Confessions of an Extroverted Recovering-Shy Business Owner
As a business owner, it is important to understand your strengths and weaknesses and learn how to account for your weaknesses and make the most of your strengths. One of the most important things you need to determine about yourself is how you interact with others, and how you can improve how you interact with others. Do you consider yourself shy or outgoing? Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? Does speaking to a client or to a group give you sweats or get you excited? While you may have considered things like a business plan or your marketing tactics top priority - knowing how you as the leader of your business interact with others is a vital consideration as the voice of the brand.
Introverted or Extroverted Business Owners
Since most of us are not properly using the terms introvert and extrovert, lets accurately define them before we classify ourselves and see how to use our classification to our advantage. Rather than a synonym for shy or outgoing, introvert and extrovert is all about energy flow.
Introverts are people whose energy is drained by being around people. Introverts can be shy or outgoing but when they are in crowds, at social gatherings, around friends, they are draining energy. These are people who recharge by finding a quiet place by themselves. Some signs of introvert is when you are out somewhere and suddenly hit that point where you don’t have the energy to deal with another person or conversation and have to get home right away. Introverts can be the life of the party and really enjoy being with other people but need some alone time to recharge when they hit that point.
When I learned about introverts I realized that two of my people (my sister and closest friend) are introverts and I had always thought of them as extroverts. Both of them are the life of the party, everyone just always wants to be around them. They are both teachers and have no problem talking to pretty much anyone. They are both outgoing and comfortable in social settings, however both of them hit these points where they need to be alone. I had never understood how they get drained from being around people so easily when they are so outgoing, and I (the shyest of shy and awkward of awkward) just get juiced up from being around people. I also have seen both of them reach that point where their attitude changes and they just don’t have the energy for people. This made the intro-extro and outgoing-shy question all make sense when I realized my misconceptions and considered these two people in my life.
Extroverts are people whose energy is recharged by being around people. Extroverts can be shy or outgoing but when they are in crowds, at social gatherings, or around friends they are charged up and could just keep going. They recharge by interaction with other people and don’t feel that same recharging by being alone. You may recognize an extrovert as someone who invites you to go shopping with them because shopping just isnt as fun without you along to chat with. Extroverts can be shy and awkward around other people but really get powered up by being around their people.
Understanding how you get your energy and how you don’t is a key to dealing with your clients, vendors, and employees. If you know that you are an introvert, then you need to schedule for your alone time so that you are powered up to accomplish what your business needs from you. A business leader with low energy is less efficient, and often misunderstood as grumpy, so schedule your alone time and get your charge. If you know that you are an extrovert, then you need to accommodate for that by purposefully socializing. It can be lonely as a business owner, and if you are spending hours at your computer your energy can drain and your inspiration can wane. Skip the energy drinks and schedule lunches with friends or industry compatriots for your mid-day energy boost.
Being an introvert or extrovert is not something that you will likely every be able to change about yourself. The energy flow classification is definitely an innate characteristic. However, once you determine what you are, then you can use this knowledge to your advantage. Until I discovered these things about myself I hadn’t realized how I really am energized by people.
[sidenote: I love learning and one source that I follow regularly is the Chalene Johnson Build Your Tribe Podcast. This is where this introvert-extrovert discussion first came to my attention. If you are a business owner and want to better “build your tribe”, I highly recommend subscribing to her podcast or checking out her other e-learning options. Also if you want to learn more about this introvert-extrovert concept she has a couple podcasts about this.]
While I love being in front of my computer for hours on end and coding away, the solitude of it does actually drain me. Purposely creating those energizing communications with other human beings has completely changed my level of efficiency and inspiration. I had always pegged myself as an introvert, though what I really should have known is that I was shy or awkward and actually extroverted. While the idea of talking to anyone, let alone a stranger makes me cringe, I am that person who is charged up by being around people, love shopping with a buddy, and thrive by being with my people.
Shy or Outgoing Business Owners
The terms shy and outgoing are pretty commonly understood, and I won’t insult your intelligence by defining. Here is the thing though… While your energy flow may not be something that you can change, being shy or outgoing actually is. Being a shy business owner seems like an oxymoron, though many very successful business owners are on the shy side. If you are in position to hire all the people required for interaction with other people then you only have to worry about your interactions with your employees, but know that your company will still shine brighter when you build your weaknesses into strengths.
If you are outgoing, then there really isn’t anything you need to work on, other than making sure you are the right kind of outgoing. People do not want to hear a list of your accomplishments, they much prefer back and forth conversations. Make sure you are listening and not just hearing words and care about people, because when you don't - it is obvious.
If you are shy, then there is a lot that you can work on. Being shy might seem like a personal issue but it effects others much more than you. Shyness often comes off as disinterest or superiority, but it always makes other people feel uncomfortable. While it seems like an unconquerable issue, there are ways to be less shy which will grow you as a person and improve your situation with existing and potential relationships. Here are some tips to hack shyness:
1 - Force yourself to talk to strangers. Maybe start off by talking to people around you in your personal life, and build up to conversing more with potential business relationships. While it may be uncomfortable initially, you will find that most people are nice and appreciate your interest in them. Start with smiling at people you walk by if talking seems too much. Then build up to talking to the person behind you in line. The more you practice this the more comfortable you are going to become talking to people you don’t know. Before you know it you won’t recognize that shy person you used to be.
2 - Be Informed. The more you know, the more confident you will become in yourself. Even as a recovering shy person who detests talking with strangers, I love talking with my clients new and old. Truth be told I may get a few butterflies in my stomach on my way to a new client meeting, as soon as we start talking I am right at home. Being experienced and knowledgeable makes me excited to talk to people and find out how I can use what I can do to help their business reach their goals. When I was first starting off, my shyness made me stumble over words and have incredible awkward pauses. Now, because I know what I know that I know, it seems there is never enough time to talk about everything we want to talk about when I meet up with my clients. Remember that knowledge is power. If you have that knowledge then you have the power and your shyness can take a backseat while your confidence shows your clients and employees how you can help them thrive.
3 - Join a Speaking class. Whether you take a class at a local community college, or join your local toastmasters club, getting more comfortable speaking in front of people is not only fun, but helps you work on getting rid of those nerves you get by being the center spotlight.
4 - Be a Superhero. Not literally. Well kind of. Some people you would be surprised at need a little boost before being in the spotlight. If you are an office fan, then you are probably familiar with this pre-sale ritual by Dwight...
… but seriously. Sometimes you need to create an alter ego and become them to accomplish tasks that you feel are outside of your box. Whether that is pumping yourself up with a particular song in the car, or a pep talk, or becoming an alter ego with awesome superhero web skills ;) Getting in to the right frame of mind and leaving your shy personality at home, allows you to fake it until you make it by acting the part.
5 - Consider others above yourself. If you know that this client will be made uncomfortable if you are uncomfortable, and you want them to keep being your client, then you need to not act uncomfortable in front of them. Instead of focusing on your own fears, focus on making them feel both comfortable and important. Smile at them when they speak, look at them in their eyes, and make sure you are giving friendly and interested body language.
Ronald Reagan used to tell jokes before every meeting, and he did this to make people feel more at ease around him. The release of breath during a laugh also releases nervous energy in a magical way.
Go get em. Figure out how to get your energy. Get your energy. Figure out if you are shy. Stop being shy.
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Kim Young is Founder, CEO, and a developer at Foo - a web development company based in Wesley Chapel, Florida. She can also be found on Google+. With over 16 years of experience as a web developer, Kim is excited to share with you tidbits that she has picked up along the way. Kim prioritizes continuing education and out of box thinking in order to bring the most valuable solution to Fooweb's clients.