By Slash Coleman
My friend owns a comedy club where she occasionally performs. One night, thinking I’d be a “shoe-in” for funny, she pulled me on stage as part of her act. Had she known that I’m an extroverted-introvert she probably would have reconsidered.
What does it mean to be an extroverted-introvert? Consider this. If you watch me perform on stage, you’d likely consider me confident, passionate, and articulate. Yet, pull me up on stage as myself and the extrovert completely disappears. I clam up, sweat profusely, and sometimes stutter.
This dichotomy is something I’ve struggled with through the years. Like many storytellers, I’m considered borderline on the Myers Briggs test – an extroverted-introvert. As such, typical business strategies don’t work for me. Considering that introverts make up 25-40% of the general population and 60% of the gifted population, (Jonathan Rauch, Atlantic.com) chances are, you fall into the same category as I do – someone who leans a bit toward the introverted side.
As such, there are distinct differences in the social situations where I thrive and the social situations where I’d rather run in a hole and hide.
Author, Chuck Palahniuk references this challenge by writing, “You spend time alone, building this lovely world…You let the phone ring. The emails pile up. You stay in your story world…..If your story sells well enough, you get to go on a book tour. Do interviews. Really be with people. A lot of people. People until you’re sick of people. Until you crave the idea of escaping…”
How do we balance the alone time used to create our work with the social time we need to spend promoting it?
The key to this balance is in defining your business comfort zone. It’s important to find a way to individualize a business strategy so it works for you. Obviously, some tasks related to the business of storytelling will make you feel more comfortable than others.
For example, most formal networking environments give me anxiety because I panic when it comes to making small talk – I second guess myself, censor my ideas, and feel self-conscious. I’ve heard from others that this insecurity can make me seem unsocial and pretentious. Yikes!
Since realizing this, I’ve developed strategies to re-shape the idea of business networking so it works for me. My love affair with Twitter is a great example. From the comfort of my laptop, I can now begin a one-on-one conversation, pace it slowly and have it end in a meaningful meeting.
If you’re feeling a sense of hesitation toward a business task, it’s a sure sign that you need to find a way to push it towards your business comfort zone. Remember, you get to choose how you accomplish a business task. Find the place within the task that will help you stand in your business comfort zone and give yourself permission to tell the world about your work in a way that feels most comfortable to you.
Slash Coleman is a professional storyteller best known for his award winning PBS special, “The Neon Man and Me.” A regular contributor to Storytelling Magazine and a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts, Slash recently participated in the 2011 teller-in-residence program at the International Storytelling Center. For more great business advice related to storytellers and his acclaimed marketing classes which have ben featured on NPR and most recently at the Timpanogos Storytelling Conference.