Also filed under networking for introverts
When I tell people that I identify as an introvert, they gawk at me in disbelief or muster (nervous) laughter—ako rin, actually. I can easily function in a room full of people, awkwardly pursuing conversations with acquaintances even if I dread small talk; it expends way too much of my energy, which manifests as social burnout. Let me tell you something, I love my alone—a lot. Riding the train at night is almost cinematic. Praying in tranquil streets is my daily communion with God. Multistory bookstores, well-lit coffee shops and interactive museums—devoid of pilit conversations—are my haven.
Most of the time, it's so comfortable to be cooped up in my bubble of safety and stay there. So why do I even bother? Because all of us are urgently called to live outside of the familiar. On discerning one's calling and purpose, theologian and writer Frederick Buechner said it best, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” When you make space for others—and tether their reality to yours—there may be deep discomfort but there is growth.
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Where to begin? Here are five practical ways to grow your influence.
A significant advantage of being an introvert is how we're considered great listeners. Listening is an act of humility. Seeking out people and their stories instead of rushing to speak—and be heard—is honorable. By being intentional, we gain the trust of others and make way for better understanding. As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
Choose a platform you’re comfortable with.
Speaking in front of an audience makes me anxious. I tend to lose my train of thought because I’m too focused on the possibility of messing up. This is why I write. A chunk of my life is splayed out for the world to magnify and assess nonetheless, it still gives me the comfort of anonymity. I can imagine strangers reading my words hoping they see a part of themselves in my stories.
Start with a peer or a colleague you have similar interests with, and bond over that commonality. Begin a newsletter and ask your close friends if they can sign up. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, maybe start a public blog. Create a podcast if you find that you’re more confident as a speaker. Put your illustrations inside books, and let people find you through it. Make short videos about your every day using your phone, tether these familiar moments and post a vlog. There are countless of ways to interact with other people indirectly—if it makes you anxious or uncomfortable. It’s easy to spot authenticity; more than aiming for influence, invest in your why.
Acknowledge your weaknesses and highlight your strengths.
Through the years, I’ve managed to make a personal blog into a ministry. It started with familiarizing myself with my strengths: writing and visual storytelling. Acquainting myself with my audience—mostly female young professionals—helped me filter the content I create. I understood how people responded to my personal brand, and I fully used it to my advantage. More than the effectivity of the work I produce, I discovered that people stay with me because of my ability to empathize with them. Being relatable is deeply essential to any passion.
In a recent New York Times post entitled “Why You Should Find Time to Be Alone With Yourself,” introversion is considered an asset. The writer shares, “‘Cultivating this sense of being alone and making the choice to be alone can help you to develop who you are, your sense of self, and what your true interests are,' Dr. Grice said. Knowing oneself makes it easier to find other people who share your passions, and can improve your empathy.”
Take networking online.
If you want to grow your network, take it online. Being relatable isn't limited to overwhelming group events and meetups IRL. For job postings and career advice, I joined a Facebook group called Freelancing Females and locally, Independent Creative & Advertising Professionals. Find and/or build a community—whether it be online or offline. (And if you really need to attend large gatherings, do bring a friend.)
At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with embodying characteristics introverts have but don't limit yourself to it. For a culture that tells us influence is limited to public platforms, sponsored posts and TED talks, be that individual who chooses to focus on a few, whose quiet impact does not scream for attention. It may not merit attention or praise but at the end of the day, a humble act of love and service—which refuses to douse itself in self-serving glory—will not be forgotten.
Art Alexandra Lara