Coach's Corner

An Introvert's View on Communication
Aug 7, 2023
Elyse Bultemeier
Coach's Corner

Hi Elyse,

You’ve been with us for seven years as a research associate (thank you!) and we’re seeing you extend yourself as a communicator in new, brave ways. It’s interesting that your personality report shows a high degree of introversion yet you’re pulling this off. Why? How? And can you please share what the outcomes have been?

- Michelle Gladieux

Elyse: Sure! My time on our team has changed me in profound ways as my communication skills have improved. I’ve retaken our personality survey through the years and each time, my results in introversion/extroversion register decidedly on the introverted side of the spectrum, meaning I gain energy from time away from others. Scoring multiple times in the top 10% of 100,000+ respondents affirms that I’m a very private person.

Introversion isn’t shyness or asocial behavior, it’s based on how our brains chemically respond to external stimulation. Introverts need solitude to recalibrate, and value quality over quantity in relationships. We are often deep thinkers. Even though being outgoing and verbally expressive isn’t dominant in my personality, there are times when stretching to be more social is desirable or necessary. The more I’ve learned about myself, the more often I see opportunities to adapt beyond my tendencies.

Introverts often get good at avoiding awkward situations, but facing the risk of potentially awkward moments leads to meaningful connections. In your book, there’s a chapter dedicated to understanding risks to improve relationships. You frankly state what I think we all need to hear: “If you shy away from risk, you shy away from your potential”. The more confident I get relating to larger groups, the more discernment I gain for which situations are worth reaching toward. One example is the opportunity you gave me to observe an Allen County Juvenile Center training event about Healthy Workplaces and Harassment Prevention years ago. Then, I was able to apply my introvert skills of observing, processing, and listening. This year, I hope to join as presenter for a small part of the seminar. 

My two daughters have been a big motivator to participate in more social adventures. I seized recent opportunities to be involved in their school and extracurricular activities, but was surprised by the amount of new people and socializing this brought to my life. Small talk with people I don’t know can be draining. I’d sometimes rather be invisible than spotted around town, but it’s worth it because my kids see me modeling personal growth. Risking these “people-y” environments has also allowed us to create meaningful relationships with other families. 

Professionally, I like to work by myself and make sure I do my job well. However, I am finding when I collaborate with my dear extroverted colleagues, like Biz and yourself, we push each other. The result is more creativity in problem solving. The juxtaposition of our introverted and extroverted styles helps us create well-rounded plans for coaching clients and develop training events for diverse teams.

The key for introverts looking to be more expressive isn’t found in trying to be like our extroverted counterparts. It’s about embracing our strengths and making sure we have self-awareness and self-acceptance so we can connect with others in our own way. Inspired by an exercise from Communicate with Courage, I plan to verbalize at least one compliment each day I’d normally keep to myself and further stretch my expressiveness via kindness to those around me. As I meet more people, I’m learning most of us feel we’re the only ones who struggle with insecurities in our communication. Let’s give ourselves some grace. We all recharge in different ways, and are better off when we strive for authenticity, humility, and connection. 

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