvert might like to have those quietly, at her desk, or while influencing one key stakeholder over lunch.
JK: Food, like laughter, is a relationship builder :)
NA: Yes. Food is a universal way to bring people together.
NA: And you talk about the downside of overusing quiet strengths too.
JK: Asking too many questions when listening can be seen as not being competent or confident. Agree?
NA: Yes. That can result in the appearance of nervousness or sounding "junior" rather than authoritative.
JK: Quiet time can be overused and lead to a lack of motivation and lost opportunities. Not good for influencing :(
NA: So it sounds as if introverts need to strike the right balance between quiet and social time, depending on their goals.
JK: Yes! And it varies from person to person, place to place, "Know thyself" is the catch phrase here.
JK: I's are always having to adapt to E's. By borrowing from the QI playbook of embracing solitude, great things can happen!
NA: Yes. Too much people time is like Kryptonite for introverts. We need those breaks for reflecting for our best contributions.
JK: By the way, extroverts are grabbing the idea of quiet time and running with it. Running phrase fits right?
NA: Indeed. Can you give examples of individuals you consider to be quiet influencers?
JK: Famous QI folks: Tim Cook (Apple CEO), Janet Yellen (new Federal Reserve head), Steve Wozniak, Doug Conant, Warren Buffett. Many more!
JK: Even more important are the millions of “QI'rs” across countries, industries and fields who make a difference every day.
NA: So how can introverts communicate their messages at noisy meetings where they struggle to get in a word edgewise?
JK: Meetings are a HUGE challenge for I's. Use the 1st P on the 4 P's Process*: PREPARE. Know questions to ask, rehearse their comments.
NA: Indeed. And those conversations can happen in person or virtually.
JK: Yes. Social media is a boon for QI's who can decide when and how they respond. It is a great tool to increase influence.
NA: Yes. Social media is lovely for introverts because, at least in its written forms, we can reflect before hitting "send."
JK: Social media moves people to action (ex.: Arab Spring) and helps Quiet Influencers achieve visibility and builds relationships.
JK: The best QI'rs are givers on social media and do (as you say) post quality content!
NA: Thank you for posting your quality content today.
NA: What trends indicate that now is the time for quiet influence? You mention flattened organizations as one example in your book.
JK: You must communicate key messages to a complex web of vendors, suppliers, customers in and out of the organization.
JK: Other influencing styles work better globally.
JK: I really appreciate the chance to get to know you and dialogue on the rise of introverts and quiet influence.
NA: Thank you for our chat and for writing your book, which has lots of great concrete advice for Is and insights for Es too.
JK: I appreciate the incredible work you do to tell the introvert story. A pleasure to connect.
*“The Four P’s Process of Leadership Success,” originally described in the Introverted Leader: Prepare, Presence, Push, Practice.
Edits were made to the Twitter exchange above for clarity.
© Copyright 2014 Nancy Ancowitz