During my first years in business, I faced various challenges.
Over time I noticed that some business owners struggled with the same things but others didn’t. I soon realised that it was my introverted nature that was making things more difficult.
That’s not to say being an introvert is an excuse. It just means that as an introvert, we have to approach things differently.
If you’re an introvert and you’ve found some aspects of running a business and promoting yourself difficult, then maybe you can relate.
I faced challenges such as:
- Being put on the spot
- Feeling unheard and the pressure to show up
- Overthinking and indecisiveness
- Exhaustion and low energy
- Social anxiety
Being Put On the Spot
Like many of my fellow introverts, I like to take time to consider my thoughts and ideas. I prefer to research and write down what I want to say before I share anything.
It can make many things difficult.
An unexpected phone call is extremely nerve-racking. It now makes sense why I removed my phone number from my website within my first six months.
The pressure to have an immediate answer and being put on the spot can make situations awkward and create anxiety.
What can you do?
Over time I learnt that it’s okay to say “I’ll think about that and get back to you.” You don’t have to have all the answers on the spot.
Practice ways you could explain that you need time to think, and know that it’s okay not to have an answer.
As time goes on, you get used to talking about your business, and you’ll find it’s easier to formulate answers without having to think about it as much.
Feeling Unheard and the Pressure to Show Up
You might follow some very extroverted personalities in business and think “I can’t do that” or “I’m never going to stand out”.
There is pressure to be someone we’re not, to be extroverted and show up in ways that aren’t like us.
You don’t have to be loud and in your face. Your brand of calm thoughtfulness will appeal to others too.
For so long, I thought I had to be everywhere, all the time. You soon find that it’s not possible or productive.
My main focus now is LinkedIn. It is what I feel comfortable with, and I enjoy interacting with others on it.
What can you do?
- Know your audience well – Then use your reflective and creative ideas to reach them in unique ways. Ask questions and interact one to one to build stronger relationships.
- Start with one social channel – You don’t have to be everywhere. Pick the channel that suits you, where your audience is most engaged.
- Work to your strengths – If you’re better at writing, then start blogging. If you prefer podcasts and audio, then start your own or be a guest on other podcasts. If live video isn’t for you, don’t pressure yourself to do it.
Overthinking and Indecisiveness
Us introverts tend to get stuck in our heads. We think and think often talking ourselves out of ideas or miss opportunities.
Honestly, I did that full-on overthinking and indecisive thing when it came to niching to help introverts.
I kept holding myself back because I hadn’t thought about or considered everything yet. I had doubts and keep going through all those ‘What if’s’.
I wasted months overthinking when I could have been helping my people.
Often there is no way to know if something will work out. In the end, you have to trust yourself and start taking action.
What can you do?
Take notice when you’re overthinking and write down your thoughts. Answer the questions you’re asking yourself and assess what is holding you back. Then take one small action and do something productive.
Having a solid support system will also help. We might prefer to stay in our heads, but it’s helpful to get a fresh perspective from people who won’t add to your fears.
Feeling Drained of Energy
I love people! I enjoy the company of friends and networking with connections. But it can be extremely draining.
I find talking for any length of time to be exhausting, so things like recording a video or preparing a talk also zaps my energy.
There are many studies on the brains of introverts and extroverts.
In The Introvert Advantage, Dr Marti Olsen Laney explains the theory that introverts are more sensitive to dopamine. Too much dopamine leads to over-stimulation and anxiety.
Therefore, in calmer and quieter situations like reading or thinking deeply, we feel more content and energised.
What can you do?
You don’t have to hide from the world. There are ways to cope.
I’ve found that planning calls or networking in the afternoons and evenings means I can still be very productive in the morning.
I’m much more creative and have a lot more ideas earlier in the day. I make time for more stimulating tasks later, and then I can spend the evening re-energising.
Monitor your peak times of concentration and energy, then work with your natural rhythm and make sure to take regular breaks.
Most people get nervous at networking — especially when you have to stand up and do that awkward introduction in front of a crowd!
Over time I’ve learned how to initiate a conversation at networking events. I’ve even found ways to make it easier, such as wearing your ice breaker – blue hair helps.
I’ve discovered techniques to help me read a situation better and look out for open body language.
I also feel prepared because I have my Introverts Toolkit.
The Toolkit is my personal brand blueprint; this is a reference for how to show up in my business. It includes a concise 8-second and 40-second pitch about who I help, how and why.
For most, part of social anxiety is the fear of judgement and rejection, but there are other reasons I get anxious about networking or social situations.
Group conversations often move faster than I can keep up. I find it very hard to contribute.
The conversation has usually moved on by the time I’ve carefully consider my words.
Dr Marti Olsen Laney theorises that introverts have an extended neural pathway. Meaning information runs through our long term memory and planning pathway before being processed.
Add a highly stimulating environment (lots of talking), and it could explain why it takes longer for us to process interactions and make decisions before speaking.
Interjecting or Speaking Up
I won’t ever speak over others. I don’t feel comfortable injecting my opinion into a heated discussion. I’ll wait until there is a moment of silence before I contribute.
If this doesn’t happen for some time, then the conversation can move on before I get the chance to say anything.
Observerving and Avoiding Small Talk
Ever said, I’m quiet until you get to know me?
I notice this more in my friendship groups. If there is a new person, I won’t immediately jump to talk to them. It may seem standoffish, but I prefer to observe their interactions and know they’re going to stick around before I make conversation.
In some ways, I believe this is a way for me to conserve energy. It’s not that I don’t want to know them, it’s that I spend my energy wisely and I wouldn’t want to use it talking to someone I will never see again.
I would never be rude and avoid talking to them, but I do prefer more meaningful and in-depth one to one conversations than small talk, and it takes time to build up to that.
In a networking situation, that’s not something you can do. You don’t have time to observe so it can make situations and people much hard to read.
What you can do?
- Be prepared – Learn ways to initiate conversation. Compliment the person you are talking to, or be honest and say you’re new to networking. Everyone has been there!
Practise and memorise an 8-second or 40-second pitch – a concise statement about what you do, who you do it for, and why it helps. I promise this will stop you feeling like you’re stumbling through your words.
Use this simple format:
I help [WHO] to [WHAT] and [BENEFIT / OUTCOME].
Example: I help introverts to build a braver brand and attract more clients.
- Practice – Unfortunately, there aren’t any quick fixes when it comes to talking in social situations. The best thing to do get out there. Find some smaller events where you can speak one to one with people and get to know them. I use networking as a chance to make friends, and the events I choose are relatively informal.
Tell Me Your Challenges
These are just some of the challenges faced by introverts in business. I’d love to know what struggles you’ve faced and how you’ve overcome them, please leave a comment below.
If you’re an introvert in business and would like to guest blog about overcoming challenges, then email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.