Podcast: How Introverted People Can Excel in An Extroverted World
Today’s guest is a self-described introvert who wants to help her fellow introverts improve their lives and careers. What makes someone an introvert? Is it just shyness? What is the difference between extroverts and introverts? How is the workplace skewed to favorite extroverts? What can introverts do to make up for that imbalance? What additional challenges do introverted women face?
Join us for answers to these questions and more!
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Guest information for ‘Introverts Versus Extroverts’ Podcast Episode
Chelsey Brooke is a professional counselor, published writer, blogger, Pathfinder Coach and internationally-known figure helping introverted women live passionate and purposeful lives. Her mission is to inspire introverted women to live connected to their true purpose and to share the most authentic version of themselves with the world. Get exclusive access to her free training series on how to find clarity, build self-belief and cultivate a successful mindset at Thepathfinderforyou.com.
About The Psych Central Podcast Host
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Introverts Versus Extroverts’ Episode
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: Welcome to the Psych Central Podcast, where each episode features guest experts discussing psychology and mental health in everyday plain language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.
Gabe Howard: Welcome, everyone, to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Podcast. Calling into the show today, we have Chelsey Brooke, the founder of Pathfinder. It’s where she helps introverted women strip away everything they were told to be, uncover who they really are, and find their authentic path. Chelsey, welcome to the show.
Chelsey Brooke: Thank you so much for having me.
Gabe Howard: The first question that I have is… Can you give us a little more about Pathfinder? Why did you decide that this was important? You know, I’m speaking as a male, and I think, well, aren’t we all just our authentic selves always? But, you know, sort of in our pre-interview, you kind of explained that, you know, sometimes females see it differently. Can you talk about that for a moment?
Chelsey Brooke: Yeah. Great question. So part of the reason that I founded The Pathfinder is out of my own personal experiences. You know, I always kind of had the idea that I was an introvert. I always felt like I’m kind of out of place, awkward. And of course, I was told from other people, like you’re shy, you’re antisocial, you should speak up more, you should participate more. So I always felt like there was just something wrong with me. So having that experience throughout my life, and then majoring in psychology and sociology, and then going on to become professional counselor, I saw that a lot in my practice as well. And then I really wanted to help other introverted women kind of step over some of the struggles that I went through and help them reframe a lot of those misunderstandings that they might have heard growing up from family, friends and just cultural expectations of who they should be — and uncover that authentic self that can be layered up with all of the myths and misconceptions that they’ve heard their whole life, and then use that authentic part of them to create their life and career path instead of basing it on this misunderstanding of who they are.
Gabe Howard: I think it’s very interesting that you said that there’s a misconception surrounding introversion. Full disclosure, I am the biggest extrovert that you will ever meet. I love being the center of attention. It’s not an accident that I host a podcast. So my understanding of introversion is probably wrong. And my understanding is an introvert is somebody who doesn’t like to talk to people. Please explain to me what an introvert actually is.
Chelsey Brooke: I’m so glad you asked that. OK, so one of the first things I found interesting is that, I actually Googled, “What does the dictionary define as an introvert?” It says it’s a “shy, withdrawn person,” which is totally incorrect. And sadly, it really shows the bias that’s so prevalent in our culture against introverts. So first of all, it’s really important to know the difference — that introversion and shyness are not the same thing. So while some introverts are shy, extroverts can also be shy, too. Introversion has to do with your temperament, your personality that you’re born with. And shyness is a social anxiety that can affect any personality type. Part of the way that I describe the biggest difference between introverts and extroverts is how we process and respond to information in different environments. Kind of like this: An extrovert, you hear something, they respond. There’s not a lot of processing going on in their brain, between what they hear and their response. They’re just kind of saying the first thing that comes to their mind, and that’s just the pathway. That’s how their brain was developed and that is how it works. Introverts, on the other hand, hear something, or they’re asked a question, and their brain begins to think about possible answers they could give. What the reaction might be to those responses, maybe other times that they’ve been asked questions like that. They start thinking about which way they like to respond, try to find the right words. Then they start to answer your question. But at this point, it’s been far too long that people begin to wonder if you’re OK, what’s wrong? Or they’ve moved on altogether. So that’s just a short example of what has happened to introverts over their lives that makes people think they don’t like people or that they are not as quick-witted or they don’t know enough. A lot of times introverts are misunderstood because we take longer, and that’s literally because our brains are using a different, longer pathway. And so we’re literally wired differently. And while we can go very deep and we process things, and we like a lot of reflection and we actually need a lot of alone time and solitude to process and sift through all the information that’s going on in our environment, and extroverts just process the world differently.
Gabe Howard: During my research for this show, one of the things that I read is that introversion and extroversion at its real core is based on how you recharge. So, for example, an introvert, like you said, wants to be alone and that’s how they regain their energy. Whereas an extrovert wants to be around people, and that’s where they get their energy. Is that true?
Chelsey Brooke: Yeah, definitely. So aside from how we process and respond to information, that is the biggest difference between introverts and extroverts. So even when introverts are around people that they enjoy or they’re at events in environments that they enjoy, they’re still being drained by interacting with others even if they’re having a great time. Extroverts become more excited and more pumped up from being around other people, and they get drained when they’re alone. So, yes, that is definitely a big difference between introverts and extroverts.
Gabe Howard: During this conversation, you’ve talked about important things to know about introverts and how they differ from extroverts and how this can impact their lives. But in your opinion, what’s the most important thing to know about being an introvert?
Chelsey Brooke: So in an extroverted culture, you know, introverts’ natural tendency and preferences will always kind of be at odds with what’s expected. Like our tendency to want that solitude, want silence, to enjoy reflection and observation; and observation for introverts is participation a lot of the time in, you know, group meetings at work or at school or whatever. We are literally engaged in the conversation just by observing what’s going on. Whereas, for an extrovert, they think you need to be encouraged to join in because you’re not enjoying yourself, or they’re want to ask if you’re OK. So the fact that those are natural tendencies are always going to be at odds with society. So without knowing who you are and why you think, act and feel the way you do, you’re going to get this constant sense of being different or just plain wrong. Something I really work with my clients on is that knowledge is truly power, but understanding alone isn’t enough. We also have to translate that into how we live our lives. So we need to know how to set boundaries, to ask what we need and create an environment that we’re really happy in and we can thrive in. You know, success, happiness, fulfillment — that looks different for introverts. So we have to get clear on what those things mean for us and then start incorporating that in everything we do.
Gabe Howard: One of the things that you talk about on your Web site is people think that not only being an introvert is weak, but being an introverted female is weak, and then ultimately being feminine is weak. Do people think that being feminine or being a woman is weakness?
Chelsey Brooke: I think sometimes in our culture we consider masculine traits of being direct, bold, logical, very assertive, like, this is what you need to be successful, especially because the women I work with are usually wanting a career change or want to find some kind of work environment that’s more authentic with who they are. A lot of times they feel like they are encouraged to tap into that masculine side. And if that’s what they need to succeed in business, certainly, and in career and in leadership roles and things like that, and the more feminine qualities of being compassionate and sensitive and understanding — those are more secondary or not as important as the masculine traits. I think it’s definitely something that we need to work on as a culture and within our own micro groups, in our families and communities and workplaces to find that balance and especially important for introverted women, because not only do they have the introvert piece where they’re different from extroverts, but then they have the feminine qualities that are maybe at odds with the perceived more “desirable” traits of being masculine. So I definitely think it’s something that we need to work on to make sure we have a healthy balance of that and not feel like feminine traits aren’t as necessary or as valuable as masculine.
Gabe Howard: It’s fascinating that we’ve genderized personality traits.
Chelsey Brooke: Mm-hmm.
Gabe Howard: You know, kind of like what you said, like being caring — well, that’s a feminine trait.
Chelsey Brooke: Mm-hmm.
Gabe Howard: And being aggressive in the workplace — well, that’s a masculine trait. Aren’t these just personality traits that appear in all kinds of people and any random order based on your personality?
Chelsey Brooke: Yeah, they definitely can be. I mean, we could also associate being extroverted with being more bold and assertive and then being integrated with being more quiet. But the latest research actually suggests that men tend to be slightly more introverted than women. So that throws a whole ‘nother mix up that we’re talking about, because sometimes we… like we said … we think of masculine and feminine traits as masculine to be more kind of extroverted and then feminine traits of being more introverted. But the latest research suggests that men are actually more introverted than women. So, yeah, definitely interesting.
Gabe Howard: You know, my wife has an MBA. She she’s very much in the business world and she’s a supervisor at her job. And she talks about the difference between managing younger professionals and women versus men. And she sort of echoes what you said and she said that men are more prone to sit back and expect their work to be noticed, whereas women are more prone to not toot their own horn or be braggart, but to make sure that she and the other management team understands what they’re working on. And I think that’s sort of what you’re talking about, because I don’t think that has anything to do with extroversion or introversion. I think it has to do with the cultural expectations that men just believe that they’ll get what’s coming to them if they work hard, whereas women are sort of more conditioned to understand that they may be passed over if they don’t advocate for themselves.
Chelsey Brooke: Mm-hmm.
Gabe Howard: Is that kind of like what you talk about when you talk about helping people understand how to use their introversion in the workplace and get unstuck with where they are and get to their authentic self?
Chelsey Brooke: Yeah, it really speaks to how introverted women would be kind of at a double disadvantage because they are going against the cultural norm that we expect of women, too, is to be very social, energetic, talkative. They’re supposed to get people together and do the group meetings and want to be involved in that. And introverts, a lot of times, so if they talk about what they’re doing or what they’re working on or their successes or achievements — that they’re bragging, and they never want to appear that way. So I have kind of a three step process that I work with introverted women on how they can advocate for themselves authentically in the workplace. And the first thing to learn how to do that is to understand yourself. That’s why I speak so much on understanding how your brain works and why you think, act and feel the way you do, because knowledge really is power in that regard. And then, two, educating others that who you are, that that’s perfectly OK. I know for me as an introvert, if I am prepared and knowledgeable at something, then I feel so much more authentic, and I feel so much more confident in advocating that to other people. And it’s really not that you have to go and be bold and brazen like we think of when we think of someone advocating for something, it’s just being yourself and making that OK — you can participate in group meetings by taking awesome notes and then sending follow-up emails. You can really shine in different ways that maybe an extrovert wouldn’t, but introverts are sitting back, and they can focus, they can process information so deeply, and they tend to be organized and dependable and consistent and all of these other strengths. And that’s actually my last point that I work with introverted women on — to advocate for themselves, to work with your strengths instead of against them. Don’t feel like you need to make excuses for who you are or just put on your extroverted facade and get through the day. It’s OK to be who you are and to work with your strengths instead of feeling like you need to be somebody else.
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Gabe Howard: And we’re back discussing introversion with Chelsey Brooke. Let’s build on advocating for yourself in the workplace a little bit. When you think of the average introvert — how can they advocate for themselves authentically in the workplace and not come off as, you know, bragging or being too aggressive or, you know, in the case of women, they often get called, you know, the B word and all they’re doing is advocating for their own position.
Chelsey Brooke: Mm-hmm.
Gabe Howard: So how can introverts advocate for themselves authentically in the workplace in a productive and positive way?
Chelsey Brooke: So I think one of the important things to realize is that so much of our communication is done nonverbally. Facial expressions, hand gestures, nodding, leaning forward or making eye contact. All those things that introverts really naturally do as we’re processing and we’re observing, especially in group meetings or in our workplaces. And that is an authentic way for introverts to advocate for themselves using your non-verbal communication, using what you would normally do to express yourself and conserve your verbal communication and your talking for more important conversations. That’s something introverts really have to be aware of throughout the day, especially if you’re in a typical work environment where there’s cubicles or you have group meetings or things like that. You have to be really intentional about where you’re spending your energy because it’s kind of naturally being drained throughout the day. So that’s another tip — is really setting boundaries around how much you talk and participate in things versus if you have time to take your lunch break and go to the car instead of going to the break room or something where other people would be. Going out if you have a 15 minute break, take a walk or go somewhere else and just be by yourself. Just look at nature or anything like that. To regain your energy throughout the day is really important. And then going back to the bragging piece, introverts really do not like feeling like they are bragging about themselves or being arrogant in anyway. And so a lot of times, unfortunately, people don’t know how much we do know or how much we’re actually working on or the successes that we’ve had because we don’t want to talk about them because we feel like that’s being arrogant. Even just remembering to put your name on anything that you create, produce, or help with, because so many times people just don’t even realize the back end stuff that’s going on that you’re helping with. So just even putting your name on that or just bringing it up in conversation with people, you know- Oh, I was so excited because I worked on this project and we did this. You know, what are you working on these days? You use your natural reflection and observation of other people, ask questions, just be curious about other people and then just kind of slide in what you’re working on instead of making it just about you. Introverts can be uncomfortable with the spotlight. And so saying what you did and then shifting the conversation is not only helpful for introverts, but also it’s just good communication in general. So those are just a few tips to help introverts really advocate for themselves authentically in the workplace.
Gabe Howard: I really like what you said there, and I’m sort of reminded of a problem that I had in my past life. I used to work in fundraising and a lot of people who are excellent donors and really support non-profits and charities, they really have this belief that you must do so anonymously or you’re not doing it for the right reasons. And I would hear that all the time: “This is an anonymous donation. I’m doing it for the right reasons.” You know, it has like a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I’m not doing it for the credit. That feels like it’s good. But here’s the problem with that. You’re not modeling this behavior. You’re not showing your friends and neighbors that being charitable and supporting other people, or that helping the less fortunate or that being involved in the social good is something that our society values. It’s something that you value. You know, a lot of us get our habits, quite frankly, from our families. But the secondary place we get our habits is from our friends and neighbors. And if I see my friends and neighbors all giving to a charity, I am much more likely to think, well, wait a minute, this must be a charity that is worthwhile, because after all, my neighbor John or my friend Jim, or whomever, sort of vouches for it. Is this happening in the workplace where everybody has convinced themselves that if they keep their head down and be quiet, they will somehow be — I don’t know — better than if they own what they have and model good work behavior and move forward in a respectful yet bold way.
Chelsey Brooke: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point, and what you’re really talking about is that we can think that talking about what we’re doing is bragging in some way — just like mentioning whatever we’re doing. So for introverts especially, I think it’s really important for us to realize that being authentic is going to look different for us than an extrovert. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to advocate for ourselves in those ways that I’ve talked about, like using email to send notes of appreciation or encouragement or to say something, you know, you forgot to add in a meeting, because in group meetings — as the myths often come for introverts — is that we’re shy, we’re antisocial. A lot of times because we are inundated with classrooms and in group meetings. And that’s not where we shine. You know, that’s not our best place. We really shine more with one-on-one conversation. But still, the way that you can show your participation even in those situations is to send follow-up emails about questions or thoughts that came up during the meeting. Come to the meeting prepared with questions. And I encourage my clients to ask questions in the beginning of the meeting instead of waiting for an opportune time, because that’s another thing that introverts struggle with, is they don’t want to interrupt people. So I, as an extrovert, would think nothing of just speaking right after somebody else was done or speaking whether they are called on or not. Introverts actually think that’s being rude sometimes. So we will wait to be asked a question, or we’ll wait to raise our hand. And then that can look like we’re not participating when really we’re just actually trying to be nice and do what we think is respectful. So asking those questions beforehand in the beginning of the conversation before you get that awkward, anxious feeling, also helps ensure it’s being more authentically themselves as well.
Gabe Howard: But let’s say at this point in the show, somebody is listening and they’re like, oh my, I am the introvert, I am the person at work. I don’t understand it. I feel very stuck. How do they become unstuck and start moving forward with their career or their life?
Chelsey Brooke: First of all, I think it’s important to have a mindset shift on what that means. So a lot of times the difference between staying stuck or getting unstuck has to do with our perspective. Feeling stuck doesn’t have to be this terrible experience, even though I often feel that way at the time. It can feel so heavy and draining, but it’s really just your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t right — time for a change in your current situation that has run its course. So feeling stuck can be a new catalyst into a new, better, more aligned situation. Or it can be the point at which you just settle into discontent for the rest of your life, which we don’t want to do that. So recognizing that, or feeling their emotions are often just a feedback mechanism for what’s going on in our heads and hearts, it gives us so much more peace and understanding how to start making changes in our lives. So first, starting with that mindset, “stuck” doesn’t have to be a terrible thing as it’s just my body’s way of telling me something isn’t right. And then the next step would be, again, understanding yourself and your interests, especially introverted women. A lot of times, that starts with going back to childhood, thinking about your school experiences, your work experiences. You know, how would you describe what was valued in your family? A lot of times introverts are raised, sometimes with no one to understood their introversion. I know I was fortunate enough to be raised by a mom who is an introvert, but we didn’t even know at the time as I was growing up to call it introversion. She really appreciated my quiet strength, but we didn’t know to call it introversion. So it wasn’t until I started college at 16 and really got into introversion and psychology and sociology that I even found out that piece of me and really started putting all my life together. So understanding yourself, your brain and then working on, really working on, rebuilding your self belief because an introvert, a lot of times, like I said, we have all of these myths and misconceptions around who we are, and we have these expectations from other people about what we should be. So a lot of times, we don’t always have the best self-belief in who we are, because we don’t even know what that looks like. We don’t even know what being an authentic introvert looks like. Reframing and reshaping the way that you think about yourself and your strength. And then finally creating that success mindset where you’re really building resiliency. So even when you have fears or self-doubt, negative self talk, which we all have sometimes, you know what to do when those things come out. So that’s kind of a three way approach that I encourage people to really work with. If they are feeling stuck in their lives.
Gabe Howard: I really like the three-step approach, and I like that your goal is to help people get the most out of their lives. And when we talk about getting the most out of our lives, whether it’s family, career or hobbies, we’re really talking about efficiency and productivity. How do introverts work most efficiently and productively in the world?
Chelsey Brooke: So specifically thinking about an ideal introvert work environment, it is really pretty simple. It’s based on the idea that creativity really thrives with silence, independence, and organization. So to do our best work, we really need physical space to be on our own preferred way, not a cubicle. Since this really doesn’t give us the quietness that we need, we need to schedule time to be uninterrupted as introverts. We can really get deep into thought, and we can process something. And if we’re really into something, and then we have someone come over and say, Hey, what do you want for lunch? We have to come up out of all those thoughts just to answer what we want for lunch. Something so trivial — it can take another 20 minutes for us to get back into that deep thought process that we were in. So scheduling time to be uninterrupted is really important. And having a daily, weekly schedule, a meeting and clear expectations for projects or presentations that are coming up really gives us that safety and consistency and organization to know what’s expected of us and then what we need to do. And then the option to provide feedback or participation through written form. A lot of times, introverts feel like they really express themselves more effectively and more authentically through written form instead of talking. Even being able to do that really helps us as well. So these simple guidelines, which really can be helpful for any personality type, give us the time and space we need to process not only the opinions and ideas of those around us, but also consider our own thoughts and how we can organize them into clear, concise and helpful feedback. So a typical work environment is usually more skewed to favor extroverts than introverts. But I think this was really a disservice to both personality types, to introverts, because we aren’t able to show our best work in that kind of environment. And for extroverts, because they can really also benefit from individual time to formulate their thoughts and stay organized and on task as well.
Gabe Howard: In doing the research for this show, I visited your Web site, which is an excellent Web site, and I recommend that the audience visit. It’s at www.ThePathfinderForYou.com. It’s in the show notes. Very, very cool website. But one of the questions that was on there, and I’m just going to read it exactly — and I am really interested in your answer — it says, how can I learn to tap into my feminine qualities and incorporate them into my life and work?
Chelsey Brooke: Hmm, going back to that, you know, masculine and feminine qualities. A lot of times, even in our families and in our workplaces and a culture at large, we can feel like our feminine qualities are not as valuable or front and center as the more masculine qualities. So if you’re feeling out of touch, and you don’t even know what that would look like for you, I really encourage women to just start engaging in those nurturing activities, and you can try a whole bunch of different things if you don’t and what that would be — for example, reading, writing and being expressive, like getting involved in art, pottery, going out to look at the beauty of nature or going to a museum or selling or cooking or gardening or any of those kinds of things. And if you’re not sure, I would encourage you to just try to go out and see which ones really resonate with you. I know for me, whenever I get around kids, it just really brings out my nurturing kind of maternal instinct, I guess. And it just makes me so very authentic within my feminine qualities. So getting into that and doing those activities, and seeing what that feels like and looks like, you can then get working on incorporating that in the workplace as well, just by feeling like you can bring your sensitivity and compassion and understanding into the workplace. And it’s actually a strength and it could be helpful in so many situations rather than just feeling like you have to be this bold, assertive, direct, logical person. Bringing in understanding and compassion can really be helpful in any environment and can make you feel like you’re being more authentic as well.
Gabe Howard: Chelsea, thank you so much for being on the show and thank you for all of your answers. Do you have any final words for our audience?
Chelsey Brooke: Hmm, yes, I’m so glad you asked that. So I know for me the biggest thing that I learned throughout my journey is that being an introvert is OK. There’s nothing wrong with you. There can be so many interactions and experiences and environments that we’re in that make us feel like we’re just, we don’t fit in or that we don’t belong. And it’s so important for introverts to know that they’re OK, and that there’s nothing wrong with who they are and to really tap into their strengths. So many times when I work with introverts, once they learn what their strengths are, they’re so happy that they are introverts. They just never looked at themselves in that way before. So doing your research, getting more understanding about what being an introvert means and how it impacts your life, and then reframing your self-belief into being more authentic with what your strengths are and incorporate that into your daily life. I think the best advice that I can give introverts is knowing that they are okay, and that they can be their authentic selves.
Gabe Howard: Wonderful. Chelsey, thank you again for being on the show, we really appreciated having you.
Chelsey Brooke: Yes. Thank you so much.
Gabe Howard: And listeners, if you could do me a favor and spread the word on social media. Email a friend. Don’t make us the best kept secret on the Internet any more. We really appreciate your help getting the word out. I would take it as a personal favor if you tell at least 100 people by the time I’m done talking. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling anytime, anywhere, simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We’ll see everybody next week.
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Central Podcast, T. (2019). Podcast: How Introverted People Can Excel in An Extroverted World. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/podcast-how-introverted-people-can-excel-in-an-extroverted-world/