Do you often find yourself intensely focused on the things that interest you? Do you enjoy solitude and quiet?
Do you prefer deep conversations over loud parties? Do crowds drain you? Does alone time energize you?
If so, chances are you’re an introvert.
Either you’re giving a knowing nod or you’re confused because you thought introversion meant you were merely shy.
And maybe you’ve despaired that that introversion and “shyness” have held you back from achieving your business goals online?
Introverts can be shy … but so can extroverts.
Likewise, introverts can also be confident, social, and inspirational in their own right. Take self-described introverted bloggers like Brian Clark, Chris Garrett, Chris Guillebeau, Guy Kawasaki, and Sonia Simone.
Or to take things to a higher level, revolutionary thinkers like Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and Rosa Parks.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, clarifies that introversion is different from shyness, which is a fear of social judgment.
Introversion simply means you are more energized and at your best in less stimulating and quieter environments.
So, how can introversion help you achieve world domination, how can you — the introvert — capture the hearts, minds, and trust of an audience?
The myth of the unprofitable introvert
The advice usually revolves around you “putting yourself out there” in some way. But as an introvert, you might be a little wary about how much you expose yourself.
This would be considered problematic in our extrovert-favoring American culture. Your cautiousness gets criticized as being not bold or assertive enough to stand out and command the confidence of an audience.
But it’s not true. We often forget that there is always more than one way to accomplish something. What’s important is knowing what works best for you.
In fact, qualities of your quieter nature give you an advantage in building your trustworthiness and credibility. Let’s look at five of them …
1. Be bookish
Sometimes you find spending a night with a good book more exciting than a night out. And when it comes to a topic that interests you, you could easily spend hours reading more about it.
But you know what the critics say: “You learn by doing, not by sticking your nose in a book.”
Yes, we do learn a lot by doing. But it would be silly not to take advantage of books since one of their greatest purposes is to educate.
The funny thing I notice is that these critics are usually the ones who have no patience for reading in the first place.
Ask any popular content publisher how to become a trusted authority in a niche and they’ll tell you this simple reality:
You need to build expertise.
And that usually involves reading … a lot.
This means reading, researching, and obsessing over everything in your niche. It also helps to diversify your reading to improve your general knowledge and spark new connections.
Trust grows when you support your writing with knowledge and understanding of your audience’s needs.
The more you know, the more you can blog with authority and credibility. So, read on.
2. Be quiet (and listen)
We introverts prefer to listen more than talk. But when we do speak, it’s only when we think we have something useful to say.
And in today’s noisy world of increasingly short attention spans, we need more good listeners.
The problem is that most people never truly listen anymore. Instead, people just wait to talk about themselves.
Same thing online. Many writers online mistakenly focus on themselves instead of on their reader’s needs.
We can’t trust a self-centered writer.
But we can trust a writer who listens first and offers solutions later.
By listening, you understand the minds and needs of your readers. And when you know what’s on their minds, you can craft more focused content to solve their problems.
“Listening” online is just like what you’d do in reality. You observe where the conversations on your topic are happening. This can be in your favorite social media hangout (like Twitter or Google+), your site comments, forums, or (if you’re starting out) your favorite site’s comments.
Listening deeply takes patience and understanding. Do it well and your readers will be sure to lend you their ears (and eyes).
But if you don’t have anything useful to say, don’t say anything at all. The Internet is cluttered enough as it is.
3. Be serious
When we’re focused on something we care about, we introverts can pour some serious time into it.
Your thrill-seeking friends might even say you’re “too serious.” That you need to have some “real fun” and “go crazy.”
Today, being called “too serious” is like being called a killjoy. But we dumb down the act of being serious when we substitute its meaning with an inability to have fun.
By definition, to be serious means to be earnest, sincere, and characterized by deep thought.
And in the case of the content you’re creating, if you want to win the hearts and trust of readers, you need to be damn serious.
Being serious means having a sincere interest in improving the lives of your readers, being consistent, and getting back up from every fall.
Being serious sometimes means skipping “fun time” in order to finish your product and deliver on your promises.
Being serious means really committing to your readers and the life of your ideas.
Trust is a precious thing that isn’t given away freely. You need to work hard to earn it.
And if you want to gain and keep that trust, you need to be someone they can rely on.
They’re counting on you to be serious.
4. Be sensitive
You’re usually considered a sensitive soul if you frequently reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
If you get started on a topic you’re passionate about, you may occasionally surprise yourself and others with your emotional firepower. Or maybe you’re easily moved by sad movies.
Of course, the know-it-alls will say that being emotional makes you too “delicate.” Clearly not the strong figure readers need.
But you know what? Readers don’t trust know-it-all towers of strength. That’s just unrealistic and uninspiring.
Readers trust human beings with heart and emotion.
They want someone sensitive and empathetic. Someone who “gets” them. Someone who can feel as vulnerable as they probably do.
Readers want someone who can inspire them with so much passion that they’re brought to tears and motivated to get off their asses.
To share great passion, you need to feel great passion. And great passion thrives on intense emotion.
Readers love an open heart, not a hidden one. And having strong feelings about something is better than not feeling enough of anything at all.
5. Be alone
The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching. ~ John Wooden
For you, solitude is a vital source of not only energy, but also the very quality of your work.
It’s a nice break from the noisy world when you can think clearly, creatively, and deeply. But solitude offers you much more than that.
When you are alone, you are your true self.
In solitude, you don’t have to perform for anyone. Free from the influence and pressure of your peers, your thoughts and opinions are at their most authentic.
And becoming a trustworthy and memorable writer depends on your ability to be authentic to yourself and your audience.
Yes, it’s important to listen to what your readers need (refer to #2). But when you finally sit down to write, you must take a position.
And that means knowing yourself well enough to know what you believe in, to know what you stand for.
In the end, if you ever want to have a trusting relationship with your audience, you need to first know and trust yourself.
Your solitude is key to accessing yourself. Don’t let anybody ever take it away from you.
The world needs quiet
In a gentle way, you can shake the world. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
One of my favorite points on Susan Cain’s Introvert Manifesto is ‘Quiet leadership’ is not an oxymoron.
It’s a useful reminder that there is no single set of standards on what makes a respectable and trustworthy figure.
Fitting in with the status quo to fulfill someone else’s ideal is an injustice to yourself. The world needs the quiet and contemplative, the soft-spoken and gentle, the thinkers and dreamers. Because if we were all the same, then we would have no need for each other.
Starting out, maybe only a handful of people will appreciate what you have to offer. But continue to build your trustworthiness in the quiet ways that suit you and your followers will grow.
Now, go forth and gently conquer.