by Matt Mattson
I am an introvert . I don’t thrive off of large groups. Spending time alone gives me fuel. Quiet solitude is where I find some of life’s greatest joys. My natural tendency is to separate from the crowd… or at least seek a very small group of people to spend time with. I am an introvert.
Also, I am a professional speaker, trainer and coach. I work with large groups of people nearly every day for a living. I teach people social skills, I urge social engagement, and I co-authored a book on SOCIAL EXCELLENCE. My work requires extraordinary amounts of social interaction, and I love my work.
It seems like those two preceding paragraphs couldn’t both be true about the same person. I promise they are though. 100%. That’s me.
A while ago, I read a book about introverts titled, “Quiet ” by Susan Cain (see her TED Talk here, and read a recent NY Times editorial that she wrote here). I’ll reserve my review of this book for another time, but I will share that it really got me thinking that there are probably a lot of “introverts” who hear our message of Social Excellence and assume it’s not for them. “I’m just not a people person,” they might think. “I do my best work alone,” they might even say.
I would offer, however, that the way we interact socially with the people around us is a) a choice, and b) the determining factor in our level of influence on the world around us. While I might do my best work when I’m alone, I can’t share that work, those thoughts, those insights, with the outside world while I’m in my introverted bubble. No matter the life path, I must eventually engage socially for my work to mean anything. Are there exceptions to this? Probably. But most of us, if we want to change people’s minds, sell our wares, recruit new donors or members, influence others, or BE A LEADER, we must do so through other human beings . We are social animals living in a SOCIETY. Our interactions with each other are the conduit through which that society flows.
I might be an introvert, but I make a choice to be Socially Excellent. Do I take breaks, go quiet, disappear into the safety and warmth of alone time occasionally? Yep. And I’m proud of it. In fact, I would recommend that to everyone who values a little quiet space. But I also deeply understand that the more hands I choose to shake, conversations I choose to have, and relationships I choose to build, the greater my potential to learn from others, be exposed to new ideas and experiences, have more people to support me when I need them, and influence others.
I might be an introvert, but I also want to matter to the world when it’s all said and done. I know that the best way for me to do that, the best way for me to make a big impact, the best way for me to create the change I wish to see in the world is through my relationships with others.
Plus, once I started to choose Social Excellence as a lifestyle, I had better stories, more fun, and more success.
Yes, introverts can be Socially Excellent.
P.S. Yes, I read the thing about "extroverted introverts." If labels like that help you find success and fulfillment, then awesome! I personally choose to focus on momentary choices that lead to the levels of success that I dream of.