Why I Speak and Other Introverts Should, Too

Every time I speak I feel like a duck. Cool and collected above water while “paddling like hell” underneath! But that’s not why I speak.

I remember when I went to my first speech class in high school. My hands were sweaty, my spine felt like jello and I thought I was going to pass out. I took the last seat in the far left row, near the wall and in front of an open window.  I needed air and I wanted to hide in the back so I could look around at the others. I wanted to see if they were suffering like I was. I wanted to know what was going on with them, not just what’s going on with me.

As I sat in my back seat with the wind behind me, I felt some relief. Of course the air felt good. But it really felt good to see others not acting like ducks. They were nervously rubbing their hands on their legs, crossing their arms while holding themselves around the middle or looking away from those near them. This was a speech class?! So many were not acting cool and collected. Then my observations continued as we were each asked to stand up and speak to the group. I heard high-pitched voices, watched bold speakers perform “in your face” behaviors (which I later learned was their anxiety gone wild), I “squinted” with my ears to try to hear some who weren’t projecting, and then I was called upon.

Once again I entered duck mode. My insides were revving up, but nobody knew it. I smiled. Somehow I walked cool and calm to the front of the room, while “paddling like hell” underneath.  Then I looked at one person, our teacher, and talked. I guess I figured she was wishing me well, for what came out of me was a relaxed voice in a pitch that was comfortable and a sound that actually resonated!

Our teacher smiled. That motivated me to look for another smile in the room. My heart was racing, and I didn’t necessarily sound coherent, but I kept my smile going too, using expression in my voice. I kept my pitch at a reasonable level and somehow found myself in a “flow” of speaking. I had planned to say a few things and then more thoughts came to me while I spoke. I realized almost every person was looking at me, some nodding, several smiling and I discovered how thrilling it is to be able to speak uninterrupted and to be received well.

Most of us introverts believe that won’t happen – that we won’t be received well and we either need to talk fast to avoid being interrupted or not make eye contact so we can’t see that people want to. However, most introverts do want the chance to be heard, appreciated and responded to.

That’s why I speak. It isn’t about arrogance – although for years I tended to mix those signals. It isn’t about monopolizing conversation. Yet I can’t say I haven’t done that before. I speak because I like to understand what my impact is and what listeners are thinking. That’s usually what introverts want – understanding. We really want to understand “What would happen, if I said this?”

So what if you are nervous. Maybe it won’t show because you, too, will enter duck mode and those in the room will be at ease watching you and hearing your thoughts. Maybe they’ll be as comfortable as you sharing how they feel about your ideas. And then you will have what so many introverts want – understanding. This is why you should speak.

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On July 28th, 2014, posted in: adrenaline, affirmation, behavior, calm, curiosity, in the zone, introverts by