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Shy? 3 Ways to Use It to Your Advantage

A communication coach offers a bevy of tips on how entrepreneurs who don't naturally excel at self-promotion can shed their cloak of invisibility and get noticed.

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Introverts, due to their reserved nature, step out of the shadows less often than the more outgoing. But thanks to a new book by Susan Cain titled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, the quieter folks among us are having something of a moment in the sun. From a Time cover story to a New York Times Sunday Review piece by Cain, the topic of how our society undervalues introverts and the needs of those with a quieter disposition has been making frequent appearances in the media lately.

But while Cain does a great job of advocating for introverts and shining a spotlight on their strengths and preferences, for entrepreneurs in the world as it exists now, extroversion still has plenty of obvious benefits. The ease of networking and comfort with self-promotion that come with that 'E' on the Myers Briggs assessment, make it simpler to publicize and fund your venture, But that doesn't mean introverts are shut out of the start-up game. Far from it, as the head-down, detail-oriented nature of introverts gives them a leg up when it comes to withdrawing from the world to cook up new ideas.

Once you have that amazing innovation though, you need to get it out there, which is where Nancy Ancowitz comes in. The author and business communication coach was recently interviewed by Tahl Raz on the myGreenlight Blog, offering tips on how introverts can lose the cloak of invisibility that often prevents the gregarious from noticing their accomplishments. Ancowitz explains:

The way that [introversion] would hurt you the most is in the invisibility department. So if you tend to believe that you're accomplishments should speak for themselves that can hurt. Don't expect that other people are going to promote you and your work, just because you're sitting there working really hard and creating great things all day.

Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping your industriousness and innovation speak for themselves, in the 30-minute audio interview Ancowitz gives business owners a bevy of practical bits of advice on how they can use their shy nature to their advantage (and fight back against a business world that's often biased towards extraverts). These include:

  • Get out there… in writing. Many introverts are naturally good writers, says Ancowitz. If you struggle to make a good case for yourself or your product in person, put yourself out there in writing instead through blog posts, white papers or whatever means is available.
  • Forget winging it. Extraverts excel at thinking on their feet but introverts need to ponder before they speak. Make your life easier by thoroughly preparing a few talking points before meetings and networking events.
  • Videotape is an introvert's best friend. If you're the type that cringes when you hear your own voice on your voicemail greeting, this may sound like a terrible idea, but Ancowitz suggests getting a coach, friend, or mentor to film you in a social setting or large meeting. This often quickly reveals off-putting body language or annoying verbal ticks that can cause others to view you as aloof or anti-social and which are simple to correct.

Ancowitz's chat with Raz is wide-ranging and lasts just longer than a half an hour, so there are far more tips and tricks available for those looking for a deep dive into the subject. Download the complete audio file here.

Last updated: Feb 6, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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