November 27, 2019
By Jodi Allen, ICUL Member Services Consultant
My closest friends and family know that social situations are not always easy for me. Ask me to attend an event (big or small), and a million questions start going through my mind. Who’s going to be there? What will we do? Will I have somebody to sit with? How long will it last? I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, so I never really stopped to think much about it. It’s just the way that I am.
I decided to think about this further after I took the Big Five Personality Test for the first time earlier this year. The results left me with mixed feelings. I was happy to receive such a detailed report about myself, and I felt proud of many of the descriptions. However, I wasn’t necessarily thrilled with all of the results. I scored a 3.4 out of 10 in the Extraversion category. Very reserved. Guarded. Those were just a couple of the phrases that described me. While I wasn’t surprised to see this, it still left me feeling bad about how I may come across to others. I like people, and I am a kind person. So what does this mean?
It means that I’m an introvert, and it seriously took me 36 years to figure that out. Being an introvert does not mean that I don’t like people, that I am an unkind person, or that I don’t ever want to be at social gatherings. It means that it takes a lot of energy for me to be around others. This explains why I feel more energized by going to the gym alone than by exercising with a group. This also explains why I feel tired after a Roundtable but feel energized after reading a few chapters of a book.
I know I am not the only who feels this way. Because networking and socializing are things we do regularly in our personal and professional lives, I wanted to share a few things that have helped me.
Just do it. Did your manager encourage you to sign up for a training course or to attend a networking event? You may hesitate to go even though you know that it could be beneficial. Step outside of your comfort zone and just do it. I can’t tell you the number of times that I initially hesitated to attend something but then ended up with new knowledge, a valued professional connection, or a great friend after an event.
Be proud. Introverts bring so much value to social settings as they are known to be great listeners and very self-aware. Remember that a room full of extroverts is not going to be an ideal setting. What makes a successful event is a balance of personalities, so be proud of who you are!
Visualize. Yes, this actually works. For example, prior to a networking event, take a few minutes to visualize yourself in the social setting. Picture yourself talking to both familiar faces and new faces with ease. The power of visualization is amazing, and it has helped me on multiple occasions.
Be ok with imperfection. You’re not going to have a smooth conversation with everybody you meet, and you’re not going to have a connection with everyone either. This happens to all of us. Remind yourself that this is normal, and then move on.
Be true to yourself. Jeff Hayes, CEO of North Star Community Credit Union and a fellow introvert, shared this piece of advice at our most recent ELC Roundtable. Be true to yourself and learn what works best for you. He also recommended the Larry King book, How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. Thank you for sharing, Jeff!
For any other introverts out there, please know that you’re not alone. We’ll get through this together…one event at a time!
Jodi Allen is a Member Services Manager for the Iowa Credit Union League. Jodi leads the ICUL's emerging leaders initiatives and activities, and supports credit union employee development.