Do you want to influence or lead others but wonder if being an introvert holds you back?
Maybe you’ve seen people with louder voices or flashier personalities on stages or screens and thought you might need to be that way too.
I’ve received comments, emails, and messages from introverts who say, “I want to (insert a way to change the world here) but….” What follows is usually something they see as a limitation in who they are as an introvert.
I get it because I’ve been there too. But what we’ve believed about introverts and influence simply isn’t true. I discovered that personally, and real-life examples as well as research backs it up too.
The Lie I Believed About Introverts and Influence
Starting a blog, launching an online community, and writing books has led me to many speaking invitations and a packed schedule. Like the wallflower asked to step onto the dance floor, I said yes to everything and everyone. I danced and danced. Spoke and spoke. Smiled and smiled. But I could sense the depression and anxiety I’d battled for most of my life coming back.
A few years ago, I went to a lovely conference far away, and I gave the keynote. The following morning in the last session, I stood in a beautiful room with wonderful people and couldn’t stop crying. It had been a whirlwind year, twenty trips in twelve months, and I was emotionally bankrupt.
I’d bought the lie that having influence required being someone I wasn’t, and I was so wrong.
A Different Way to Influence
Finland is a great example of the power of quiet influence. Finland is known as “the land of introverts”.
When marketing experts wanted to make the country a world-famous tourist destination, the strategy seemed obvious. Turn up the volume, add more action and excitement. But the delegation went a different direction. They concluded Finland’s affinity for peace and quiet was a core part of its appeal. Life is noisy and busy. “Silence is a resource,” the report said.
“People already do [pay for the experience of silence]. In a loud world, silence sells. Noise-canceling headphones retail for hundreds of dollars; the cost of some weeklong silent meditation courses can run into the thousands. Finland saw that it was possible to quite literally make something out of nothing.”
Finland could have said, like I did, “We feel invisible as a country. We need to change who we are and get louder.” Instead, they said, “The world has plenty of noise. We have something different and valuable to offer.” The result? Tourism grew. Citizens thrived. The World Happiness Report just released its annual list and Finland “takes the top spot as the happiest country in the world.” Again.
A Deeper Look at Influence
I now understand true influence isn’t about getting attention; it’s about making a connection. Daniel Goleman said in Social Intelligence, “Even our most routine encounters act as regulators in the brain, priming our emotions, some desirable, others not. The more strongly connected we are with someone emotionally, the greater the mutual force.”
Think of the most influential people in your life. Your answers are likely “Mom” or “my teacher” rather than “Nobel Prize winner” or “CEO.” Yes, those in the public eye get more attention, but attention isn’t the same as meaningful influence. Caring matters more than charisma.
Your Sphere of Influence
To understand your sphere of influence, imagine a target. The bull’s-eye represents your immediate family and closest friends, where the most intense influence happens. The next ring might include extended family and casual friendships. Beyond that are rings including coworkers, church members, neighbors, and the barista you chat with during your daily coffee stop.
We each have a different sphere of influence, but we all have ways to make a difference in the lives of others.
How Influence Has Changed
Influence in our world has undergone a significant shift in recent years. The internet and social media mean anyone can have a voice, offer their creativity to the world, or lead the way toward change. Gone are the days of gatekeepers and needing permission from people in authority. We all have the opportunity to be influencers now.
Old influence worked like a pyramid, with influence condensing and increasing from bottom to top. New influence looks more like a series of connected circles. It is not about having a position of power but meaningful connections.
Having a few direct, quality relationships indirectly impacts a large quantity of people. Visibility is irrelevant. You don’t need a corner office, a microphone, or a certain number of social media followers.
Your Influential Introvert Strengths
Introverts are masters at new influence and we impact people through these strengths:
• Listening well
• Building up others
• Acting intentionally
• Asking helpful questions
• Writing effectively
• Sharing attention and accolades
• Being patient and persistent
• Combining hard work with humility
• Seeking to understand
• Encouraging others
• Coming up with creative solutions
• Adding insight and depth
• Following up thoroughly and thoughtfully
As bestselling author, professor, and leadership strategist Jeff Hyman says, “Quiet people often produce the loudest performance.”
We Need Your Influence
I now understand the best, most helpful way I can show up in the world is by simply being who I am. The same is true for you. We need men and women who dare to choose a different kind of influence.
So, let’s kiss our babies or close the big sale. Get on a plane or walk to the local park. Clear our throats and say what we’re afraid to or offer the gift of silence to a world in desperate need of it. Raise our hands to volunteer or say the brave no our souls long to hear. Make wedding cakes or millions of dollars for a good cause. Go with a friend to chemotherapy or be the keynote speaker at a conference.
But let’s never make the mistake I did by believing our quiet nature might disqualify us from changing the world. We may find, like Finland, it’s the very thing that empowers us to do so.
Holley Gerth loves humans, words, and good coffee. She’s an INFJ, life coach, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author whose newest book is, The Powerful Purpose of Introverts: Why the World Needs You to Be You. Bestselling author Ann Voskamp described it as, “Practical, researched, and profoundly helpful.” For a limited time, you’ll get over $75 of free bonuses when you preorder the book and fill out the bonus form!
None of us are 100% introvert or extrovert. You can take Holley’s free one-minute “What Percent Introvert Are You?” quiz to reveal the introvert in you!