Are you an introvert?
I finished the second interview of the day. I’d been gathering information to create appeals or other communications for clients.
The people I spoke with were interesting and kind. I enjoyed speaking with them. And yet, I was worn out.
If you understand what I mean, hello, introvert.
A personality difference, not a character flaw
In a world that favors go-getters, introverts can feel like their personality is a problem. It’s not. It’s not about disliking people, or even being “shy”. It’s simply the way you’re made.
Introverts and extroverts are wired differently. We process some neurotransmitters in different ways. Let’s look at two:
Dopamine motivates us to look for external rewards – maybe a job, or a new connection, or some other external sign of approval. Acetylcholine motivates us to seek rewards within. So extroverts feel good with external validation.
Introverts feel good with internal approval.
We’re different in other ways, too. Extroverts can take in external stimuli faster… they have a shorter pathway in their brains. Introverts’ pathway is both longer and more complex. (If you, like me, ever wondered why you need time to think before making a decision, now you know why!)
Stimulation versus deliberation
Susan Cain (author of Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and Quiet Revolution), along with Scott Barry Kaufman of the University of PA, found that introversion and extroversion can best be understood through facets of stimulation and deliberation. Stimulation measures your preference for environments that are either calm or exciting. Deliberation measures your preference for considering versus acting.
Makes sense, right? But keep in mind that your needs may differ depending on who you’re with. With family and close friends, an introvert might seem more like an extrovert.
And most of us aren’t on one extreme or the other of the spectrum.
Introverts have their strengths
While we think of fundraising as a field for extroverts, that’s not at all so. Introverts often have the ability to focus – to shut out the world when needed. We notice details. We consider more deeply. We ponder.
And it’s likely that if you’re an introvert you like to listen more than talk. This is important. Consider how valuable attention is today. For someone to listen to you, pay attention? That’s powerful.
Others may spend an event collecting business cards and speaking with lots of people. You’re more likely to have an in-depth conversation with a few people. Which is likely to make a more lasting impression?
Here’s the key, though. If you do feel hesitant, try to put that aside and focus on the person you’re speaking with. You’ll soon forget your own nerves and they will remember your gift of genuine interest and attention. Decide that your goal isn’t a card collection, it’s a few in-depth conversations.
You’re less likely to let your mouth get ahead of your brain, too.
Because you prefer to think before you talk, you’re less likely to get yourself in trouble. This will lead to people paying attention when you do have something to say.
Because you’re good at listening, you feel less panic when a conversation lulls. You’re easy to be quiet with, so your conversation partner may be able to relax around you. And you know the power of asking questions.
You have an advantage as a creative thinker.
That time you spend pondering – or even letting your mind wander? That feeds creativity. Those new ideas have room and time to grow with you. And solitude is good for creativity.
Brainstorming with a group can generate new ideas. But to give them life requires time and thought. You’re happy to do that.
But introverts have their challenges as well.
I’m not good at making fast decisions. I feel pressured if I can’t take time to consider. So I’m not fast on my feet. The answer is preparation whenever possible. If I’ve worked through potential scenarios, then I’ll be more ready to respond quickly.
But if you find yourself in that situation, and you’re not ready to respond, ask for time. Your more considered response will be more valuable.
Facing a crowd can be trying for some introverts. In that situation, you might try faking it until you can make it. Did you know that many performers – who make their living in front of people – are introverts? Create a character in your mind. Someone who is a lot like you, but happy in the spotlight.
Donor relationships and you
How can you develop relationships with donors without draining yourself? Well, make the most of the channels that you do well with. Many introverts are happier writing than talking. It offers us time to get it right. Make use of that – personal notes can be your thing!
And because we don’t love phone calls that interrupt our work, we might be less eager to pick up the phone. One solution is to be sure to ask supporters about their communication preferences. If you know someone who enjoys getting a call, it will be much easier to phone them.
Your thoughtfulness may mean you’re good at collecting and keeping important information. Keeping your data updated isn’t a chore – it’s a deposit in your bank of relationship tools. When you remember someone’s favorite food at the next event, they’ll remember your thoughtfulness.
But what about when you’ve had enough?
After that second interview of the day, I knew I was done talking to people. Not because I don’t like people! But because I wouldn’t be my best self anymore. I’d poured a lot of energy into relating to the people I’d listened to. Now I’d need to recharge.
Being your authentic self is the best thing you can do. Understand your strengths and put them to use. And understand what’s harder for you and prepare. Take time to think when you need it. Take time to learn – you’ll be getting smarter and feeding the part of you that shines at the same time.
Ask co-workers to understand. Crowded, noisy environment? Maybe you’ll do better with earphones. Or maybe you need a short walk outside. Understand your own needs and explain them. You won’t be as effective as you want to be if you can’t be your best.
So when you need quiet, explain. Building donor relationships is the key to successful fundraising. It’s about attention, caring, and respect. Your ability to pay attention means you can develop meaningful relationships. You’re made to build relationships that last. Use your inborn skills and share the love!
WAIT! Before you go – here are some resources for you.
Photo by Alexandra Gorn