I spent 48 years of my life not understanding what it meant to be an introvert.
I wasn’t especially shy although I could never be described as a socialite either.
For several years my appraisals at work always referred to my inability to speak up in meetings. Every time. I tried and tried to be more forthcoming. It was hard to get a word in edgeways with all the extroverts in the room. Occasionally, I managed a brief interjection which I had formulated in my head for at least ten minutes before opening my mouth, assuming that there was a gap in the discussion I could jump into. It was a constant source of frustration to me and, whatever I tried, it still got a mention on my appraisal.
It was some time later that I came across an introvert resource website that resonated with me. I had a couple of Skype calls with the coach which were massively eye opening and completely life changing.
I learned that my past inability to speak up in meetings was typical of an introvert. Why? Because we need time to allow ideas to percolate, we need to give our thoughts consideration before we utter them. A simple solution? Sight of the agenda 24 hours before to enable us to contemplate the topic for discussion.
I also finally understood that an introvert is not a shy and retiring wall flower but someone who recharges their batteries by being alone, as opposed to an extrovert who finds social connection an energiser.
There were also little quirks such as staring at a ringing phone wondering why anyone would be phoning. Introverts don’t particularly do phone calls. In a work context, it’s slightly different as there’s a rationale for a call, but social chit chat is a big no no.
As is small talk which can make us very bad at networking. I much prefer deeper conversations rather than social niceties.
I read several books about being an introvert and also revisited the Myers Briggs/16 Personalities psychometric tests to learn that I was an INFP. The Mediator.
Another test that was even more revelatory was How to Fascinate by Sally Hogshead. I came out as the Provocateur. When I first completed this the primary advantage, as Sally calls them, was Rebellion. Sally has since changed it to Innovation. Either way it works for me but Rebellion absolutely hit the nail on the head.
I spent much of my life denying my unconventional streak. I tried really hard to suppress it. But you can’t deny who you are. Or, if you do, you spend your life living at odds with yourself. My unconventional nature manifests as a kind of gut feeling. It’s almost in spite of me. If the majority think we should go this way and my gut is going Noooooooooo, the feeling is relentless. This is where the Provocateur comes in. I throw something on the table from left field. It provokes discussion or a change of tack.
I’ve learned that I don’t do this for the hell of it but simply because I can’t do otherwise. It’s how my brain is wired, how my thought processes evolve. It’s like lateral thinking.
Now that I understand how to harness this thinking, I love being unconventional. I love being different — mostly because that’s exactly who I am.
I believe that knowing ourselves gives us incredible power. It helps refine our choices, it enables us to align our life with the right type of work but, most importantly, it helps us to be who we are supposed to be and tap into our innate gifts that we are meant to share.
Our purpose is just being who we really are.