Advice to solopreneurs tends to assume that we have to become like extroverts. It doesn’t take into account the profoundly different brain wiring of introverts and extroverts.
Here are some actual statements I’ve come across in well-meaning advice to solopreneurs (followed by my re-frame). Gauge how this “advice” makes you feel:
- You have to get used to living outside your Comfort Zone.
- You need to routinely “scare yourself silly.”
- You might be an introvert, but you need to figure out how to act like an extrovert.
- You need to hone your presentation skills so you can at least give the impression you’re enjoying yourself.
- Bottom line: learn to do your business “while scared”!
If these “rules” for solopreneurs don’t make you shrink back into your tortoiseshell, I don’t know what will!
Let’s take each one of those points and flip it to the truth for introverts.
- Extroverts, being wired for taking action in the world, are inside their Comfort Zone most of the time. The introvert’s Comfort Zone is the interior world — the mind. We all need to get out of our Complacency Zone and operate from our zone of genius, which is related to our authentic nature.
- When extroverts say they feel “scared silly,” they’re really saying they’re super excited. They’re wired for taking action fueled by adrenaline (which creates the dopamine their brain needs). That same adrenaline tends to make introverts feel paralyzing anxiety, not action-promoting excitement. That’s because introverts are wired through the “rest & digest” parasympathetic nervous system. We do our best functioning when we’re relaxed. Yes, a mild challenge is a positive stimulant, but being “scared silly” is paralyzing.
- Why should introverts have to “act like an extrovert”? What’s the payoff? Consider the difference between acting and being yourself. When you’re acting, you’re off-center and inauthentic. That’s an unpleasant way to be. And you may not realize it, but other people can sense when you’re being inauthentic, and they won’t trust you. And if they don’t trust you, they won’t do business with you. So it’s a yucky feeling for both you and other people.
- Everyone needs to hone their presentation skills. Introverts who choose to share their wisdom via in-person presentations need to strategize radically comfortable ways of presenting so both you and your audience can relax. Here’s what I do:
- I announce that I use my notes because I’m liable to get brain freeze and “forget why I’m even in the room!” The audience laughs and relaxes.
- I also play “host” and meet as many people as possible before the event to bond with them and help them meet each other. This makes both them and me more comfortable.
- Bottom line: Introverts aren’t wired for optimal functioning while scared. Our home base, where we function optimally, is the “rest & digest” parasympathetic nervous system. Operating from the extrovert’s home base of the reactive “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system takes a negative physical and psychological toll on introverts.
Yes, we live in a world that favors the extrovert way of being, but we can achieve our goals in ways that work with our authentic being — which includes how we’re naturally wired.
We can use our gifts of thinking and planning to figure out creative approaches that’ll work for us.
Isn’t it a good feeling to know that you no longer have to feel shame when you come across well-meaning advice that fails to take into account introvert brain wiring?
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