Leading a tech company as an introvertFeatured
As a seed-stage founder, my job description summed into a sentence is to "talk to hundreds of people a week, both internally and externally". Given this, the first assumption people make when they meet me is that I'm an extrovert. This couldn't be farther from the truth - I continue to find I am most energized when I spend quality time with myself. I knew I was an introvert on the first day of second grade when I was sent home for not talking in class - I was just so shocked by the presence of new classmates that I completely froze up and nothing came out of my mouth. The second week of class, I accidentally replied with random Chinese words when I was invited to a birthday party (I live in Canada where the languages are English and French, oops). When I was younger, I thought the world of business was built for extroverts, but the truth is that introverts find success too. Here are some personal strategies that have helped me learn to become an effective communicator over the past 5 years. Strategy 1: Practice "talking" by mapping out opportunities to do so Being very intentional about the way to talk and how you interact with people is a key skill. It's not about being the loudest or chattiest person in the room, but having a few thoughtful responses. Some ways I practiced talking included (progressive, from easiest to hardest): ● Reading a book out loud ● Talking to a pet ● Asking people to point me to things in the grocery store ● Talking to my Uber/taxi driver ● Asking for 15 min 1:1 coffee chat with people I want to learn from ● Going to pitch competitions ● Teaching something to an audience of 100+ people Practicing talking requires a lot of self-motivation, but you can do "progressively harder" practice sessions. If I wanted to get to the "going to pitch competitions" level, I had to feel confident talking to any Uber/taxi driver. With practice, talking gets progressively easier because you spend less energy worrying about whether or not you're good at it and more time enjoying the moment. Strategy 2: Always be taking notes I like to write down key points in a notebook before, during, and after I speak to someone. To this day, I always carry a little notebook with me, so that if I lose my thoughts, I can simply glance down and use it as a cue card for what I should say next. Strategy 3: Learn to ask good questions and provide thoughtful responses Some of my best conversations have been 70% someone else talking, 30% I'm talking. This is a great place to be because you've likely asked some thoughtful questions that sparkedconversation. The best questions are open-ended questions (not a yes or no answer). An analogy is to speak the way a great therapist would respond to a patient - with no judgment and with a lot of empathy. Examples of great questions to ask: ● "How are you feeling today/this week?" ● "You mentioned X, how did that make you feel?" ● "What is your favorite thing about X?" One great formula to respond to answers: ● "Yeah, that makes sense - thanks for sharing. I think..." The formula here is [acknowledge the response] + [thank them for sharing] + [begin formulating your thought or ask a follow-up question] Strategy 4: Set recharge routines Sometimes you just need to spend time by yourself. Not everyone loves to meditate, so it's good to know what activities recharge you. Athletes religiously stretch before and after activities. In the same way, setting a routine in advance of activities you know will drain you and require a lot of talking (ie. going to a conference or presenting at a meeting) can go a long way. Some of these routines can be done multiple times a day to make sure you're not 100% drained. For example, my current recharge routine is to listen to one uplifting song and take the time to reflect on things I'm thankful for. In the spirit of thankfulness, thank you to the Elpha team for the opportunity to share and I hope the community finds some value from my experiences.
Hey @lynchen! I personally resonate with this so much, so thank you for taking the time to map out these practical tips - especially loved the last point on learning to ask good questions. I've actually just written a similar article, open to a call and discussing the topic more in depth 😊https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/growing-company-when-youre-digital-introvert-jasmine-anouna/?trackingId=Wb%2Fax7pySGa5M5DY%2FxWJ%2Fw%3D%3D
Thanks for sharing this, Jasmine! Love the accountability buddy idea.
Thank you for sharing, Lyn!I'm like this too, I founded a community and I suddenly found myself needing to talk to people I don't know. It's tough, I over-think everything I say, and can drive myself a little bit crazy after I've had an important conversation. It's something I'm actively working on, once it's said and done, it's said and done and I need to move on.It's a work in progress!
Hey Lyn,Thanks much for sharing. It's so useful and so practical that I could see myself in most of the points you'd mentioned. Many a time I've zoned out in the middle of a conversation, like totally blank, and then used to feel stupid. I need to shake myself hard to come back into the zone, ha ha :)I also try hard to break many invisible ice walls that I myself built and after a point realize why did I complicate things, guess it's the fear of being judged and that may be because of the environment we grow up in. I loved your aspect of recharge routine, again very practical and I'm sure it'd resonate with most of us here.
Thanks for sharing - totally agree, the fear of being judged and our environment growing up for sure affects our daily interactions. I would encourage you to continue to share the hard experiences with peers - I found the more I did it, the more my fears are lifted. Recharge routines can even be even as simple as putting on your best shirt or hugging your dog after a call. :) You got this!
Thanks for sharing!!I’m the same way myself. I think my biggest fear is getting into an awkward pause in the conversation so I’m always trying to avoid that with a small list of conversation starters. I’m still working on my introverted-ness as well but like you said, practice makes perfect 😊
Thank you for sharing!All these strategies are really great, I'm writing down strategies 3 & 4 to practice these more often :)
Thank you for posting your thoughts! This is just what I needed right now. I'm teaching IT and often find it excrutiating being on show all the time. I've had to learn to mask it to do my job and a lot of people/my teaching collegues just laugh when I broach to topic of being an introvert and just wanting to be alone with my own thoughts. Thanks again it really helps 🙏
@lynchen Thank you for sharing your strategies for communication as an introvert. I am an introvert as well and it is quite challenging for me as my role involved working and communicating with a lot of people in person and online.I realise that I have a lot of anxiety before I speak but once I start speaking, I could go on forever and once I stopped it would be like I have never spoken before.My personality is so reserved that I don't like attention at all, I just want to get on with things without making any fuss around it. Trying to work at it and your strategies might just help in some way.Thanks.