Telling Your Story: Fake it Till You Make It

Anybody who follows my blog knows I’m interested in how introverts can hone their leadership style. If connection is the “special sauce” of leadership, then it’s essential to do so in a way that’s authentic to you. Short of a total personality change, what can reserved people do to amp up the connection?

I ran across a simple change in behavior that might make all the difference. 

In a piece entitled, “As an Introvert, How Can You Be More Sociable?” Yuta Aoki noticed that the way he approached people was different from how his extroverted friends did it. He discovered that his extroverted friends told their story rather than simply answering a question or making a brief response. They embellished the facts by sharing something about themselves and their world. Yuta was initially afraid no one would be interested in his story but he tried it and it worked.

I can completely relate to the fear that no one would be interested in my story. As a presenter, I’ve trained myself to share stories but I sometimes still feel awkward and exposed talking about my experiences.

My husband, on the other hand, has no trouble starting a conversation with a stranger by sharing something about himself or his life. Since we often eat out, I observe these interactions all the time.  People seem to love talking with him and they find many things in common.

My approach tends to focus more on the other person, asking them to talk about their experiences. While it can be effective, it’s also a way to hide.

Two insights came to me as I was reflecting on this topic:

Telling your story can be a powerful way to share something of yourself and open up the possibility of a rich conversation. It can be a gift to the other person (especially if that person is also an introvert!)

Telling your story does not equal talking about yourself. Maybe you want to share the experience of meeting your best friend and how funny and kind they were. Or a touching story of how your father came to your defense when you were falsely accused of stealing as a child. Both examples offer a glimpse of your world but neither involve talking about yourself.

If you’re a naturally reserved person, telling your story may be a big step. Be prepared to fake it till you make it. Don’t give too much weight to the inner critic sitting on the sideline judging; learning a new skill takes practice.