I made it home on Monday afternoon from presenting at the Tuscon Book Festival, one of the largest book festivals in the world. To meet me at the conference, one would never suspect I’m actually an introvert. Yet, even after two days of sleep, I’m shaking from fatigue. This morning I had to get Hubby to bring The Spawn to school because I simply don’t have enough energy to be safe on the road. I spent all of it at the conference giving (what I hoped) were unforgettable presentations.
Many believe the extrovert is the ideal speaker, yet introverts have a way of channeling energy from themselves to others. When people leave my sessions, they often feel supercharged, like they can take over the world. I love that. It’s what I’m going for…but this comes at a cost for me. I must unplug, get quiet and recharge. Crowds drain me faster than a toddler using an iPad.
BIG crowds? As in a quarter-million people? AHHHHHHHH!
As humans we tend to think in very black and white terms, but as writers and artists, we are wise to remember that people have many dimensions. What we see is not necessarily accurate, especially when it comes to labeling others as “introvert” or “extrovert.”
What Does It REALLY Mean to Be an Extrovert or Introvert?
Introversion and extroversion are very commonly misunderstood. Just because someone is shy, doesn’t mean she’s an introvert. Someone who is bubbly, gregarious and the life of the party can, in reality, be an introvert. The difference between introverts and extroverts is simply this:
Where do we gain or lose energy?
Introverts are drained by people and need alone time to recharge.
Extroverts are drained by too much time alone. They need human interaction to recharge.
Meet the Ambivert
Truth is, most people fall into what is called an ambivert, meaning we exhibit traits of both. If you want to learn if you might be an ambivert, there are cool tests on-line. I’d google them for you, but this post is all I’ve got left.
People who read this blog and who meet me all believe that I am the very definition of extrovert, yet that’s far from the case. As a child, I had to be forced to go play with others. I was very happy alone in my room reading, drawing and copying articles out of my set of encyclopedias.
I was frequently chastised for bringing a book to family events and made to interact with others. Yet, when I did, I was the life of the party. I was fascinated by standup comedy and, being blessed with an eidetic memory, I could perform the standup routines of all the famous comics, down to facial expressions, timing and gestures. My family was particularly fond of my freakishly accurate impersonation of Sinbad.
Yes, Kristen was the precursor to the DVD.
In school, I didn’t want to play at recess. I wanted to read and draw unicorns. But I loved debate and speaking in public. When it came to presenting, I had no fear and, again, I was funny. Being funny helped when you changed schools every six months. BUT, in high school I was shy to the point of probably needing medication. The stage was far less terrifying than the lunchroom.
Before I was married, I would go shopping at two in the morning, because I couldn’t take the crowds. To this day, I don’t like concerts, amusement parks, crowded clubs, conventions, big parties or sports events. I love attending writing conferences because I love writers, love teaching and presenting and I DO love people…but when I get home, I practically slip into a coma. Also, I am okay on a stage presenting to an audience but please don’t make me be a part of a crowd.
As much as I LOVE people, as much as I adore people and making them laugh…they exhaust me.
I work from home and, if I never had to leave, I would be okay…so long as I had Internet connection. One of the things I love about social media, is it allows me to interact, connect, chat, entertain…but at my pace. It keeps me from flatlining myself.
I’ve had to learn from bad experiences that I need to pace myself at conferences if I want to maintain that powerful, positive energy.
The Myth of the Extrovert
There is another common misunderstanding about the whole extrovert thing, and it’s done a LOT of damage in the corporate world (and when it comes to author platforms for selling books).
Companies spend all this time shoving introverts into being extroverts. They hire mega-extroverts for sales, and yet mega-extroverts are some of the WORST salespeople. I witnessed this back when I was in sales, myself.
I recall sitting at a table with a customer and a mega-extrovert salesperson. The mega-extrovert was so busy talking and being entertaining, that he never SHUT UP long enough to listen. He didn’t stop and ask the right questions. In fact, he didn’t ask ANY questions.
That’s a problem.
One time, I was at an annual marketing meeting and the company was putting together the agenda for the next year. They kept going on and on about price, and how we needed to be cheaper. I was brand new, but bold.
I raised my hand and asked, “Has anyone asked our customers if this is what THEY want? Is price the biggest factor?” The table sat in stunned silence. Then I recommended we brainstorm twenty areas where we could serve the customer better and then get them to take the survey.
Price came in at #4.
Customers actually wanted faster lead times. Our product was the type of inventory the customers never thought about…until they ran out. A better plan was to rent cheap warehouses in the areas near our major clients and stock them with the most common sizes ordered. Then we could have offered same-day or next-day delivery….which the company refused to do and still focused on price and lost a crap-load of business and it’s a sore subject with me.
Why did they do this? The mega-extroverted marketing and salespeople controlled the agenda, and they were lousy listeners.
We All Have Strengths and Weaknesses
This isn’t to pick on mega-extroverts. All personalities have strengths and weaknesses. As an ambivert, I do have some mega-extrovert tendencies. I’ve had to TRAIN myself to be a better listener and to ask others about themselves…instead of making them laugh with my Sinbad impersonations.
Awareness is Key
The point of all of this is we need to be self-aware so we can focus on strengths and buttress weaknesses. It is good for the introverts to get out. Too much alone time with the imaginary friends makes us a bit weird…ok, weirder.
Social media can be very beneficial for introverts. It forces us out of the comfort zone and we can interact at a pace that doesn’t put us in a coma. Extroverts get to practice willpower and self-discipline, to shut up, get off Twitter and get back to work.
Ambiverts? We get to do both *head desk*
But the good news is this. This notion that mega-extroverted salesperson is the most effective salesperson? PURE MYTH. This is one major misconception that TERRIFIES most writers into being afraid of social media or makes some writers try to change their personalities….which is just weird and kinda creepy. Be YOU. YOU is awesome :D.
Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.
Talk to people, listen, ask questions, and let them talk. Be authentic and kind. We don’t have to be super entertaining all the time. Really ;).
For those curious, THIS was my family’s favorite among my vast comedic repertoire:
So what about you? Are you and extrovert? An introvert? Shy? Do you feel misunderstood because you’re a shy extrovert or a people-loving introvert? Do you think you might be an ambivert?
I LOVE hearing from you guys!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World.