The Vanishing Introvert

A couple weeks ago I did something embarrassing and shameful. So naturally, I’m going to tell you about it.

To keep up with my professional continuing education, I sign up for free webinars. These hour-long snippets are a nice way to stay current. Plus, they require no human interaction. That’s introvert speak for “Yeehaw!”

Man Jumping

When a recent webinar I’d pre-registered for arrived, I logged in and entered my name. As a result, it was visible in the sidebar. No biggie. I can handle that. I grabbed some tea, sank back in my chair, and opened my mind to knowledge.

Then WHAMO!, this hit me:

“Hello, everyone. I’m So And So Peabody. Before we get started, let’s all speak into our microphones and introduce ourselves.”

Hot tea splashed my thighs. My heart leapt to my throat. All higher reasoning shut down, and my brainstem took over.

Fight or flight, which would it be?

nervous woman

Never have I exited a website so quickly. I think I left a skid-mark on the screen in my haste.

But as soon as the impulsive act was over, I berated myself.

What is wrong with you? Are you some kind of idiot? Do you think they won’t notice your brusque departure?

I’ve attended many conferences and seminars. When needed or forced, I can speak up just fine. After all, with age comes an introvert’s growth.

But at home where there are no requirements and I can take the webinar or leave it? Well, I got my arse out of Dodge.

Not my finest moment.

So, What Have We Learned From This Shameful Display?

For those of you who plan lectures, webinars, and conferences, here is something you need to know:

Introverts do not like introducing themselves. Never. Nunca. Jamais.

They panic. They worry about what they’ll say. They need time to process and plan, and as a result, they’re frantically formulating an answer and missing all the other introductions.

Yes, it seems dumb and childish. But it is what it is.

I understand for a longer seminar, introductions are needed (though a one-hour webinar hardly meets that criteria), so we introverts will need to speak up. But there are better ways to go about it.

sheldon explaining

For a short webinar, how about an alternative?

Example…

“If you’d like, please use the chat key to type in a brief introduction of yourself.”

This option allows introverts a choice, along with preparation. It also allows typing a response instead of saying it. Most introverts would prefer scrubbing Big Foot’s toilet to speaking into a microphone.

For a longer seminar where introductions are needed, how about a heads-up?

Example…

“Hello, everybody. We’ll get started in a few minutes. Since we’ll be together all day, introductions would be nice. Why don’t you take a few minutes to collect your thoughts, and when we start the meeting, we’ll go around and introduce ourselves?

See? Easy peasy.

For you extroverts out there, we don’t mean to be weird. Really, we don’t. In fact, I envy you. I wish I were you. You guys are brave. You’re classy. You get right out there and do your thing, minimal preparation needed. And you make us laugh and smile while doing it.

But for the rest of us, throw us a bone. Pretty please?

Do the words “let’s go around and introduce ourselves” frighten you, too?

*     *     *

Rubin4Carrie Rubin is the author of The Seneca Scourgea medical thriller. For full bio, click here.

264 Responses to “The Vanishing Introvert”

  1. earthriderjudyberman

    I haven’t figured out if I’m an introverted-extrovert or vice-versa. I might be one of the first to speak up in a class or meeting. But I also prefer time to process what I’m going to say before I do so.

    Carrie, I think I might have ditched the webinar myself. 😉

    Like

  2. Aria Bauer

    The fact that I can relate is both chuckle and cringe worthy. Personally I’m impressed that you entered your real name. I don’t even get that far 🙂

    Like

  3. Main Street Musings Blog

    It’s so unsettling to get caught off guard, isn’t it? The last time I had to introduce myself in a group and “say a little something about myself,” I was so worried about what I’d said that I couldn’t concentrate on the rest of the introductions!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      That always happens to me too. I suppose I should memorize some rote introduction I can use, but between seminars for medicine, public health, and writing, the intros need to be different. 🙂

      Like

  4. Kourtney Heintz

    Sounds like a lazy presenter who wanted to waste time with introductions because he didn’t have enough material for the entire lecture time. I get the purpose of it when you are doing an online class, but a 1 hour webinar–that’s just wasting everyone’s time.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      That’s what I thought. I realize now it was a very small group. I’ll pay attention to that in the future. Sign up for only the big ones. 😉

      Like

      • Kourtney Heintz

        LOL. Good action plan! I’ve had online classes that last 8 weeks and we only had to write brief bios and post them. That way extroverts get their interaction and introverts get their time to gather their thoughts. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. jeanjames

    First off, love the new header! Second, this is why I’m back in school in an online program! So funny you bailed on your webinar, I like one of the above comments that said just fake technology issues, lol.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      That’s definitely what I’ll do next time. Then again, hopefully next time I won’t sign up for such a small webinar. 😉

      Thanks about the header. Good luck with school! So much can be done online now.

      Like

  6. wiseabundance

    I love the way you share your so willingly share your embarrassing moment with us! Although I’ve gotten less introverted over the years, I still dread those awkward introductions. Your suggestions for making them easier for introverts are spot on. Well done!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you. Now that I know there are many introverts out there and I’m not alone in my ‘weirdness,’ it makes it easier to share these kinds of things. 🙂

      Like

  7. aeliusblythe

    Oh my GOD, I would’ve done exactly the same thing. I got nervous just reading that! It’s so weird, I mean…. I was a teacher. I talked in front of groups of up to 60 people every day. I love giving presentations – sure I get nervous, but it’s that good, excited kind of nervous. Not that uncontrollable PANIC that sets in when social interaction is sprung upon you with introductions! I’m also not particularly shy. I don’t have problems talking to people I don’t know or getting to know people at parties. But there’s something about th blended public/personal interaction of The Introduction that just kills me. It doesn’t even make sense.

    And to be honest? I’ve started feeling less ashamed about it. Like, hey, I’m not great with Introductions. So what? I’m great with other things. If they were like “Hey everyone, let’s go around the room and Tweet briefly about ourself!” I’d be all over that. 🙂

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      “when social interaction is sprung upon you with introductions!”—Yes, that’s exactly it. It’s the sudden surprise and the psyche’s immediate urge to flee it. But I agree, the older I get the less I care about my response. I yam what I yam, to quote Popeye. 😉

      Like

  8. Topaz

    Wow, that sounds… nightmarish. *shudders*

    I too am a painfully shy introvert, but I’m immensely proud of the fact that in recent years I’ve taken up acting in order to kind of shore up my courage and get myself used to speaking in front of an audience. It’s still ridiculously terrifying stepping out onstage with every single person in the audience looking at you, but I’ve found that it helps to do it over and over and over again. It doesn’t make it easier, per se, but it does force you to face your fears (which can never be a bad thing).

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Good for you! That should definitely make you more comfortable as time goes on, in all areas. Good luck with it. 🙂

      Through the years I’ve given many talks and presentations, so that has grown easier for me. I can wear an extrovert hat when I need to. But this webinar took me by surprise. Introverts don’t like surprises. 🙂

      Like

  9. Cathy Ulrich

    While I don’t mind sharing an introduction, I do think a little warning is appropriate and I agree with you, Carrie. Introductions for a one-hour webinar seems a bit strange, especially since introductions could take up a significant amount of that one hour. Sounds like the surprise factor is what got you!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      The surprise factor is what definitely got me. I realize now it was a very small group. I won’t make that mistake again. 😉

      Like

  10. thatfunnyblogguy

    I’m guessing you struggled to even put the new picture on the top of this blog. Am I off base?
    The worse part of how people treat introverts is that they assume they need fixed or to become more of an extrovert. Often the wrong train of thought. You never see people saying, “That person is such an extrovert, she really needs to strive for more alone time!”

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Your comment is timely because I just met with some of my son’s teachers today, and just like every year, the conversation focused on his introversion and his need to “come out of his shell.” I always want to tell them he can’t be fixed or changed. We can help him adapt to an extroverted world, but as you point out, wouldn’t it be a nice change if extroverts adapted to an introvert world?

      And yes, it’s always hard to use a photo of myself, but I find the older I get, the less I care. So at least that’s good. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. jmmcdowell

    I was going to recommend exactly what Ned already did—write something up in advance. Preparing ahead of time—that’s something we introverts tend to do well. 🙂

    I really like the new header and color scheme, too!

    Like

  12. pegoleg

    Introducing myself isn’t a problem, but I think your suggestions are spot-on just the same. Were you on a webcam as well as speaker? Now THAT would freak me right out.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Had there been a webcam involved I wouldn’t even have signed in. I’ve only skyped once and that was with an ailing family member. I like technology, but I’ll skip that innovation. 🙂

      Like

  13. gdkonstantine

    You have my sympathy, too. Although I may not be a pure introvert, I never liked the “say something interesting about yourself” or even “just tell us about yourself” questions. In a way, these moderators are using a lazy technique to break the ice.

    I was once at a training session where the instructor had a better idea. She asked everyone to stand up and then to group ourselves according to the criteria she would pick.

    For example, the first one was languages spoken. So, everyone who could only speak one language stood together in one part of the room, everyone who could speak two languages went to another part of the room and everyone who could speak more than two languages went to a third area. She repeated it with place of birth, ice cream preference and favourite colour (or should I say “favorite color”?).

    You didn’t have to say anything, you moved around a bit and you learned something about your fellow participants, too.

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    • Carrie Rubin

      That is a brilliant idea! I love it. And I bet the information about the attendees is easier to remember that way. When everyone simply introduces themselves, I don’t think anyone remembers anyway. Thanks for passing that on. I’m going to keep it in mind.

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  14. Andrea Stephenson

    Haha this made me laugh out loud Carrie! I’ve never participated in a webinar but yes, I’ve been to all those meetings and training courses where we introduce ourselves and say something about ourselves. I have quite an angry response (which I know is the introvert fear talking) when I’m asked to share something personal about myself – these trainers think it’s a good icebreaker, but you’re so right about spending so much time panicking about what you’re going to say that you don’t hear anyone else talking 🙂

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Having to share personal details is hard enough for introverts, but having to share it first thing in a room full of strangers is terrifying. For years I thought it was just me. Social media has shown me otherwise. Introverts are everywhere. Phew. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Ned's Blog

    Maybe write a brief intro about yourself and just keep it handy for emergency situations ? You can throw in some slang to make it sound more spontaneous, like “Yo, it’s Carrie Rubin in The House! S’up webinators!” or something like that…

    Like

  16. jbw0123

    How many times have I missed other people’s introductions while, with heart beating wildly, internally composing of my own?

    This doesn’t just apply to webinars, either. The other day, was in a new group, and we were asked to introduce ourselves by revealing our favorite book of the summer. With no time to let my better sense prevail, I said The Color of Water by Lydia Yuknavitch. Have you read this book? It is graphic, shall we say. Not in the comic picture book sense. It is heart rending and beautifully written, well reviewed in Atlantic magazine, but it is x rated. Other people in the group listed detective novels, travel books, YA fiction. See? Panic justified! Some of us need extra time to get a sense of a group before we can be trusted to say something appropriate.I hope webinar leaders everywhere read your post.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      “Some of us need extra time to get a sense of a group before we can be trusted to say something appropriate.”—That is such a good point. It’s not only our discomfort but also our lack of connection to the group that makes us so squirrely about this. What if we reveal too much? If we have to go first, the pressure is even worse.

      I havent’ read “The Color of Water.” But now you’ve got me intrigued. 😉

      Like

  17. lehendersonauthor

    Carrie, I love, love, love this post!! It beautifully speaks for all introverts. Don’t feel embarrassed. Like you, I would have gotten the heck out of dodge. The Internet should be safe from the pressures of live interaction, which is the very reason it is such a wonderful haven for introverts. Yes, you were right to bolt. What else would any reasonable person do? Thanks for the awesome post!!! 🙂

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thanks for making me feel like less of a weirdo, Lisa! People online doubt I can be an introvert, but I have to remind them an introvert can thrive online. No eye contact or face-to-face interaction required. And it’s on our time and in short sound bites. Plus, we can always prepare. That’s not the case in face-to-face interactions. Over time introverts can function quite well in the real world. We can even act extroverted when we need to. But it’s always exhausting for us and will never be second nature.

      Like

  18. Gwen Stephens

    Although I’m not technically an introvert (something I learned from you – I’m whatever you call someone who’s in between intro- and extro-), I can certainly appreciate your sudden panic. I have no problem getting up in front of 30 students every day, but put me in front of their parents on curriculum night, or a room full of colleagues, and yeah, I’m fighting the urge to hurl!

    Sorry you had such a bad experience, but you offer some great alternatives. Do you think being an introvert is something a person can “overcome?” Not that there’s anything wrong with this personality type, but it makes me wonder if successful exposure to opportunities gradually minimize the anxiety?

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Once an introvert, always an introvert, but certainly over time an introvert can adapt to things. I’ve had to give plenty of talks and lectures in my work, and although it was painful at first, it’s become easier over time. But it’s all about the preparation. As long as I’ve had time to prepare, I’m okay. I can even come off as an extrovert. 🙂 But the experiences are always draining for an introvert whereas an extrovert is invigorated by them.

      Give an introvert the choice, and he or she will avoid the interaction. Just like I did during the webinar…

      Sounds like you’re an ambivert. You should consider reading Susan Cain’s book, “Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Quit Talking.” I think it’s a great read for teachers. She even devotes a chapter to introverted students and how difficult it can be for them in an extroverted world. My oldest is an extreme introvert, and every year I hear from his teachers that he needs to come out of his shell. Though they mean well, I tell them introverts never come out of their shell, they just learn ways to adapt over time. Teachers can help them do this in ways that aren’t so uncomfortable for them. As if you teachers don’t have enough to do, right? 😉

      Thanks, Gwen!

      Like

  19. talesfromthemotherland

    I’m wondering, do you feel anxious when coming into a room to meet patients, Carrie? I never thought of these things, and yes, I’m not an introvert… but you are so confident in your writing, that it’s hard to fully see you as the introvert you describe here. I love your suggestions for change though! They seem valuable to a lot of people, frankly. Wonderful post!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      No, I don’t have problems one-on-one in a professional setting though in a social setting it’s more difficult. But I think we can all slip on our professional masks quite easily. I’ve given plenty of talks and lectures, too. As long as I’m prepared I’m fine. But it’s never comfortable for me, and I’m always drained later. 🙂

      Like

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