You have amazing introvert gifts. One powerful way to identify them—and claim them—is to look at your so-called introvert weaknesses in a different light.
Whenever I go to volunteer at the elementary school where my wife teaches kindergarten, I hear staff members speaking a fascinating language that wasn’t yet invented when I was a kid.
While it’s not exactly Yoda-speak (“Teachers we are”; “Children we teach”), it is similarly notable for what it chooses to emphasize, and why.
Suppose a kid is running down the hallway. The teacher who sees it doesn’t scream “Don’t run!” or “No running!” like my teachers would have done.
Instead, she calmly says “Walking feet” or “Walk in the hallways, please.” (Note: The “please” is its own astonishing addition to the disciplinary lexicon, but that’s another article.)
If a child up and starts smacking the kid next to him in the lunch line, the supervisor doesn’t yell “Don’t hit him!” or “No hitting!”
She says “Hands to yourself.”
If a child is noisy when he isn’t supposed to be, the teacher doesn’t say “Stop making noise!”
He says “Use your inside voice.”
The Perils of Selective Hearing
There’s a method to this dialect, a purpose based on a scientific fact that any educator—or parent—can readily verify:
Unless money is involved (“Don’t lose the $20 bill I’m about to give you for candy”), children cannot hear words like “don’t” and “no” and “stop.”
Thus, to, say, a first-grader, “Don’t run in the hall!” is understood to mean “Run in the hall!”
“No hitting!” becomes “Hit!”
And, of course, “Stop making noise!” translates to “Make (even more) noise!”
It’s as though the essential words have been dubbed out.
It’s All in the Emphasis
The solution to this childhood deafness problem, then, is to not use “not”; don’t use “don’t.”
Instead, you tap into the power of emphasis in language, and you stress to the children what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do.
I suppose that from this perspective, my junior high math teacher, Mr. Bowman, was technically quite progressive—indeed decades ahead of his time—when he routinely thundered at us, in his booming bass voice:
He was even good enough to boost his volume so that the kids in other classrooms could benefit too.
Although I think he was missing the true spirit of the concept.
Emphasize Your Introvert Gifts
As an introvert, you’ve undoubtedly had your times in life when you’ve been told about all the things you’re allegedly not, or that you’re allegedly not enough of:
… and on and on.
One of the many voices in this cacophony, sadly, might well be your own.
The messages come from all sides, and from both without and within.
You can’t do much about what the other people in your life focus on where you’re concerned.
But you can be good to yourself.
And you should.
In fact, you must.
It’s only fair.
Because every supposed introvert weakness you have can be re-expressed as a corresponding introvert gift.
All you have to do is change the emphasis—like my wife and her colleagues do, in their own way and for their own reasons, at school.
Your Introversion Is a Strength
If you’re viewed as “not talkative (enough),” for example, isn’t it plausible that you are a good listener, and that you are someone who thinks carefully before you speak?
If you’re seen as “not (enough of) a team player,” isn’t it quite likely that you are someone who kicks ass working independently—someone who stays focused and undistracted until the job is done, and done right?
If you’re tagged as being “not open (enough),” isn’t it reasonable to think that you in fact are someone who can be trusted with, say, a colleague’s confidential problem?
We all have our real, honest-to-goodness weaknesses; no one’s disputing that.
But don’t treat your introversion as one of them.
Oops. Wrong emphasis.
Treat your introversion as the strength it really is.
You have many introvert gifts.