Though I have been trying not to hard-define myself as such, I am an “introvert” by nature. What I mean by this is to not allow for “introvert” to be my identity and put me in a box to make me fearful of opportunities I may perceive to exclusively be for “extroverts.” It goes back to the post about “Introverted Networking” (posted 3.23.18). It had been too scary and too out-of-character for me to attend these meetings, I believed, making every reason for why I do not belong there and should not go.
The typical characteristics of an introvert are shy, quiet and uncomfortable around people or crowded settings. Others possessive of these traits are often most comfortable alone or with limited human interaction. Networking events, being the exact opposite of this setting, are deemed to be inherently for extroverts. This is by no means an argument to say organizers of networking events should make gatherings smaller, quieter, or with less social interaction to make the introverted feel comfortable… NEVER! On the other hand, it is rather to say it is the responsibility of the introverted to transform this fear into an opportunity to grow outside their comfort zone.
This is what I will call the introverted advantage. For the extroverted people, who are often more confident in loud, talkative settings, these events might be no big deal. They are comfortable and might even thrive in an environment where they are expected to talk to strangers. However, this lack of discomfort does not allow for them to benefit from a networking event in the way it would an introvert. Perhaps an extrovert’s “uncomfortable” setting is a place where they have to be quiet, alone and isolated from others! Being in this place would, conversely, challenge them to be outside out their comfort zone. For the record, I speak of only the introverted advantage because this is all I personally know. I do not think I am equip to speak for the extroverted advantage, for example, so extroverts comment below! Let me know!
Back to the introverted advantage… As I see it from my experience, there are often more times we will be stuck in uncomfortable conversations, attend awkward parties and have to speak in group settings in a work environment, than there will be opportunities to be alone. For this reason, I find the organic functions of the day-to-day have more opportunities for the introverted to grow! All my life I simply wished I was more outgoing, beating myself up for being awkward in social situations. I was unable to see these events as opportunities, and instead, they were burdens. I can now see that my nature is more of an advantage than a disadvantage. If we are not challenging our own comfort, we are not changing. Once again, I do not encourage anyone to define themselves and label themselves as an introvert or extrovert, morning person or night person, shy or outgoing too rigidly due to the opportunity cost which may come with the inability to recognize discomfort as a chance to grow. On the other hand, let us search for these opportunities to be uncomfortable and get outside our comfort zone.