OMG, I’m an Introvert!?

OK, if you don’t know what “OMG” means, ask a teenager (that’s how I learned what it meant).  Now let’s talk about the introvert thing.

My wife and I were having a relaxing dinner one night recently.  We were sitting around the kitchen table talking when I made some off-handed comment about being an extrovert (it fit into the context of the conversation).  She looked over at me and said, “Uhh, honey, I hate to break it to you, but you’re an introvert.”  I smiled and said, “Yeah, sure, I’m an introvert (insert laugh track here).”   She then looked at me quite earnestly and said, “No, really you’re an introvert.”  I protested strongly.  I said, “Come on, I’m a public speaker and founder of the world’s largest networking organization–I’m not an introvert!  I can’t be.  I mean, you’re joking, right?”  She absolutely insisted that I was an introvert and proceeded to share with me all the ways that I have introverted tendencies.  Well, I have to admit I was taken back by this.  All the examples she gave were true, but I still couldn’t believe I am an introvert.  On the other hand, we’ve been married for 20 years. I mean, there’s a chance she might actually know me pretty well.

So off I went the next day to do some research.  I did an internet search and found a test that tells you whether you are an introvert or extrovert.  Was I in for a shock.  The test said that I was a “situational extrovert!”  It explained that I was something of a loner who was reserved around strangers but very outgoing in the right context.  It was at that moment that I said, “OMG, I’m an introvert!?” 

In the haze of my surprise, some very important things came into clarity for me.  It struck me why I started the BNI networking organization more than two decades ago.  I was naturally uncomfortable meeting new people. This approach created a “system” that enabled me to meet people in an organized, structured, networking environment that did not require that I actually “talk to strangers.”  OMG, I’m an introvert!

When I visit regions of BNI, I ask my director to have someone walk me around and introduce me to visitors and members so that I can connect with as many people as possible.  But in reality, it’s because I’m uncomfortable walking around introducing myself alone.  OMG, I’m an introvert!

I realized that the whole notion of “acting like the host, not the guest” and volunteering to be the ambassador at a chamber event or the visitor host at a BNI group were all the ways I used to move around more comfortably at networking events, not just ways that I recommended for those poor introverts out there to network.  OMG, I am an introvert.

Who would have thought? Well, OK, besides my lovely wife.  Now more than ever, I truly believe that whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you can be good at networking.  Both have strengths and weaknesses.  If you can find ways to enhance your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, anyone can be a great networker.

How about you?  Are you an introvert or an extrovert, and how do you use that in your networking?

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26 thoughts on “OMG, I’m an Introvert!?

  1. I can totally relate to this article. I think most people consider themselves introverts. That’s a good thing: if you’re an introvert, you are probably a great listener. Being a great listener is the first step to becoming a great networker and passer of referrals. Remember: a good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use them proportionally.
    I, like Ivan, was uncomfortable with new people when I started in BNI. At my first networking event, I was the wallflower! I was once shy and reserved, now I’m known for my “out of the box” commercials and presentations.
    If you adopt the mindset of acting like a host and not a guest, amazing things will happen. Say hi to people and make them feel welcome- they will remember you forever!
    Keep your fears to yourself, but share your boldness with others and:”Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb-isn’t that where the fruit is”?

    Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County, Ca.

  2. Good article. Goes right along with “You Never Know Who’ll Give You a Great Reference”.

    It is going to be a referral universe for small business and start-ups for some time. Money is getting short and word-of-mouth marketing, although hard work, will be extremely important. If we are going to ‘ask’ for the sale, we better overcome our introversion!

    Great example: had a client who bought a failed franchise here in Santa Barbara. She spent more than a year preparing for the opening weekend. From a bit of an introvert to a blooming extrovert in 12 months of intensive promotion – she did her own promotions every day!

    Opening weekend? Folks were lined up outside her shop and she more than recouped her start-up expenses that first three-day weekend!

    We all won’t do that well, but she is a role model and gets mentioned in each of my classes!

    Mike

  3. At first, I was surprised – even shocked – by the headline. You, Ivan, of all people?? But if you reflect on the reasons you’ve given above, it makes sense.

    BTW, you’re in great company – among major company CEOs that are known introverts are Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Narayan Murthy (founder of $5Bn Indian IT company Infosys).

  4. Having met you in person back in about 1992 or so, Virginia Beach VA, that’s how I saw you too. I’m glad I’m an INTJ.

    Here’s one of my favorite marketing techniques when an introvert does go to a networking event.

    Most sales training or even sales coaches might tell you to go to an event and meet as many people as possible. Talk with and get business cards from everyone you can. Then follow up with everyone to find out about your next step.

    Here’s a little peek at what I know that you can do that you likely aren’t already. Or else why would you be here at my webpage?

    Whew, I’m exhausted just saying that as an idea.
    So here’s the strategy:

    – Plan to go to a selected event.
    – Decide in advance how many people you want to meet.
    – You might even want to ask a friend at the event to introduce you to just those people.
    – Get only these business cards.
    – If other people ask you for your card, give them only if you decide you intuitively know there is some worthwhile connection.
    – Then, within two days, systematize your follow up with people and invite them to your next step to connect after the event.

    This approach is planned, purposeful and leads to one-to-one conversations where introverts shine.

    As a sales business coach for introverts who sell my clients results range from – increased income tenfold to decreasing stress levels and more.

    How?

    I help introverts leverage their many innate attributes INSTEAD of trying to act like an extrovert.

    BNI has the perfect format for introvert networking so it’s no surprise how successful it has been.

    Patricia Weber
    America’s #1 Business Sales Coach for Introverts
    Blogging Sales Tips for Introverts

  5. I was thinking about this distinction because I had it that I was an introvert, until I told people. Apparently I used to be the only one that thinks this.

    When I read this post the first time, I figured that introverts and extroverts aren’t that much different. The main difference lies in how comfortable the speaker feels with the other person. If i don’t trust that you will value what I have to say, I’m going to keep my mouth shut.

    Introverts simply hold a higher trust threshold. Many of the introverts i know light up and shed their shyness when they are around people that they know and trust.

    Byron Woodson
    weavingnetworks.blogspot.com

  6. I am an introvert but that hasnt stop me from selling cars, vacuum cleaners and internet services. I have seen extravert who thought they were kings of the world and didnt think that a guy like me could do a good job at selling. But i have beat them all. I dont say this to boast myself ( i am an introvert)just to show that what it takes is knowledge, organisation and courage.

    Michel Richer
    Hombyz.com

  7. I think we automatically assume that someone who is funny, charming, and willing to laugh out loud is an extrovert. I have a wonderful friend who is fun to be around, commands attention when she is in the room and is willing to laugh at herself. I assumed for a long time she was an extrovert until I interviewed her.

    Imagine my surprise when she told me how shy she was and how intimidated she felt at general networking events with a lot of people. “But, but…” I said, “I see you here in your clothing store, laughing and talking with strangers who have some in…”

    “But I’m in my comfort zone here,” she pointed out. She owns a women’s clothing store. The store is her ‘safety zone.’ She can deal with anything and anyone as long as she is at the store and in charge.

    As a raving extrovert myself, I find it extremely helpful to try to get as much as possible into the thought process and mindset of introverted people. I learn so much about how to help my “shy” friends.

  8. Your “revelation” is dead on. The assumption that extroverts are outgoing and introverts are reserved misguides many people. My research found what seems to be a contradiction between behavioral style/type assessments like DISC and Myers-Briggs and personality assessments. For example, about 1/3 of people identified as extroverts on DISC or MBTI are somewhat reserved and submissive on personality assessments. What this means is they enjoy the crowds but don’t need to be the center of attention. Likewise introverted behavioral style might also be outgoing and assertive. Most important in trying to understand extraversion and intraversion is that there reliability in using these types as predictors for job success. Both intraverts and extraverts can be successful in sales as well as accounting. How they go about achieving success has little to do with their type and a lot to do with what motivates them.

  9. Ivan,
    On page 170 of my book (thanks for your fabulous endorsement by the way), I admitted: “I’m shy. (Except when I’m not.)” It doesn’t stop me from stepping into the spotlight.

    Nobody believes me about the whole shy thing (except other speakers and performers and comedians who totally get it ’cause they are too!). But Ivan, this was supposed to be our secret!

    Tsufit
    Author, Step Into The Spotlight! : A Guide to Getting Noticed

  10. Hello! Timely entry since I just re-launched the book I published a couple years ago: “Confessions of an Introvert: The Shy Girl’s Guide to Career, Networking and Getting the Most Out of Life.” I have been talking up BNI on all my radio interviews (8 and counting) this week as a place where introverts can feel comfortable and be successful networking. The standard agenda and welcoming environment are ideal for introverts and I know personally that it has made all the difference in my business success.

    Thank you for your initial support of “Confessions…” it is because of your endorsement and assistance that it was so successful and it was able to be traditionally published and released again this month. Thanks also for BNI – a place where introverted business people can thrive along-side their extroverted peers.

    Have a wonderful Spring.

    Meghan Wier
    Author: Confessions on an Introvert & member of Ballantyne Business Network, Charlotte, NC
    http://www.meghanwier.com

  11. Thank you, Ivan, for letting me know I’m in such good company. When I share with people that when I first joined BNI I would sub for members at other chapters and stand on the edges literally hoping that no one would speak to me (I told myself I liked observing people), I get hysterical laughing from BNI members that know me now. BNI has given me the structure and methods to at least appear to be outgoing and an extrovert. I try to take the methods I use at BNI to other networking opportunities. It still surprises me that most don’t realize there is still an introvert inside. I tell them if I can fake being extrovert and actually enjoy myself in these situations, then BNI can help all of them.

  12. This is exactly why I joined BNI! BNI was an easy way to network, grow my business by referral & gain confidence in being a businessperson, as well as speaking in public. After a month of BNI experience, I started going to Chamber mixers & my BNI members introduce me to Chamber members. Six years later, I’ve been called the Queen of Networking, mentoring others as an Assistant Director.

  13. What a terrific post! I appreciate the honesty with which you tell your story…and that you’re smart enough to listen to your wife. 🙂

    Introverts are some of the most amazing givers. So if giving is key, we shouldn’t be surprised that introverts make the most of their network. They may simply give to fewer people.

    Actually, two of my recent blog posts deal with “Givers Gain.” I tried not to put words in your mouth…but took a stab at your intent. Your comments are welcome, of course. http://refma.wordpress.com

    Jay Rowland
    CEO, Referral Marketing Association
    http://www.Refma.org (ChapterTracker.com)

  14. I would have never thought I was a introvert. I am usualy a very out-going kinda person. When it comes to meeting new business associates I find myself wanting to clam up. I always want to bring a business partner with me also. I like to know that if I need to back up it will be there with me. Makes me feel more comfortable.

    In a social everyday life I am fine and have no problems meeting new people and very much enjoy doing so. Something to do when it comes to making the money. I don’t mind saying the wrong thing to a cashier at the local gas station but I don’t want to give the wrong pitch to a potential future associate and I think that is what makes me clam up. Luckily my brother (business partner) is very well spoken and is always there to back me up.

    Pasquale Lamperelli
    America’s Property Management Group
    http://www.cleanout1.webs.com

  15. Hi Ivan –

    It’s not such a bad thing 😉

    We introverts have a list of skills and gifts that make us exceptional at many things – even networking, public speaking and sales. It’s just a matter of using our gifts in a useful and creative way (which we’re very good at), and making certain to get the downtime we need for rejuvenation.

    Remember that our personality traits occur on a continuum. There are introverts and extroverts and then there are extreme introverts and extroverts. You might be closer to the middle of the spectrum, while still being introverted.

    As Meghan Weir so aptly pointed out, BNI is a great networking environment for introverts. Thanks for creating this great organization.

    Best,

    Lee Ann Lambert
    Author, Living Introverted: Learning to Embrace the Quiet Life Without Guilt, slated for publishing March 2009.

  16. I love the term “situational extrovert”. I find that when I am left to my own devices I am quite the introvert, but give me a set of rules or “how to” and I am great at following the steps to present myself as an extrovert in the appropriate situation.

    Interesting that you mention a “system” that enabled you to meet people in an organized, structured, networking environment. OMG, I learned that in BNI!

  17. I have something in common with Ivan Misner beyond BNI–who knew?

    I’ve always described myself an introvert masquerading as an extrovert…until I get to know people, at which point they tend to wonder if I got my first vaccination with a phonograph needle. (If you don’t know what a phonograph needle is, try Google.) With familiarity comes comfort and ease of communication, but in the meantime, I’ll be the one hiding behind the potted plant.

    One of the things I appreciate most about BNI, in fact, is the tools it’s given me to make talking to strangers more painless. And becoming the Visitor Host for my chapter has also helped–I’m much more likely to act as a host in other situations as well, now that I know how simple it is!

  18. This is great – and on point. I am a very vibrant ‘life of the event’ type of networker, so when I tell people that I’m an introvert, they’re naturally shocked.

    Being an EXtrovert is not the same as being outgoing.

    Being an INtrovert is also not the same as being shy.

    This concept is just begging for a quadrant diagram (and there is one – I’ll get to that) – but figure it like this:

    Introverts PREFER to be alone. Extroverts prefer other people. Outgoing people can put themselves in a room and survive. Shy people can really cringe at the idea of having to talk to people.

    So, imagine being a shy introvert? I feel bad for those people – they have it the worst.

    On the other side of the coin, what about the outgoing extroverts? Think – LIFE OF THE PARTY.

    Who am I? Took me a LOOOONG time to figure out that I’m an outgoing introvert. The world is my stage when I’m out and about, but where I really like to be is at home with my family.

    So the quadrant – read up on the Platinum Rule. The personality break-downs in the book mirror this blog (and this and many of the other comments).

    http://www.amazon.com/Platinum-Rule-Discover-Business-Personalities/dp/B001Q3M5SA/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236284340&sr=8-1

    Have a great day. 🙂

    Laura

  19. I just discovered BNI and Ivan Misner and started poking around the website and discovered this article.
    This is the second thing I’ve read about introvert vs. extrovert today! (I guess the Universe is trying to tell me something.)
    I really appreciate the openness and honesty with which you write this , Ivan.
    It’s always great to discover an itelligent blog with intelligent comments attached.
    Thank you. Blessings to all.
    Jim

  20. Ivan,
    I loved reading this blog post, because I can so relate. I took all those personality tests many years ago and scored introvert – and not even borderline.

    People often doubt this because I speak to large groups as a motivational/educational speaker; however, I have learned after being with lots of people that it is important for me to then go spend some quiet time by myself.

    I think that being an introvert helps me to teach the skills of networking which are listening, connecting, being a resource, etc. I also believe – as you said – that whether you are an introvert or extrovert you can be a powerful networker. The main thing is to understand your strengths and utilize them well.

    Thanks for the difference you make!

  21. LOL! As a card-carrying introvert of the female persuasion, let me share an easy trick: always shake the person’s hand, smile warmly, and say how happy you are to meet them. Men, in particular, are still surprised when a woman does this, and in the brief instant while they’re disarmed, you can communicate, with body language and a few words asking about what they do, that you’re interested in them and in their business. They love it, and when someone responds positively to you, even in passing, it quickly overcomes your own discomfort.

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