Author Archives: Jennifer Kahnweiler

Introverted leaders share their wisdom

Many of you know that my latest book, The Introverted Leader, 2nd edition launched earlier this month. Writing the book gave me a chance to explore new insights about introverted leaders. Readers and audiences really were the ones who contributed the new content. Marketing the book has also been a cool journey. I have spoken to interviewers I admire and written for publications I truly respect.

Here are a few of those interviews you might enjoy. Check these out and consider subscribing to those that resonate with you.

  • Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution – book excerpt from the Leading and Participating in Meetings chapter
  • Berrett-Koehler’s blog post – Seeking the Next Wave of Introverted Leaders
  • Darcy Eikenberg’s Red Cape Revolution video interview
  • Beth Buelow’s The Introvert Entrepreneur podcast
  • Brandon Smith Show interview – Insight for The Introverted Leader (video) (audio)
  • Craig Price’s Reality Check podcast (episode 249)
  • Julie Winkle Giulioni’s blog post
  • Steve Glaviski’s podcast on Future2
  • My article in HR Magazine – Have We Gone Too Far in Promoting Collaboration?
  • My interview with Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence on The Seven Myths of Book Marketing

Buying a book and writing a short Amazon review would also be so appreciated!

 

 

Marketing Books Like The Introverted Leader In A New Era

 

Last week,  I had a lively, fun chat with book marketing guru Becky Robinson, Founder of Weaving Influence. Becky’s 6-year-old company just launched their 100th book and her team helped me with the successful launch of The Genius of Opposites two years ago. You can watch our interview here. 

I talked about book marketing myths that I drew from a blog post I wrote, Do You Buy Into These Book Marketing Myths?  We also discussed some of the changes in marketing today as I launch  The Introverted Leader, 2nd Edition coming out on March 6th ( and shameless plug: available for pre-order now.:)

It was quite different back in 2008.  We wrote press releases and pitched to print media by phone.  The practice of excerpting key ideas and “hooks” still stands, though today, we contact the press via email and through social media channels like Twitter.

Now we have bloggers and “influencers.” These people have large communities who follow them and are interested in their recommendations. Getting my book covered on an influencer’s  blog or podcast can be a big visibility win.

There is another great opportunity today that didn’t exist in 2008. I can have a dialogue with my readers and people who are interested in the topic of introverts at work. Social media allows me to engage with people about the ideas in the book and even get discovered by potential readers and clients who hire me to speak and coach.

Today, it is not necessary to hire pricey PR firms to run your campaign. Much of the info on how to plan for and launch a book campaign can be obtained online. Becky’s new Book Marketing Action Guide, for example,  provides a comprehensive and affordable do it yourself roadmap for getting your book in the hands of readers.

And isn’t that why you wrote it in the first place?

Do you buy into these book marketing myths?

If you are an author or aspiring author you probably know that marketing your book is as important, if not more important than writing the book itself.

Last month, Stephan Dietrich, Managing Director of my German publisher Junfermann asked me to share some ideas about book marketing at their first book marketing workshop for authors.  I drew from my own experiences  to highlight what I titled the “7 Myths of Book Marketing.” 

A write-up is below. There is also a video of the talk that is translated into German.

Do you have any other myths to add?

It was 2011 and I was scanning my inbox when my eyes stopped. An email from Richar Ruiz, former director of a university leadership program in Asuncion, Paraguay caught my eye. He had seen a video on YouTube discussing my book The Introverted Leader and based on that clip was inviting me to visit his country and speak about the topic of introverted leadership.

My next click was to do a Google search to find out exactly where Paraguay was! And my journey to South America began. The experience later that year, speaking at their commencement exercises, running a seminar for business leaders and visiting school children was one I will never forget and could never have imagined during the long process of birthing my first book.

Since then I have been fortunate to have left my home in Atlanta, GA to speak in a number of countries in addition to Paraguay including Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia and Canada about the topic of introverts and extroverts in the workplace. I did hope to reach more people globally when I embarked on writing books. These trips have changed my life and I hope I have also impacted people.

In order to reach my goal of speaking internationally, I had to learn more about what sells books. Fortunately, I had some knowledge to build upon. I learned about the value of marketing and public relations in building my coaching and training businesses over the years. You can also draw upon your past marketing experiences to successfully get your book out there.

Here are the 7 Myths about marketing your book with ideas about how to challenge them.

 Myth # 1 – Start marketing when your book launches.

Actually, you should start marketing your book as you are writing it. Why? Readers will be invested in your book before it is even published.  If you are doing research for your book, reach out to your community with surveys and ask for interviews and stories.

You can also take content from the manuscript and divide it up into blog posts in order to raise interest. Social media can be a great tool to share content and mention the book (more about that later). Use your talks and workshops to “float” ideas and see what themes resonate with audiences. At my publisher Berrett-Koehler, we poll people to get their ideas on book titles and cover designs.

Finally, have a plan to directly reach out to your contacts with updates about your progress on writing the book and how they can start to spread the word. You can prepare sample Facebook and Twitter posts to make it easy for your fans to spread the word. By the time of your book launch, people will be waiting and excited to buy the book as well as share it with others!

Myth #2 – See other authors as competitors.

Let’s face it. Other authors do write about our topics and it is natural to feel competitive. But instead of seeing this as a race where you are trying to get ahead look at it as a relay race where you helping each other to cross the finish line. You each can sell many books this way. How can you collaborate? With this mindset, your competitors can become your best allies.

A colleague told me about Susan Cain, who was writing a book about introversion called Quiet(which became a huge bestseller) and he made an introduction to her. We had several stimulating discussions; she gave me a cover endorsement for my book Quiet Influence and invited me to write for her blog. I promoted her work on my social channels and continue to do so. We both realized that our books supported each other in different ways. We have both benefited with press coverage, book sales and work opportunities. It has been a win-win solution. If you do this your readers will see you as a person who is more committed to your topic than promoting yourself.

Myth #3 – The website exists to list your offerings.

Your website is a credibility builder, not simply a sales brochure. You can feature excerpts from your book.   It is also an important place to capture names and build your mailing list.

Your website is the place that prospective and current clients visit as well as the press. Therefore, your offerings should be clearly listed and easy to find. Your website should be dynamic and reflect your brand. If you have some euros to invest, pay for a good website design.

Consider putting your blog on your website so that your information is constantly changing and you are relevant to your readers. Your blog should be updated at least weekly. This will also help your search rankings.

Myth #4 – Social media and public relations is a waste of time and money.   

It can be if you are not smart.

Social media is a key part of your book marketing strategy. A recent survey said that 89% of journalists turn to blogs when researching stories. 65% turn to social networking sites and 52% use Twitter as a resource (from Mastering the New Media Landscape, p. 58 (Berrett-Koehler, 2016) Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton) your content and be sure to share others postings (this is the key to getting more followers and fans). See which sites your community prefers and focus on those sites.

Many people hire PR firms to help them with book promotion and they are very disappointed that this doesn’t lead to their book becoming a bestseller. The truth is that the key to becoming a bestseller is illusive but you increase your chances of book visibility by getting good PR.

Work with PR consultants as partners to plan and share your ideas about the best media targets and pitches for your book. Then ask for regular reports so they are held

accountable. Also remember that journalists can help sell your books. Be prepared for your media interviews and offer quality content. The media will return to you for quotes on stories in the future as well, keeping your book’s title alive well after the launch date.

Myth #5 – Speaking for free doesn’t sell my book – 

Speaking for free gets you visibility and gives you practice so you learn how to talk about your book. Think of these as marketing opportunities. Be open to taking every chance you can to practice speaking. That is how you will improve and make yourself an in-demand speaker.

When you present talks about your book you also hear what aspects of your book are most intriguing to people to include in future speeches. Always try to sell your books at these talks. Book clubs, special interest groups at companies and professional and community groups welcome the chance to have an author visit so think creatively about which groups would be most interested in your topic.

Myth #6 – Giving away books doesn’t sell books.

The expression “Quid pro quo” refers to “something for something.” People feel obligated to give something back to someone who has given them something. When you offer a free-signed book to a person who shows interest in your work, that person will inevitably mention the book to others. This is called “Pass Along Sales.” You can request that these people write a review of the book on Amazon if they liked it. This is very positive for your book’s rankings. Also don’t underestimate the impact of people noticing your book’s cover as your giftee reads their copy in your local coffee shop or on the airplane.

Myth #7 –  Books won’t make you money.

Your royalty check might buy you a nice dinner but it won’t pay the mortgage. However, if your book is aligned with your business you have an excellent chance of securing business and developing long term client relationships. People looking for a coach, trainer or speaker will often contact a book’s author to ask about their services.  Your book gives you instant credibility and offers the proof that is needed to demonstrate your expertise. Many authors have been surprised at what an excellent lead generator their book becomes. Johanna Vondeling, Vice-President Berrett-Koehler publishers refers to it as a “gold-plated business card”.

 So congratulations! You have accomplished what millions talk about but rarely accomplish. You have published a book to be proud of and you have done it with Junfermann, a great publisher (Stephan did not pay me to say that!)

I spent an unforgettable week in Germany; a trip I never could have envisioned when writing my first book. It is now the time to bear the fruits of YOUR labor and make a difference with YOUR book. Start by challenging these marketing myths and you are on your way to achieving results you could never have imagined.”

 

 

 

 

 

Quiet dedication is equal to extroverted and charismatic leadership

 

Introverts make the listicle I love lists of recommended books. These  “Listicles.” as they are known, help me cut through the clutter online. Even if I don’t get to read the entire list of recommendations, I can check out the excerpts.  This also goes for listicles of recommended films, tv shows, podcasts, blogs, etc. You might be like me and enjoy getting a feel for new and useful content. 

It was a nice surprise to discover The Introverted Leader and the description of “quiet dedication” included on a recent list created by Tamanna Mishra for the website YourStory. 

Note: The 2nd edition of The Introverted Leader launches on March 6th and is available for pre-order now.  New content on introvert-friendly workplaces, interviewing for introverts and coaching and counseling techniques for introverts is just some of the new content you will find. 

I was pleased to see the great work of my book’s endorsers, Adam Grant and Dan Pink included here. Both Drive and Give and Take  are classics.

Here is the article:

Five management books that will help you kickstart 2018 on a high note 

“For professionals – C-suite and mid-level management alike – the process of learning does not – and more importantly, should not – stop. As you grow in your role, so do the challenges that arise directly or through your close circle of mentors and leaders. How does one learn to respond to such situations? The answers lie in books.

From human challenges such as persuading customers and motivating employees to operational challenges that involve creating order in a system that seems to be built on the premise of chaos, there is a lot that business books have spoken about in the past and continue to do so. It is this advice from management experts and business leaders that can steer you in the right direction.

The year-end holiday season is the best time not just to reflect on your personal achievements but also to catch up on the lessons learned by businesses across the globe. So here’s a reading list featuring books on entrepreneurship, leadership, human relations, and every other topic a professional might be interested in.

Persuasion is the core of all businesses. Great leaders are masters at selling to their customers, instilling loyalty in their employees, and etching a mark in the industry. This is exactly why Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a timeless read for professionals. Cialdini uses instances from his own experiences and applies them to the psychological principles of professional life. Throughout the book, the author also interviews professionals from diverse roles and functions as a proof point for his analogies.

The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, Jennifer Kahnweiler

After many years of focusing on popular ideas like “winning friends” and “influencing people”, new-age professionals are demanding a new kind of inclusion – the inclusion of diverse personality types at work. According to modern workplace discourse, success doesn’t always have to come from taking centre stage. Quiet dedication is as much a skill as extroverted and charismatic leadership. Jennifer Kahnweiler’s book does a great job of articulating this.

The Introverted Leader is a compilation of interviews with over 100 introverted professionals who talk about their experiences and tools to deal with and succeed in an extroverted culture. The book also includes great advice for introverts from Kahnweiler’s perspective and articulates the different skills and strengths introverts have and can tap on to rise through the ranks. The book is a must-read not only for introverted professionals but also for leaders who must learn how to include introverts in workplace discourse and decision-making.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink

Motivating teams and employees is one of the most business-sensitive tasks that leaders and managers contend with every day. Daniel Pink’s Drive is an argument on what truly motivates individuals. Most organizations take a carrot-and-stick approach to employee motivation, focusing largely on external factors like appreciation, salary hikes, and promotions. Pink argues that motivation is an intrinsic thing, and is truly driven by autonomy, expertise, and purpose. The book also advocates a hybrid approach to management that caters to motivation and fulfillment needs of diverse individuals.

What makes this book truly relevant in our times is the fact that it is the first time in history that three generations are in the workplace together. Along with the increasingly inclusive nature of teams and workplaces, it all makes managerial behaviour that much more complex. Drive breaks down what we all know but don’t always remember – that people management is the art of saying what one needs to hear, in ways that they understand.

Managing the Mental Game, Jeff Boss

Most of the challenges, at work and in life, can be overcome by training your mind to respond differently to negativity, pessimism, and insecurity. That is exactly what executive coach and former Navy SEAL Jeff Boss discusses in his book, Managing The Mental Game. The book is a guide to mental training techniques that enhance self-belief, confidence, and fortitude to overcome challenges and push the boundaries of success.

A very simple take on life’s complex issues, the book makes mental training a lot less intimidating and more relatable for the average professional. It provides a very basic knowledge of understanding your mind and overcoming mental traps like uncertainties while giving pointers on how to attain mental focus. Cutting through the jargon of neuroscience, the book reflects upon change, thought architecture, and retraining your mind to reject negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

At a time when the boundaries between professional and personal lives have blurred and lives have become much more stressful than ever before, Boss’ book comes as a refreshing lesson in cutting through the chaos and prioritizing moving forward in life and work.

Give and Take, Adam Grant

No matter what your personality type, one’s professional equity is almost always defined by the quality of interactions they have with their colleagues, managers, and teams. That’s the idea behind Adam Grant’s Give and Take. Moving away from traditional and often individualistic drivers of success such as passion, hard work, and luck, Grant focuses on traits that make individuals into givers, takers, or matchers. Grant then uses his research as a Wharton professor to prove how these engagement styles define success. A widely acclaimed book, Give and Take is an insightful lesson in effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills, and in essence, a powerful force that holds the key to transforming not only one’s professional life but even communities and organizations.

This reading list touches upon contemporary needs such as mental fortitude, communication, and the inclusion of diverse personality types. Which one of these are you adding to your reading list? Do mention your favourites in the comments below.”

Lessons from the courtroom for introverts and extroverts

share_05I had the same reaction many of us have upon seeing the word “SUMMONS” on the letter in my mailbox. “Jury duty? How can I get out of it?” and,  ” At the very least I will get some reading done. I haven’t been selected the other three times I have gone down to the county courthouse so this will probably be the same. “

The Jury Experience 

Monday morning I took public transit to the county courthouse in a sad part of downtown Atlanta. I was starkly reminded of my white suburban privilege. As I waited with several hundred jurors we were told that there were a number of trials on the docket that day and that many of us would be required to serve.

I started to get curious about the experience. After all, didn’t both the promo video and pleasant jury administrator say that in a democratic society, it was our responsibility as citizens to serve on a jury of our peers?

My spouse, Bill had served on a murder trial several years ago in this same county and was greatly affected by the experience. I mulled all this over and was simultaneously intrigued and nervous about the potential of serving.

Surprise. My number was called for the final juror pool. I never realized that the three days I spent serving as a juror would prove to be so enlightening and disturbing at the same time. I learned that all of us involved in deciding the fate of the defendant had roles to play and during the trial, we were expected to play our parts. It was only after the experience ended did this become clear to me.

The three-day trial was held to decide if a young man was guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. There was a great deal of evidence for us to consider and multiple witnesses. My eyes were opened as I learned about the way the wheels turn in the courtroom, the role of gang violence, drug busts and the complex challenges law enforcement faces in crimes like this.

I listened intently and absorbed the body language of the witnesses and other players during every minute I was in the courtroom. We were instructed many times by the judge to not discuss the case, and this extrovert felt the fatigue of keeping my conflicting theories and reactions inside without having a chance to verbalize them.

Act The Part 

What became quickly apparent is that we ALL had roles to play in this courtroom drama. Here are some observations:

The Defendant – He was dressed up in a new suit, looked focused and took constant notes. Was he told to do that by his defense attorneys in order to show he was paying attention?

The Judge – She was SERIOUS and a woman who meant business. She chastised both the prosecuting and defense attorneys equally and would let us jurors use only pencils to take notes because the clicking noise of pens was “distracting.”  Her demeanor showed that she owned that courtroom.

The Defense Attorney –  She had a flair for the dramatic,  wore stilettos and went after witnesses coolly and intently.

The D.A. – A laid back southern gentleman with a folksy, conversational style. He slowly and methodically presented his case.

The Jury – Our foreperson was a gregarious, retired school principal who led us in a memory name game on our first morning.  From the start, we all seemed to bond pretty well. We went from banter in the jury room to somber, silent walks into the jury box.

Stepping Back Into Character 

After two days, the closing arguments ended and we entered deliberation.  Everyone on the jury had their chance to be heard. We were instructed to make absolutely sure that, any guilty decision was based on the evidence and that we found the defendant guilty, it was beyond a reasonable doubt. This was a huge responsibility and we wanted to be as certain as possible that we made the right decision. We unanimously came in with a guilty verdict.

Here is what happened. After the verdict was announced,  the judge told us that she and the attorneys would be visiting us in the jury room. They wanted to learn how we had made our decision and what had influenced our thinking.  What evidence did we weigh? They said they found feedback helpful.

And so they appeared. The mood shifted dramatically from the courtroom. The prosecuting and defense attorneys no longer glared intensely at each other. They were actually laughing as they debriefed some of their interactions and moments in the trial.

The judge’s demeanor shifted and she was smiling. She explained that she acts “stone-faced” up on the bench because smiles could be interpreted as favoritism for one side or another. And because she is one of the few black females in her position, she believes she is held to a higher standard. The judge also got in some opinions about SEC football.

Why Acting the Part Matters 

Actually, this switch in behavior makes perfect sense. We ALL have to play roles according to the situation.  In most work scenarios we must adapt to the culture and people as the scene changes.

Consider if the DA and attorney started kidding each other the way we saw them do in our post-trial meeting. I am pretty sure the jurors would have been confused and, if a mistrial wasn’t called, it certainly would have impacted our decisions. Or, what would have transpired if the judge had shared her strong opinions about women and football, especially with Georgia Bulldogs fans in the jury box!.  Impartiality would have gone out the window.

We do have to adapt and hide some of our true selves if that serves the scenario. Read  Unless You’re Oprah Be Yourself Is Terrible Advice by author and professor Adam Grant for research that supports this view.

In my coaching work, introverts ask me why they need to be more visible and vocal. And extroverts ask why the need to slow down and be quiet. The answer is that those different behaviors can help us achieve results that we couldn’t if we stayed in our comfort zones. We sometimes need to act the part that is called for.

For all its flaws, the criminal justice system continues to function. If the many professionals charged with carrying out justice can act the part when the stakes are high then we should take a cue from their playbook and stretch into new behaviors when necessary.

And I do hope you get a chance to serve on jury duty. I think you will find it to be an eye-opening, if not transformative experience.

Anyone?Anyone? Engaging Introverts in Your Trainings and Meetings

 

I like to show a video clip in some of my classes from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. You may know the one. The teacher, played by Ben Stein, is trying to get students to answer his question and the camera pans to an array of bored students who say absolutely nothing. He repeatedly asks, “Anyone? Anyone?”

I am not saying that Introverts are those bored students but if we don’t engage all personality types in our programs and meetings, we are missing a huge opportunity to reach our entire audience.

Introverts prefer solitude and often succumb to people exhaustion. Group meetings and training programs don’t typically allow for these preferences. However, as aware facilitators, we can build in breaks, give people time to think and not overdo it on the group activities.

We can also step back and look at how our organizations are catering to the needs of all preferences.  I shared some ideas on the topic for Chief Learning Officer. 

Some excellent questions came in on this topic during a speech I gave at a NASBA, conference. This is a group that certifies accountants (think CPAs, etc.). The folks are delivering training in classrooms and online to trainers of accountants and finance people. A good guess, if you think most are introverts.

Here are a few questions that came in during the program and shortened versions of my responses:

“How do I know that the quieter participants actually heard what was said?” A: Ask them to paraphrase what they heard. You need feedback when sharing information and you can ask for this in a non-threatening way.

From an introvert: “How do you convey to extroverts that a lack of a response doesn’t mean you aren’t listening. You are just thinking!”  A: You can bring this up early in the session when expectations are being discussed. Or take a sidebar with the instructor. They will usually be receptive.

“ I know some of my team members have points to make but are holding back their comments. How can I get them to share? A: Try prepping them by talking with before the group discussion to let them know you are going to ask them to share a comment. The introverts will be grateful for this preparation time.

“How can you respond when you ask a question and your audience just stares at you? A. Pause and wait for someone to answer. Usually, someone will and if they don’t you can say, “Some people have said that….” Just to get the ball rolling. Also, try asking people to write down their answers to some of your questions before speaking.

“People complain when we put them roundtables. They prefer the room set up in lecture style.” A. Just be sure to build in time for people to work alone and in pairs. The small group set up is good for discussion but it can be overused.

With practice, you will be able to find strategies that work for ALL your students: introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts. It is really a matter of being aware of your audience and flexing your style when needed.

An Introverted writer takes a leap into leadership

 

Introverted writer takes a leap into leadership

 

My friend and colleague, writer and social activist Sophia Dembling is one of the wittiest people I know. She is a straight shooter and speaks her truth. I first met Sophia (or “Sophie” as some call her) 9 years ago when my first book, The Introverted Leader was published. There were only a handful of people writing about the topic of introverts and she quickly became one of my favorites.

Her first book, The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World reflects a sharp wit and unparalleled honesty about the introvert experience. I have also gained perspective from Sophia’s sharp commentary on her Psychology Today blog. She has a way of explaining research so that it makes perfect sense. Sophia pulls back the covers and asks us to question the conclusions of studies we might otherwise take for granted.

Sophia also has written about being introverted in romantic relationships. Introverts In Love: The Quiet Way To Happily Ever After grabbed slices from her own married life, interspersed with the stories of others. In describing the book she wrote, “All humans have a need to be known and be understood on a deeper level and perhaps nobody more than introverts, who might be slow to warm but who hunger for profound connection,”

After several years of corresponding via email, we finally met in person over margaritas in her adopted hometown of Dallas, TX.  In addition to our mutual interest in writing about introverts, we discovered that we both were native New Yorkers and had fathers who were writers. We also both love to travel.  In sum, as an extrovert and introvert, we were genius opposites, more alike than different.

One rainy afternoon two weeks ago, I sat on my couch responding to her questions about introverted leadership. Sophia has recently become more politically active and is experiencing some ambivalence and a steep learning curve as she moves into new leadership roles. She knew that I had just finished an updated version of The Introverted Leader and was always eager to “riff” with her.

We discussed some lessons that she has found hard to swallow, like asserting herself with a volunteer who bailed on an important commitment. For someone who doesn’t like to be around people 24 – 7, Sophia feels particularly challenged. As a good journalist does, she somehow pulled together the nuggets from our conversation into a coherent essay. I hope it helped her to think about how to use her quiet strength to inspire people..and perhaps you will find some ideas here as well.

Some highlights:

  • Sometimes people are thrust into leadership when they didn’t ask for it
  • Good leaders admit that they don’t know it all and are vulnerable.
  • She became reinvigorated when she decided to leave a dwindling volunteer group and put her energy into working for an inspiring political candidate.
  • Dealing with people who are “energy sapping” is hard.
  • When you don’t understand why someone is not following through on their commitment, don’t email – pick up the phone.

Read Sophia’s Psychology Today blog here.:  Lead or Follow, An Introvert Weighs the Challenge.

 

 

 

Introverts: Perceived weaknesses can be great strengths

 

The other side of being different

I was fortunate this past week to attend an interview with the author, Gail Saltz, M.D. as she discussed her new book The Power of Different at the MJCCA Book Festival in Atlanta.

In it,  she describes how all kinds of brain “problems” associated with learning and mental differences are actually the source of great strengths. She cited many examples including that of Author David Sedaris,  who attributes his perfectionism and discipline to his anxiety. This has been instrumental in his writing success.

Albert Einstein had Attention Deficit Disorder, and according to the author, his hyper-focus allowed him to produce his 3 most important papers in only 3 weeks!

I thought about how Introverts are often challenged by being seen as different. This is particularly true in extrovert dominant workplaces or with leaders who are extroverts and not aware of introversion.

There is nothing wrong with introversion. It is simply how someone is wired. The stigma that a person with autism, a learning disability or attention deficit disorder faces is not unlike what introverts report experiencing.

Many introverts tell me that before they were aware of introversion as natural and normal they had internalized judgmental thinking from others and thought something was wrong with them.

When they don’t speak up or take longer to respond than others in the room, they are called “slow.” Yet, the depth of thinking introverts exhibit is exactly BECAUSE they took their time to think. 

When introverts are quiet in a meeting of extroverts they are seen as having nothing to contribute. Yet they are processing their thoughts. When encouraged to speak, their comments reveal that they have been listening deeply. The often cogent, high-quality responses of introverts reflect that.

For people with some kind of learning or psychological difference, early childhood experiences of struggle can greatly impact self-esteem. For introverts, negatively labeled shy in school or being graded down for not speaking up in class can take years to overcome.

The positive news is that the tide is turning with what I call the “rise of the introverts.”  As introversion has slipped into the public discourse, introverts are owning their strengths and others are starting to think about them more positively.

Another positive development is how we perceive negative judgments as we age.  There is a phenomenon called neuroplasticity which says the brain is like plastic and can form new neural pathways. This allows us to change our thinking about how we see ourselves in addition to changing our behavior.

One point that Dr. Saltz made was about how we must advocate for those who are not heard. In research for the upcoming 2nd edition of The Introverted Leader: Building  On Your Strength, I spoke with Sallie, an introverted recruiting manager. She makes a habit of researching potential team members who are qualified but have not been especially vocal. “Being an introvert myself, I am especially sensitive to this situation. I see my role as an introvert advocate in hiring discussions.”

As we all learn to reframe what society has deemed “weaknesses” and appreciate our strengths we can step into our full potential and allow others to do the same.

The Introvert Edge: Being Comfortable With Silence

The Introvert Edge: Being comfortable with silence We all sat inside the old church turned “maker space.” Tools lined up on shelves next to chairs that had been borrowed for the occasion. The tributes to our friend had just begun while his sister waited on Skype from her home in Virginia to say a few words. As family members fiddled with the poor WiFi signal we shifted in our seats.  In that pause, we each fell into our own reflecting pool.

Then it happened. The man leading the service rose and talked about the space we sat in.  At any other time, it would have been helpful to learn more about this burgeoning movement of craftsmen helping each other.  In this sad moment, it felt jarring to me. I have no doubt that the MC believed he was taking good advantage of the unplanned break.

Yet as he spoke I fell out of my world and my lovely memories of our friend of 20 years.

A few days later, I stood in front of a group and it happened again. This time I was sharing the lesson I have learned from so many introverts in my work and life. That lesson? Silence is to be cherished. It is a time to recoup, regroup and absorb.

As I asked the group to try out staying silent for a few seconds, a woman in the 2nd row of the lecture hall shrieked with laughter. She couldn’t take the discomfort.

I smiled in recognition.

She is definitely not alone in being so uncomfortable with silence that she feels compelled to fill the air with noise to combat that feeling. I do understand.  I once found silence so prickly that I would imagine I was talking just to fill my head with sound!

However, I have learned to embrace the quiet that introverts cherish. I find that it settles me down. The philosopher Pico Ilyer said, “It is only by stopping movement that we see where to go.” If you want to read about how people like comedian Gary Shandling viewed silence and what I learned from eating at a silent dinner read more here.

Perhaps you fall prey to the extrovert’s curse of over talking.  If you want to increase your comfort with silence, remember to breathe. And not just regular breathing. Try breathing slowly. Count “1,2, 3 “slowly as you breathe in and the same as you breathe out.

The first step is becoming aware of what happens to you when no words are spoken. Observe yourself and take in the world around you. if you are aware of your urge to speak you can accept it. And like good shrieking laughter, it will pass. Notice the gifts you receive when you stay silent and make it a practice in your life.