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Self-Promotion for IntrovertsThe Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead
By NANCY ANCOWITZ
McGraw-HillCopyright © 2010 Nancy Ancowitz
All right reserved.
Chapter OneYour Negative Self-Talk Tuning Out U-SUCK Radio
It's a good thing that we can't hear each other think. People only pick up on what you give off—verbally and nonverbally. So before you promote yourself outwardly, let's take a look at how you talk to yourself inwardly. Are the messages you say to yourself gentle and forgiving, petty and ruthless, or somewhere in between? What if your accomplishments weren't just an accident? And what if you're actually gifted—rather than just pretending or duping lots of people?
In this chapter we'll discuss what you can do to mitigate your negative chatter. We'll also address its overbearing companion: the need to make everything perfect—the first time, no excuses. Not that introverts have cornered the market for negative self-talk and its close cousin, perfectionism. We'll discuss what you can do to redirect this self-defeating energy.
I'll provide you with specific examples and simple tools. You'll take stock of your own negative self-talk, better manage your self-directed put-downs, and build an inner circle of support. While some of the examples I'll share are bleak, I'll also refer to the victories of two world-class swimmers for inspiration. All of this is to illustrate that the challenge of negative self- talk is a big, yet surmountable, one; it's also universal. Why are we even addressing negative self-talk? The better you manage it, the more you can bring out your most confident, supremely promotable introverted self to ultimately make greater contributions to society.
INTROVERTS MAY ACTUALLY CHATTER MORE—IN THEIR HEADS
Research on the brain suggests that introverts may have a higher level of internal chatter than extroverts. Debra L. Johnson, Ph.D., a physiological psychologist, recommends that introverts embrace their inner dialog. "If the dominant functional pattern is to engage in a running monolog about activities and demands, this self-talk might be harnessed by explicitly 'reminding' oneself about important behaviors," she says. "For example, a person might include a self-comment to the effect of, 'I did really good work on that project—everyone has told me that.' Or 'In a staff meeting today, I have to speak up about my involvement.' Or he or she could even plan and rehearse exactly what to say in a meeting."
Bob McPeek, Ph.D., director of research at the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc. (CAPT), adds: "If you look across different areas of research, there is a pattern of evidence suggesting that introverts are more likely to engage in self-reflection. Much of it is along the lines of tossing and turning at 3 a.m., replaying the same event in your mind, and beating yourself up for it," he says. Can you relate? McPeek continues: "Different researchers use words like 'brooding' or 'rumination' for this negative state. An effective strategy for dealing with it is distracting yourself or diverting your energy. There's also a positive side to self-reflection that introverts may exhibit that is more like a healthy intellectual curiosity about yourself." We entertain that curiosity throughout this book.
A CHALLENGE WORTH TAKING ON
Like maintaining an exercise program or keeping your finances in order, managing your negative self-talk is a challenge worth taking on. At the Self-Promotion for Introverts® workshops I offer for adults at New York University, most of my students—who include entrepreneurs, architects, psychotherapists, artists, computer programmers, investment bankers, Harvard-educated lawyers, marketing executives, corporate managers, and nonprofit directors—anonymously share their negative self-talk messages on index cards. I collect the cards and read them to the room. Here's what these accomplished professionals have shared:
* "I'll never make decent money doing anything I like."
* "My biggest accomplishments were all flukes."
* "I'm a failure."
* "I'm always the invisible 'brains' behind the operation."
* "As soon as an idea comes out of my mouth, someone else takes credit."
* "My mind goes blank when I try to converse with new people."
* "I sound stupid."
* "I'll spend the rest of my life as a worker bee."
* "I appear mentally slow because I need to collect my thoughts before I speak."
* "There's something wrong with me for being so private."
Recognize these? Do they sound familiar? Thoughts like these may stream through your head too—perhaps at four in the morning, when your tongue goes bone dry at the podium, or when your boss storms into your cubicle demanding a summary of your whole year's accomplishments. How are you supposed to promote yourself while those menacing flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz are screeching insults inside your head?
INVISIBLE, YET ALL EYES ARE ON YOU
Let's say you're an award-winning graphic designer with a solid core of Fortune 500 clients. However, when you enter a holiday party full of highly accomplished senior managers, many of whom are potential clients, you find yourself frequently looking out the window, checking your voice mail, and visiting the restroom. What's keeping you from cracking a smile and striking up a conversation? Maybe something like the following is running through your head: "Everyone here is more accomplished, better educated, more informed, and more interesting than I am."
After deliberating for two hours, you finally get up the courage to approach someone. You say something to the nearest person in a raspy mumble without making eye contact. The potential client of a lifetime interrupts your first (and only!) sentence and quickly takes off, waving vaguely at someone across the room. You slink away and go home, ironically feeling that all eyes were on you and your major social faux pas—despite your invisibility. To make matters worse, you mockingly replay in your head your opening line to the potential client extraordinaire: "How's the sangria?" It takes three months before you're ready to consider your next outing.
HOW TO MAKE NETWORKING SITUATIONS MORE PALATABLE
It doesn't have to be like this. In Chapter 5 we'll discuss more about the external aspects of navigating networking situations. Meanwhile, here are a few quick tips you can use right away:
* Choose events where you're likely to feel welcome.
* Before going to a networking event, take stock of why someone would want to talk to you.
* Do something that makes you feel grounded just before the event (e.g., write, draw, listen to a favorite song, or call a mentor).
* Scope out the most comfortable places—possibly the quietest areas—for you in the space (just not the wall!).
* Remember that all eyes aren't on you.
* Learn about other people—listen intently, solve their problems, and share resources.
* Remember to breathe. We often forget this most basic human need. Taking a few deep breaths will help you relax.
* Drink water. Stay hydrated for your overall well-being and specifically for your voice. Avoid caffeinated beverages, which can contribute to the jitters.
YOU CAN CATCH ANY BALL
One of my clients, a senior corporate training manager—let's call him Clark Connolly—found a way to stay attuned to his gifts, despite the background "noise." He shares a recurring negative self-talk message that plays in his head when he speaks to someone more senior: "I'm not in the same league." To counter that, I ask Connolly to describe a situation in which he performs at his best. A fine and confident athlete, he pictures himself in the outfield and says, "I can catch any ball." Connolly repeats this affirmation to himself whenever he faces a particularly challenging situation; in fact, it's become his mantra.
While we'll talk more about affirmations in the next chapter on strengths, you might start thinking of a positive message that you can say to yourself. Connolly wrote his affirmation, along with other useful reminders, on a little card and laminated it. He refers to this wallet card whenever he needs a boost, like before a high-stakes meeting. Here's what it says:
Clark Connolly's Negative Self-Talk Antidote Wallet Card
* Preparation. Anticipate.
* Breathing. Ten deep breaths.
* Affirmations. "I can catch any ball."
* Physical attributes. Feet planted; head high; shoulders back.
* Voice. Modulate; lower pitch; raise volume; ask questions; show interest.
While referring to your own version of Clark Connolly's wallet card may recharge you with positive thoughts, it can also help you manage those nasty little nothings that murmur between your ears. I find that managing my negative self-talk requires daily maintenance, especially when I'm under a lot of stress. During those times, I attempt to be more conscious of the messages I say to myself. I counter the noise by reinforcing what I'm good at, putting myself in positive situations, and surrounding myself with people who believe in me. I encourage you to find what works best for you.
A challenge that some of us face that can go hand-in-hand with negative self-talk is our unending quest to make everything perfect. Consider this: You interview for a high-paid position at a prestigious law firm. Your credentials and background are an ideal match for the position and the firm. You meet with three partners in a series of interviews and give excellent answers, despite four hours of relentless grilling. However, you make one mistake. While you're saying good-bye to the senior partner on your last interview, you accidentally launch a minuscule projectile of saliva, which lands on her cheek. While the partner doesn't seem to notice and you appear calm, later, when thinking about the interviews, you're convinced you bombed. Why? All you can think about is that you spat at the senior partner. So your perfectionism fuels your negative self-talk, which says: "I'm a total idiot for spitting. I blew it and can't get anything right." You picture what went wrong—over and over, in a slow-motion playback of the trajectory of spittle—and you ignore the overwhelming majority of things that went right.
Chita Rivera offers some gentle wisdom and a grounded perspective that might help you counter the dual demons of perfectionism and negative self-talk: "Enjoy what you do—even the things that seem negative," she says. "Know that they're lessons. Everything is a lesson." She adds important reminders that you've probably heard but are so easy to forget: "Don't take yourself too seriously, and have a sense of humor."
To give you a personal example of how I've managed my perfectionism and negative self-talk, I'll share what it was like writing this book. Confession: I find writing to be at times excruciating. It's a form of self-expression that brings out all my demons. I picture those flying monkeys tangled up in my every word. If my writing doesn't meet my standards on the first draft (which never happens), the monkeys scream and hiss at me, and my natural inclination is to stop writing—or to not even start.
I refused to succumb this time. So first, I asked myself: What do I want to achieve? Answer: To write a book to help introverts advance in their careers. Next, I asked myself: What resources do I have to achieve my goal? Answer: I've compiled tips and techniques from the trenches as an entrepreneur and corporate vice president who is an introvert. And most recently, as a business communication coach and lecturer, I've helped countless introverts thrive in an extroverts' world. Lastly, I asked: What has been my biggest obstacle? Answer: My fears. Specifically, the negative self-talk that can stymie me, keeping me from even taking the first step. Not to mention the peril, the tyranny, of perfectionism.
Can you relate to being so scared that you can't even write or say your first word or take your first step toward something important to you? Simi Sanni Nwogugu, CEO of HOD Consulting, Inc., a diversity consulting organization, shares some fitting advice: "Get out of your head once in a while and do an activity that's fun and refreshing. Then return to the task at hand with new energy. Sometimes the best insights occur when we're not concentrating so hard."
Most of us can benefit from outside support to help us reach our goals. Take stock of who is most likely to celebrate your successes. Jot down a list of these champions, including friends, family members, colleagues, mentors, acquaintances from your volunteer work, and former bosses, that make up your dream team. (I like the term, which is also a nod to the U.S. basketball team that won the gold medal at the Olympics in 1992, thanks in large part to such greats as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who offers advice for you in the next chapter.) Include people on your dream team with whom you could build relationships—either by deepening existing ones or by starting new ones.
YOUR DREAM TEAM
List the names of current and prospective members of your dream team in the far- left column in the table that follows. Then put a check mark in the boxes to the right that correspond to the types of support that each person can offer you. You can check multiple boxes for each person.
Now that you've identified your dream team, I have a highly rewarding exercise for you, which is similar to one described in a 2005 article titled "How to Play to Your Strengths" in the Harvard Business Review. Quite a few of my coaching clients have reaped the benefits of this exercise, which has underscored their strengths and added to their base of support. Here's the drill:
1. Pick three to five people from your dream team and ask them if they would take 10 to 15 minutes to help you with your visibility efforts—and ultimately your personal and career development.
2. Ask those who agree to e-mail you three things that they appreciate most about you—including your personality traits, talents, accomplishments, and good deeds. We're not looking for anything critical of you in this list—strictly the positive. If you're more comfortable receiving their feedback anonymously, you could follow the advice of Diane Darling, author of The Networking Survival Guide, to use an online tool such as SurveyMonkey.com.
3. Review their comments and reflect on the attributes they see in you that you may take for granted.
4. Print out the input you receive and keep it at hand.
Some clients who have done this exercise talk about how uplifting it is to refer to these reinforcements from their dream team. It not only feels good but it also helps create a strong foundation for your visibility efforts. Take a moment to consider the positive impact you've had on the people who matter to you. What is it like for you to receive this concrete evidence, in writing, of just how capable and talented you are?
Just as praise can give you a boost, criticism can drain your energy and distract you from your attempts to raise your visibility. Have you ever had a friend whom you could always count on to remind you of your weaknesses, minimize your accomplishments, or put you down? As if your negative self-talk weren't enough to contend with. "I've had friends like that, but I can't afford to be around them," says my client Madeline Abel-Kerns, opera singer, actress, and voice teacher. "I've also had vocal coaches and mentors like that, but I prefer the ones that give praise and encouragement, which is the approach I take with my students; otherwise, the learning process is much too harsh. In my early and middle development," she reflects, "I was negative toward myself, so I just accepted negativity in my mentors. Now I won't put up with it. I work hard to encourage myself and expect it from others."
While you can't control what other people say to you, you may be able to control whom you spend time with. Why waste your energy by exposing yourself to additional noise? Here are a couple of criteria to help you identify your naysayers:
1. When you talk about your victories, they typically change the subject to theirs, compare yours unfavorably to others', minimize your accomplishments, or "one-up" you.
2. They put you down. Some people will tell you that they're just being brutally honest, even if you don't want to hear it or if the timing is off for you. Feedback is most effective when you agree to receive it.
"If you were to look deeper into the choices your naysayers made in their lives, there's a good chance that they had a hope or dream they decided not to go for," says Lizz Winstead, cocreator of The Daily Show and cofounder of Air America Radio. "So when you stand before them, willing to put yourself out there to make the world a better place or make yourself a better person, there's a pain inside them. They're telling you not to pursue your dreams because they don't want to see you succeed where they didn't take a chance."
Excerpted from Self-Promotion for Introverts by NANCY ANCOWITZ Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Ancowitz. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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