If you've been following our social media posts in the New Year, you'll know that for Quarter 1, Dr. Donnelly and I are focusing on bravery as an intention, and using Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness as our guiding text. In the book, Brown spends a good deal of words talking about the bravery of acceptance - being vulnerable, accepting yourself - what she calls finding your 'true belonging.' What I appreciated so much about Morra Aarons-Mele's practical guide for introverts, Hiding in the Bathoom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You'd Rather Stay Home), was that an underlying theme to her book, explicit in some points, implicit at others, was the bravery of accepting your introversion.
Since I regularly promote myself as Abbey Research's resident introvert, and this month I focused on producing our first mini-course, I thought it would be a good month to tackle some other sources about introversion. Whereas Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking focused more on understanding the psychology behind the personality trait, Aarons-Mele's book had a more directed focus toward helping introverts (and hermits) find their way through the business world.
From networking, to negotiating, to accounting, Aarons-Mele's book is as comprehensive as it is empathetic. Though not every element of the reference text applied to my own work situation, what did strike a cord was her parting words on getting out there (i.e. building a network). Since my introversion is paired with low to mid-level social anxiety, meeting new people has never been a strong suit and even recently, is something I have struggled with. I would much rather be behind the scenes, doing the research, making and executing the plan, than being out there shaking hands.
Writing from many of her own personal experiences, Aarons-Mele's tips were heartfelt and pragmatic. But fundamentally, at the heart of her book, is the desire for all us introverts and hermits to accept the gift that our introversion gives us. We need to be brave enough to accept going against the industry norm of the idealized extrovert, and figure out the best, and healthiest way to find our passion and contribute to our profession. Her 14-point Plan for Surviving Events reminded me that I can find a way to make meaningful connections at these events, in a way that is true to myself (something she repeatedly emphasized).
For introverts, acceptance and growth are two of the most difficult tasks we face. Pushing ourselves, when necessary, to grow or change, can be a painful process. Yet, part of accepting ourselves is realizing that not every event or opportunity is necessary. Networking for the sake of networking is damaging to those of us who are drained by social interaction. Close to the end of the book, she qualified 'getting out there' by stating, "Don't be afraid to push yourself, when it's worth it."
Perhaps most importantly, Aarons-Mele confirmed my own thoughts about the gap of understanding around personality traits within the professional worlds. Though these terms are certainly now more popular because of people like Cain and Aarons-Mele, and the periodic Buzzfeed or Huffington Post listicle about introverts, this awareness isn't translating to the daily interactions in our work lives. So I leave you with this parting thought: how is your organization, boss, manager, office environment bridging this gap between understanding and strategic acceptance? If you don't immediately have an answer, maybe it's something you could be working to improve.