Facebook Posting Discomfort: Answers from The Introvert Coach

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I asked my friend Val Nelson, a business coach for introverts, to answer a question that I posed to several women in my Profit from Your Passion program about how they feel about using Facebook.  In each group program, I have a variety of women with different learning styles as well as introverts and extraverts.  I asked several introverts in the group about their use of Facebook and how they felt about posting in a group forum.  Below is the question I asked and the answer from Lilly (not her real name).  I sent this info over to Val who wrote this post to help those of you who are introverts with specific tips.  

Q:  As an introvert, how do you feel about posting comments in a group forum?

A: As an introvert, it’s difficult to participate in a group on Facebook. For me, it’s not so much worry about being “seen” as it is being misunderstood.

I have really spent some time trying to understand what it is that makes it so challenging for me, and I’ve come to realize that I rely heavily on much more beyond words in terms of communicating.

If I don’t hear the tone of voice, or have facial expression or hand gestures, or body posture to process, I feel cut off from the most important aspects of communication.

And the part that leaves me feeling extremely vulnerable on Facebook is that I feel I’m not able to communicate fully to other people without my tone of voice, facial expression, hand gestures, body posture. So I feel that what I might say could be misunderstood or misconstrued without those things supporting my words.

Do you have suggestions for me?

Dear Lilly, (not her real name)

Sherold asked me to answer this question as a guest writer for her blog. I’m a business coach for introverts, and I write an advice column at Quiet Revolution, an online community about introverts hosted by Susan Cain (the author of the bestselling book, Quiet).

Your story strikes a chord with what I hear from so many introverts. (Extroverts have their own struggles with communications but that’s not the topic today.) I’m happy to provide some suggestions for what helps me and other introverts with this.

Let’s begin with some background about the introvert brain.

The Introvert Brain and Communications

One of the main differences between introverts and extroverts is in how they each process information in a conversation.

Introverts tend to take in many bits of information, including body language, and then incorporate that into a response. We like to have all the information before speaking.

Whereas extroverts tend to take in the gist and quickly respond.

That means that in an online discussion, when we don’t have as much information, like you said, introverts can feel like they are missing half of the puzzle pieces, and that’s frustrating.

In addition, a common challenge for introverts in any conversation is that in that time we spend processing all that information, we are at risk of starting to worry about what to say and how we will be perceived. Overthinking alert! And that’s when we can get tongue-tied…. and left out of the conversation.

This classic worry could be what’s happening when you describe that you feel vulnerable and worried about how you’ll be understood.

The truth is that we don’t have to have perfect words, and we can’t let those worries about what others think get in our way of communicating. We need to stretch our risk-taking muscles if we’re going to have a say.

So yes, I’m nudging you to step into that zone of discomfort. It will get easier. Let me give you some ways to make it easier as you go.

The good news is…

Online discussions are actually a great fit for your introvert strengths.

Consider the difference between a live meeting and an online discussion. In a live meeting, whoever talks the fastest gets most of the airtime. Thus extroverts end up having more of a say. Whereas, online communication creates a level playing field for communication, where anyone can speak up at their own pace.

In fact, online communication is an introvert’s dream in many ways. Consider this:

  1. You get to think before speaking. No fast answers required.
  2. You get to write your thoughts and edit before posting.
  3. No one can take up all the space because anyone can post anytime.
  4. You can focus on meaningful connections and ignore the discussions that don’t interest you. Such freedom!

Pretty cool, huh?

Some Concrete Things to Try

I get that you’re feeling awkward about it right now so here are some ways to make it easier.

  1. Start small. For example, try interacting with one or two friends online. When that’s easy, take on the next challenge. Gradually it will all get easier.
  2. Focus on being helpful online. Being helpful will move you from your head to your heart, and things flow much better from there. You’ll find you stop worrying about how you’re coming across.
  3. Imagine writing to one kindred spirit. Stop imagining an audience who won’t get it, and instead picture a kindred spirit on the other end, and write your posts as if it’s written for that person. You’ll feel more natural, and words can flow. You don’t need to please everyone.
  1. Invite the feedback you crave. You can ask for feedback you need, by adding in a question like, “Can you relate to this?” Know that you can add more clarifications later.

I hope you’ll try one of these ideas and see how it goes. Consider it an experiment. If you end up deciding that online discussions are just not you’re thing, that’s OK too.

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

With love and blessings, Val Nelson, The Black Swan Coach

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P.S. You can connect with other caring introverts online in Val’s free and private Facebook forum, The Introvert Clubhouse.

Did you like this article, then share the love with your friends and social media.  You know I love to hear from you so please comment below or hit reply to let me know your thoughts.  Sherold