Are Introverts Less Confident Than Extroverts?

Are Introverts Less Confident Than Extroverts?

 When does perception become reality and what has this got to do with introverts and extroverts? I believe that the general perception of introverts is that they aren’t as confident as extroverts and this unfortunately gets in the way of their success in life. Introverts are often slow to respond when asked a question. It takes them a while to speak up in classrooms or team meetings and they often seem uncomfortable at parties. Because of this perceived lack of confidence introverts may miss out on important job opportunities. And when compared to extroverts, introverts often appear less self-assured causing human resources leaders to ask themselves, “Why are they hesitating?” or “Do they really know what they are talking about?”

Being confident can open doors and make life more interesting and fun. But what is confidence?

Google defines it as “the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something” Or, “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities”.

We know it when we see it, or at least we think we do. Some quiet introverts may be very confident but are comfortable spending time thinking before they answer questions. And some extroverts may use their extroversion as a way of hiding the fact that they are less confident. Nothing is what it appears!

And of course all personality types can lack confidence. It’s just sometimes I think that when it comes to introverts our behavior is seen in a negative light. Over the years I have also wondered whether or not my lack of confidence was due to the fact that I spent too much time thinking about things and not enough time taking action. Taking action leads to increased self-assurance. Too much time thinking (worrying?) has the opposite effect and doesn’t go unnoticed.

“I’m an extrovert and those I live with are introverts. I’ve come to learn that they have a different sort of confidence to my own, one that comes from inner strength that can be developed no matter how difficult it may seem at first.” Rebecca Perkins

How can we become more confident? There are no easy answers but the following suggestions from Rebecca Perkins and Brian Roet are a good place to start:

Develop your self-awareness. This is perhaps the most important and the most challenging. But fulfilling our potential and being successful really does start with a solid foundation. Knowing who you are, your strengths and what you want to achieve in life are some of the areas to explore and develop. There are endless ways of doing this and a number are covered in my book The Dynamic Introvert: Leading quietly with passion and purpose.

Quit judging yourself: This is a difficult one. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t judge themselves? On the positive side judging oneself can lead to self-awareness but not if we only see the things we don’t do well or compare ourselves with others and end up feeling inadequate. If we were lucky to grow up in a family that accepted us and encouraged us even when we made mistakes, we are more likely to feel good about ourselves and less likely to judge ourselves harshly.

Use your strengths: We all have different strengths. The trick is discovering the ones that are uniquely yours and then building on them. This relates to the first item on this list, “Develop your self-awareness”. Some people are fortunate to know what their strengths are early on in life for others this knowledge comes later. Sometimes we are steered in the wrong direction by well-meaning parents or teachers and end up working in jobs that aren’t the right “fit”. I once met a woman whose husband kept pushing their introverted son to join team sports, against the son’s wishes. She was concerned about her son’s wellbeing and was looking for information to give to her husband to help him understand their son’s introverted nature.

Challenge yourself: Our confidence increases the more positive experiences we experience. If you are quiet and don’t feel confident in groups you may need to learn how to speak up in order to be heard. But be gentle with yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You are in this for the long term and your confidence will increase with each successful experience.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Dr. Brian Roet,

“Confidence helps you achieve your potential; achieving your potential helps your confidence.” – From The Confidence to Be Yourself.




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Can You Change Your Personality?

Can You Change Your Personality?

Have you ever wanted to change your personality? Is it even possible to change who you are? New research indicates that our personalities do in fact, change over time.

When I was younger, much younger, I was quiet and I lacked confidence. Once I got to college I realized that I wanted to be more confident and more like the students who were outgoing and who could speak up in class and get their ideas across. Those more extroverted students also seemed to be having more fun.

As soon as I graduated and began working I made the conscious decision to change my personality although at the time I didn’t realize that this is what I had set out to do. I hadn’t heard of Myers Briggs and had no idea that I was an introvert not that this would have made much of a difference since in those days it was believed that personality was fixed and there was nothing we could do to change it.

Now we know differently.

Recently I picked up the January issue of Psychologies magazine. An article about personality by author and psychologist Meg Arroll caught my eye. In the article Arroll commented on a study recently published by scientists at the University of Edinburgh. The study, which is the longest ever to look at how our personalities change over time, started in 1947 when the participants were 14 years of age. In 2012, 63 years after the study began, U of E researchers contacted the original participants to do a follow-up and although only a small number of the original group agreed to be retested the findings suggest that we do become different people as we age.

This is good news in that our personalities are not set in stone and can change over time. We may be predisposed to certain personality traits but we can make adjustments if these traits don’t work for us.

Here’s an example. My friend Jim is extroverted. He talks a lot and dominates most conversations. Not only does he dominate he doesn’t appear to have any insight into how his behavior is impacting other people. This aspect of extroversion may or may not impede his career success but if it does he may want to consider changing his behavior so that he is more introverted at least some of the time. Being a good listener is considered more of an introverted trait and something that Jim might want to focus on doing more of. It will no doubt be difficult but it in the end it will improve his relationships and probably improve his job prospects as well.

The not so good news is that changing our personalities takes time and concerted effort.

When I decided that I wanted to become more confident in groups it took me a long, long time and 30 years later I still prefer to sit and listen to what others have to say. One way that I learned to boost my confidence was to actually teach classes or facilitate meetings. This allowed me to prepare and feel more in control of what was happening. Oh, and joining Toastmasters made a big difference. Toastmasters helped me to think on my feet something that many of us find challenging to do.

Do you think we can change our personalities? What is your experience? Over the years I’ve read comments by introverts who resent feeling pressured to become more extroverted. But whether we are introverted or extroverted there may be times when we may want to change some aspect of who we are and now we know we can.

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