The Introverted Entrepreneur, Pt. III: Finding the Temperament to Toot Your Horn

In this final part of “The Introverted Entrepreneur,” we’re talking about singing your own praises. Did you miss part 1 (on networking as an introverted entrepreneur)? No problem, it’s right here. How about part 2 (on teamwork and collaboration)? Gotcha there too. Not sure what we’re doing? Start here.

It feels like tradition now, so let’s address a third myth that can often plague the introverted: temperament has no direct correlation to confidence. That is to say, just because someone is introverted or presents as reserved, doesn’t mean they’re not confident in their skills or abilities. An individual can appreciate their accomplishments, and yet find themselves struggling to articulate them adequately. This final edition of The Introverted Entrepreneur will address that quandary, while also sharing a few tips on how to manage it.

Penny (or Far More) For Your Thoughts?

I know the answer to “So, what do you do?” I know it. It’s not always easy to articulate, but I know the answer. The question, however, is “why is it so hard to articulate?” As it happens, there’s a physiological answer to this. I’ll try to explain simply:

There are two neurotransmitters that have been tied to temperament: dopamine and acetylcholine. Brains have both present, but they respond to each differently. Scientific studies have demonstrated that extroverted brains respond well to high levels of dopamine, while introverted brains tend to be more sensitive to it. These brains tend to respond better to acetylcholine, which runs along a longer neural pathway.

Why does that matter? Because it amounts to a thought literally taking longer to get from your brain to your lips. It’s not that I don’t know the answer to the question someone has posed, it just hasn’t arrived at its final destination yet. As a timely person in a family of “late-ies,” this frustrates me about myself at times. But it’s my reality, and I suspect it’s the reality of several others.

For entrepreneurs, this can be challenging because so much of business culture depends on being able to effortlessly talk a good game. Competence is often gauged on being able to make people feel good about what you have to offer, and we’ve culturally decided that elevator pitches, presentations, and a dazzling presence at networking events (see Part 1) is the best way to measure this. To be clear, I don’t say this to imply that introverts are inherently bad at these things. Rather, I want to draw attention to the idea that they relate to these scenarios differently. With that in mind, I want to share a few tips to make them easier.

Aim for Carnegie Hall- Practice, Practice, Practice

“I’m a higher education speaker and consultant, and I’m also a writer. I do both on a freelance basis.”

I don’t have an answer to how many tries it took me to boil down my answer to “So, what do you do?” to this. A bunch. But I had to practice saying it, until it came naturally. In some ways, the process mirrored my former life as a distance runner. I couldn’t get up and run nine miles from the start- I worked up to it from a huffy and stitch-inducing four blocks. In that transformation, I built an endurance that allowed that four blocks to eventually take less energy from me. For introverts, easing into these situations with practice isn’t unlike gearing up for a distance run. Both scenarios are ultimately geared toward making something potentially tiring, require less exertion.

Practice in the mirror. Practice with your pets. Have close friends, family, or mentors practice with you. Like memorized lines for an actor or memorized verses for a singer, eventually your answers, pitches, and cases made for your business will become second nature.

Show Your Work

I’m not always able to tell people what I’m “working on these days,” but I’m lucky to have a platform where I can show it. Jennifer Kahnweiler has cited social media as a strength of introverted leaders, and this is one of many ways in which it can be a source of power. I can stumble through trying to explain the outlets I write for, or I can direct them to a selected list of my published pieces.  I can share that I’ve committed to writing jokes on a semi-regular basis, or I can direct them to the #ammahaha hashtag. If actions speak louder than words, then why shouldn’t the results of my actions take center stage?

If you haven’t already found a way to show the impact of that thing you’re trying to build, know that it will speak for you in ways you might not be able to. Whether it takes the form of videos, publications, or customer testimonials, “showing your work” can help fill in some of the gaps that may widen if you leave a point out of a pitch or can’t quite find the words for something in the moment.

Schedule Your Bravery

While I didn’t create this tip – I have to give that credit to Paul Jarvis – I love it as a piece of advice for introverts. He writes:

I schedule sharing when I’ve got the energy and am feeling amped up to do it. That means putting newsletters in the cue [sic] sometimes weeks before they go out, pre-publishing blog posts to go live at later dates, and even scheduling tweets way ahead of time (I try to schedule the tweeting of articles I’ve written to go out at least once a day).

I like to do this when I first find out that something I wrote has gone live online, or when I’ve had a triumph in something I’ve worked on. Those scheduled shares, fueled by a natural energy burst, will then be parceled out over time, including times when I’m a little less energized. I can trust that people will hear about my availability for spring speaking dates on a regular basis, without feeling wracked by “they’re going to get sick of me” doubts with every press of “send.” That feeling of doubt isn’t exclusive to introverts, but it does tend to dampen their energy more than their extroverted counterparts.

Budding entrepreneurs who depend on awareness and exposure can employ this strategy to keep their name on the radar of interesting folks- but use it thoughtfully! Nobody likes a spammer/”robot”/carpetbomber. Keep it tasteful and moderate, but impactful.

Befriend a Megaphone

We’re often able to look at the accomplishments of others more objectively than we can our own; harness that power for yourself and someone whose work you believe in. As with part 1, I’d encourage those who have a hard time promoting themselves to find a willing hype-human to keep in their stable. It can be so much easier to promote the good work of friends, collaborators, or colleagues than it can be for ourselves. If that’s true of you, ask yourself: who can you create a mutually beneficial broadcast system with?

We’re often comfortable with people who can be vouched for, so it creates an additional level of trust for whatever you might be working on. And if you can do this for someone you’re hoping to work with more closely, it will likely endear them to you- when done in earnest. Keep that caveat in mind: we are operating in a world where BS detectors are (rightfully) turned all the way up. Avoid setting it off by engaging in these practices genuinely. Doing so falsely or with a solely self-serving goal will make you memorable for all the wrong reasons.

This guide is in so many ways a means of scratching the surface on this topic. What tips do you have that I should think about adding? What challenges might I have missed? Would love to hear from you!

Further Reading From Me: