I smiled as I read Johnny’s last blog post, An Uncomfortable Situation. I smiled because his reflections weren’t surprising to me. He described being in a meeting and being asked to contribute thoughts independently through writing. I know Johnny and I know how much he loves to connect and think through conversation. I could imagine his struggle to write without talking. I also smiled just a bit to my introverted self at the thought of an extrovert feeling uncomfortable in a meeting. I always thought feeling uncomfortable in meetings was reserved for introverts.
Johnny’s experience reminds me of times we all have when we are called on to be something other than what we are. And although the purpose of this website is to help us learn to honor who we are (and help others learn to honor us as well,) there are times when we need to stretch beyond our comfort zone.
Susan Cain, in Quiet, talks about the occasional need for introverts to be pretend-extroverts. There are times that we are required to speak up in meetings, give presentations, or socialize with people we don’t know. A little bit of practice at stretching into uncomfortable situations is probably a good thing. I often tell teachers who work with high-need students that they may at times need to pretend. They may need to pretend they are a patient teacher. They may need to pretend they are not feeling frustrated. They may need to pretend that they aren’t baffled by their student. By pretending they are what they are not at that moment, they are actually broadening their teaching skills. Pretending is a form of practicing. And practicing is how we learn new skills.
My advice to introverts: If you’re in a situation that calls for traits you don’t possess, fake it. Ask yourself what an extrovert might do in the same situation. What might they say? What expression might they have on their face? What might their body language say? And then pretend. Just for a short time. It may be just enough to get you through your uncomfortable situation. And then you can go back to curling up on your couch with your book and your cat!