I have a confession to make; I’m an introvert.
Sometimes I come across as cold, uninterested, or quiet.
The truth is, I’m taking in my surroundings before I choose to engage. I’m not anti-social. I just want to make sure when we talk, I can create a meaningful connection with you.
That’s because I’m a quality over quantity type of guy.
Have you ever walked into a social gathering event and met that one person who is so outgoing and charismatic, everyone is drawn to him or her like moths to a flame?
Maybe you thought to yourself, “I wish I could be like that.”
Well that used to be me. I’m the youngest of five, the baby of the family. Growing up my parents never pushed me to be social. Instead, they kept me home and sheltered me as much as possible. To them, being at home meant I was safe.
I didn’t start coming into my own until my thirties. That’s when I got serious about building the life I wanted to live and not what others expected of me. I also learned to embrace being an introvert and use its unique traits to build a strong personality.
Some people think having a strong personality means that you are over the top, bullish, and intimidating.
I like to think otherwise. To me having a strong personality as an introvert means having a quiet confidence. I don’t fight to be seen; I am seen because I fight.
Here are eight ways introverts can develop a strong personality too.
1. Listen first but remember to speak up.
I like to listen first before I speak. It’s not that I’m timid or shy, I genuinely like listening.
I like being able to take in information, process it in my head for a bit, reply with something genuine and thought provoking. I find that this leads to deeper, more meaningful conversations.
The challenge with some introverts is while they like to listen, they rarely speak unless spoken to. Because of this, people may categorize you as the quiet one or the one that rarely speaks and you don’t want to be either one.
Instead, you should find a good pause in the conversation to speak up and make your point.
I find this to be most useful in workplace meetings when the discussion has hit a standstill. Usually, I’ll chime in with something like:
“Ok here’s what I think. Based on John’s excellent market research we know that we should be doing X. However, I think Jane is onto something with her creative suggestion of Y. Based on that, I believe the best course of action would be Z.”
I like to acknowledge and reiterate all the conversations that have taken place to demonstrate that I’m listening.
Once I’ve gotten everyone’s attention, that’s where I’ll put my two cents in, and it usually comes out as insightful and wise.
2. Let your actions speak for you.
I have a small circle of friends that I’ve grown up with. We’re a very competitive bunch whether it’s school, sports, career, or just about anything we’re all involved in.
Most of my friends are very loud and flashy, always trying to one-up the other person.
I, on the other hand, am not much of a talker. I prefer to let my actions do the talking.
In my early thirties, I had become very frustrated with my career. I felt like I was wasting my life doing meaningless work. I wanted more.
So one day I woke up and decided to quit. Instead, I would do some consulting work building websites and helping local businesses build their online brands.
I made much less than my corporate job and had to fight for every customer, but it gave me new purpose.
My friends didn’t understand why I would walk away from a six-figure job at a Fortune 100 tech company. Some even called me foolish. As annoyed as I was, I knew what I was doing was best for me. Deep down it was on the right path.
The consulting business never took off, but the lessons I learned helped me launch another business a year later that became a six-figure business in just two years.
These days my friends come to me asking for advice on how to be an entrepreneur. I don’t need to say, “I told you so,” because I’m not much of a talker, remember?
3. Accept praise but always give credit.
Being the founder of a successful conference, I do get my fair share of praise from time to time.
Often attendees will come up to me at my conference and say something along the lines of: “I’m so impressed by what you’ve built here in such a short period of time. The speakers are amazing, the content is great, and the people here are so engaging. It’s a great thing you’re doing!”
First I thank them for the compliment, and then I’ll immediately give credit to the people involved, whether they are volunteers, my team members, or the speaker themselves.
I’ll respond with,“Thank you but I’m just the guy sending out a bunch of emails. It’s a total team effort. None of this would be possible without them.”
This works extremely well when you have a team member with you, because you get to shine the spotlight on them. I do this for several reasons. First, being humble is a magnificent trait of a strong personality. I’m confident in myself, therefore, I don’t always need praise.
Second, when you bring others up and make them feel special, you demonstrate servant leadership which is another excellent trait of a strong personality.
When you enrich the life of others, you build stronger bonds and stronger teams.
4. Stop seeking approval from others.
In my twenties, I struggled with being accepted by others. I don’t know if it was because of the issues I was dealing with or if it was just my personality type, but wanting to be accepted was something I kept fighting for.
I would sit with my best friend and ask him, “What does everyone think about me?”
The first words out of his mouth were, “Stop worrying about what everyone thinks about you. Just be yourself, you worry too much.”
He couldn’t have been more right. Unfortunately for me, I would ignore his advice and continue to seek acceptance from others. It made me come off as needy, meek, and dependent.
In 2012, when I checked myself into therapy for my gambling addiction, my therapist instructed me to stay away from anything that would trigger my sports betting. This meant staying away from my friends. It was like going through a breakup; I was grieving.
I never saw my friends except for the occasional birthday party. I stayed away because I needed to focus on myself and beat my addiction.
It had taken a full two years before I started to come around regularly, and by that time I was a completely different person.
I had gotten over my addiction, redefined my career, and turned my life around. I radiated positivity and confidence.
Most importantly I became an inspiration to my friends who were struggling with gambling, and for that, I earned their respect and admiration.
5. Get out of your head.
In 2012, I had an idea for an online entrepreneurial lifestyle magazine. At the time there wasn’t really a magazine that focused on the entrepreneur journey, so I decided I was going to be the first.
I was super excited and got a domain, built a website, paid for a logo, and made business cards.
My vision was to showcase entrepreneurs as the new rock stars, and so I hired a videographer, a photographer, and even a make-up artist.
We did one photoshoot with a female entrepreneur that was super fun, and my team couldn’t wait until the magazine was launched. Now the pressure was on.
I started looking for writers, and since I wanted this to be on the iPad I talked to agencies to help build this into a digital magazine.
The cost for everything would be $10,000. I freaked out.I didn’t know how I was going to afford it because this needed to be repeated every month.
I got discouraged and started to avoid my team. Three months had passed and I kept ignoring their emails.
Eventually, I told them that I was shutting down the magazine because I was afraid I couldn’t afford to do it. They were extremely disappointed, and I felt like a failure for letting them down.
The guilt of disappointing my team is one that I won’t ever forget. It taught me a very important lesson that day; done is better than perfect.
If I wanted to be an entrepreneur and more importantly a leader, I needed to get outside of my head and start executing. We don’t learn by staying idle.
Two years later when I started my second business, I was also faced with the possibility of quitting when things were tough. It was this experience that helped me push forward and as a result, the second business flourished.
6. Be present.
If you’re familiar with Meyers-Briggs personality types, I am an INFJ which is the least common of the 16 types.
As an introvert, I like to think a lot. Being an INFJ, I sometimes think way too much and forget about what’s going on around me.
This makes me come off as aloof and being in my own world which can be problematic for the people around me.
I once got into an argument with my wife because she was unhappy with how we spend time together. She would complain that even though I’m here, I’m not fully here.
Although I wanted her to accept this part of me, I understood where she was coming from. To me, making sure she felt heard was important, and so I forced myself to be more present.
When we eat dinner, I put my laptop and phone away. When we talk about our day, I fully listen.
At any part of the day, if she talks to me about something, I make sure I stop what I’m doing to listen.
If I happen to be working on something important, I acknowledge her and let her know that I need a few more minutes to wrap it up. This minor change has worked wonders for me.
She’s much happier because she feels engaged and as a result, I’m happier because we’re not frustrated with each other.
I’ve also worked on being more present when I’m out with my friends, and I see improvements on how they interact with me as well.
Being present may not come naturally to you just like it wasn’t natural for me.
The good news, though, is that you can train yourself to be more present in the same way you can train your body by working out. It just takes a bit of time and effort.
7. Build up the people around you.
One of my favorite things to do as an entrepreneur and leader is to build up the people around me.
For me, there’s no hidden motives or agendas. I do it because I genuinely care, and it makes me happy to see others shine.
I’m the founder of an annual conference that helps companies build better workplace culture. The first year I organized the conference, I did it mostly by myself.
I kept it to a reasonable size at 200 and once we sold out, I knew I was onto something special.
However, to grow the conference and make it more successful for the future, I couldn’t do it alone. The following year I brought on a partner. What made our dynamic so unique was that her strengths were my weaknesses and vice versa.
For example, I love working on the business part of the conference; marketing, business development, selling tickets, and pitching sponsorships.
However, I wasn’t great at public speaking so being the emcee was something I dread.
But for us to be successful as a team, we had to play to our strengths on the day of the conference. This meant that I would be working behind the scenes, while she would be the emcee and the face of the conference.
Now some people would argue that I should be the face of the conference since I was the founder.
It makes sense if my goal was to build my personal brand, but it wasn’t. It was to put together the best product possible even if that meant staying out of the spotlight.
In the end, the conference was a success. She did an amazing job as the emcee, and more importantly, I earned her trust, respect, and admiration. As a leader, that’s the best thing I could ever ask for.
8. Embrace your shortcomings.
Only recently have I begun talking more about my struggles with a gambling addiction, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
What made this possible was going to therapy, beating my addiction, and turning my life around.
Seeing how I was able to do this, I wanted to use my story to help and inspire others as well.
However, I was scared because I wasn’t sure how people would perceive me. Would they judge me because of the mistakes I’ve made? Or would they applaud me for the strength to share my journey? There was only one way to find out.
I posted my story on a forum for problem gambling. By doing this anonymously it allowed me to share my story without the worry of what people would think.
Within hours, I got tons of positive comments and private messages from folks who were going through the same thing or knew someone who was.
My story was met with so much positivity that I knew I had to do more. In an instant, I made up my mind to continue sharing publicly to inspire and help others.
I began writing books, doing podcast interviews, and writing articles to put myself out there.
As worried as I was about what people would think, that was never the case. My friends all praised me for being so open and vulnerable.
Some who knew me for years never knew my entire story. By embracing my shortcomings, I developed a strong personality that was respected and not feared.
Introverts often get a bad rap and are not seen as leaders because of the lack of a strong personality. I disagree because I believe introverts can make the best leaders.
Being humble, having empathy, and genuinely caring for others are important qualities that people look for in leaders.
They also happen to be great qualities of introverts.
If you’re struggling with developing a strong personality as an introvert, hopefully, this article gave you a few key tips.
In his 20’s Hung struggled with a serious gambling addiction and severe depression only to turn his life around beginning in 2012. Today, Hung is the founder of Culture Summit, a conference that helps companies build stronger cultures. He regularly writes about personal development on his blog Mission and Possible. To learn the 5 key strategies he used to turn his life around, download the free guide at here.