After reading the title of this blog post, you might have wondered “Why on Earth is she talking about being an introvert? She delivers talks, she posts on social media, she records videos, obviously she is NOT an introvert!”That is actually not true at all.
Being an introvert is quite different from being shy. Being shy is when you feel afraid or not comfortable interacting with people in general, while introverts enjoy quiet and lonely moments, or even prefer interacting with smaller groups than with larger crowds.
Networking was never my forte, I felt awkward and as if I were disturbing or annoying people. While they talked during breaks, I would stand alone, look around and try to fit in, but I would end up sitting somewhere, looking at my phone and browsing through social media in the hopes of finding an introvert soul feeling as out of place as me.
Most events are designed for extroverts, you get there, you mingle, you get to know people, hopefully exchange a few business cards and start new friendships or business relationships. Extroverts are fabulous to be around, they are always ready to talk to anyone, on the other hand, as an introvert, I sometimes feel intimidated by them.
I have recently taken a behavioral test and found out that I feel more comfortable in smaller groups or one to one interactions, I also found out that when I am part of larger groups, I tend to close myself up and be more cautious. There is nothing new from these results, only the fact that now I have a clear picture of myself. I do believe that I became more introverted with life and with moments that I have experienced. But by knowing my struggles, I was able to tackle these issues with much more effectiveness.
Test or no test, introverts are commonly mistaken for being mellow, arrogant, shy, or uninteresting people, those who don’t like to talk or interact with anyone, and that’s it, nothing else to add. Or is it?
During my latest experience attending the IATEFL Conference in Brighton, UK, I promised myself two things:
- I would try my best to interact more and network.
- I would stay true to myself.
Having this in mind, I ended up attending a few talks and workshops which made me tick.
One of the highlights of the conference was a workshop delivered by Kirsten Waechter on “Stress-free speaking activities for low-level adult learners”. At first, I thought I was attending this workshop in order to help my students, but it actually ended up helping myself. Kirsten promoted this comfortable environment, and surprisingly, I felt at ease taking part in the activities and interacting with the teachers there.
Another talk that helped me dramatically was delivered by Rosemary Westwell on “The power of personality in teaching”. Rosemary discussed different personalities and how we should work with them. She talked about Introverts and Extroverts, both teachers and students, and I loved listening to her thoughts on it.
All in all, here are a few things I learned as an introvert attending an international Conference:
- Have a support system: in my case, I had Roseli Serra, a well-known professional and the quintessential representation of an extrovert. Roseli talks to everyone! And I mean: EVERYONE! I am still trying to figure out how she does it. In my support system, I also had Raquel Ribeiro, she’s not only a Google Innovator but a pro on social media, she’s fun, talkative and people from all around the world approach her because of her posts on Facebook and on Instagram. Some many other great colleagues shared these moments with me and it was pure bliss.
- Make yourself busy: having a full schedule will provide you with the opportunities of meeting new people and potentially engage in conversations. Organize your schedule before arriving in the conference, for instance, check out the conference app and add the talks you would be most interested in to your schedule. Choose two or three sessions for each time slot, you never know, your first option might be full.
- Respect yourself: make sure you find time to be alone and enjoy your introversion. In my case, I would sit somewhere and read emails, talk to my family or write (this very post, for example). You don’t have to throw yourself in at the deep end in order to learn how to network.
- Attend evening events: these events are moments where you can meet people with the same interests, such as the PCEs or the “Meet the IATEFL SIGs” event. The “Songs of Love & Protest” was a great opportunity to see some fellow colleagues in a more relaxed environment, and I must say that I’m still flabbergasted by the performances, they were absolutely phenomenal!
- Interact with people online before attending the conference: Meeting Camelia Martincu, a teacher from Romania, was one of the best interactions during the entire conference. Camelia and I work in very similar environments and we have a lot in common, but having interacted with her before attending the conference helped me a lot, and it didn’t make me feel so awkward when starting a conversation.
In conclusion, attending conferences is just a marvelous experience, but bear in mind that you don’t have to change your personality in order to enjoy it. Talk to people, interact on your own pace, and have in mind that “there is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” (Susan Cain, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking)
Find out more about Rosemary Westwell’s talk: click here
Watch Susan Cain’s TED talk on The Power of Introverts: click here