DISC training, personality assessments, negotiation courses, debate workshops, quizzes to find out "What *personality/leader/unicorn* type are you?"; I've pretty much done it all. Somewhere deep down, I used to feel that I was a bad communicator. People never seemed to "get" me and the blanc stare was an ever-present danger that needed to be avoided at all cost. Maybe that's part of the reason why I didn't like being in unknown social situations. Like me at a party when someone asks "So, what do you do?" [Oh god noooo, don't talk to me, aaaaaah!]
I needed to present my work regularly as a scientist and later as a writer and communication and marketing advisor (go figure, right). Apparently, I was really bad at talking, so maybe I could learn how to be a better communicator. A long list of courses and workshops followed. Did I learn things? Yes, a bunch. Did they help me to get over my fear of unprepared speaking? Sadly no.
I decided it was because I hadn't found my perfect work environment yet. The courses gave me enough to get by and I was slowly getting some traction at work. I hoped that I would find that safe space, that perfect team to work with that would just get me instantly and life would be gorgeous. And then I found them! A small group of great colleagues where we all added value in our own way. For a few years, I was happy.
But then it happened again. I would make suggestions that would be ignored only to be met with excitement when someone else suggested the same thing. And I received yet another performance assessment with the advice to be more assertive. I suddenly realized that, although my teammates appreciated me very much and told me so regularly, I had yet again become invisible to my boss.
Being (in)visible, it's a theme that keeps coming back in my life. I sometimes think of it as the introvert's curse. We are amazingly dedicated to our work: working away in the background like little worker bees. Doing demanding analyses that no one else will touch or sometimes we're the unseen glue that holds a team together. We naturally gravitate towards the background, in fact, we prefer it.
But every great quality can also be your biggest pitfall. And so this was for me.
Since this kept happening, I could only conclude that the "problem" was me and, frustrated, I reached out to a coach who specializes in working with introverts and who helped me before. It wasn't until she taught me the real differences between the communication styles of introverts and extroverts and guided me to speak in a way that felt natural to me, that I finally started to let go of the anxiety. Once I understood how I naturally communicated and started to play into that, people started to listen. And I didn't even have to shout. Once I understood how extraverted people communicated and started to play into that, the blanc stares disappeared and, amazingly, I felt less drained after.
I was constantly looking for that perfect environment, not realizing that we actually create our own environment. Knowing myself better and the way I naturally communicate, I can now create the conditions I need to go into conversations without anxiety. Do I get it right every time? Of course not. And I still get nervous from time to time too.
But because I no longer think I'm a bad communicator, I can see the nervousness for what it is: A signal that something doesn't feel quite right yet. It takes some practice, but everyone can learn to recognize this.
Anxiety is simply a signal telling us that maybe we need to rethink our plan or maybe we're biting off too much at once and we need to take smaller steps. Whatever needs to be done, we can create the conditions that our introverted self needs to shine.
Wishing you a lovely flow today,