Now for the good news: hiders like myself can also put their instincts to good use. Here are some ways that I've found my introverted, introspective attributes to be highly helpful in communications:
1. Listening and observing. If you pay close attention, you will hear and see what others may be missing. Rather than using social media (or meetings for that matter) for promoting your services, use them to tune into what people are talking and caring about. Practicing reflective listening, where you repeat back to the person what you heard them say, is also good practice for finding a message that will resonate with the people you seek to serve.
2. Exercising prudence with words. Speaking of messaging, we all know how much words matter. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words leave wounds more lasting. Experts hiders like myself may be more selective about what they say, when they say it, and/or who they say it to. Such restraint is an especially important skill in situations of stress, tension, mistrust, and conflict.
3. Honoring confidentiality (and giving shout-outs). At the very least, refraining from toxic gossip can move mountains towards building trust. Keeping confidences is an even better way to demonstrate that you are focused on building bridges not taking sides or claiming turf. (Speaking of which, while it's helpful to take credit for what is yours, when you are curating the work of others, say so.)
4. Recognizing less is more. This principle not only works with words, but also with numbers, images, pages, time, etc. Clearing away the clutter and noise paves the pay for honing in on what matters most. Expert hiders can practice refining the art of concealing what doesn't. (Note, this can also be the most difficult practice if our habit is to complicate and perfect.)
5. Speaking up in service to others. Nothing irks me more (yes, not even poor design) than a presenter who spends hours of time pitching their ideas and then a few minutes basically shrugging at questions posed by their audience. What the folks they are speaking to struggle with is exactly what the expert should be paying the most attention to. Just like these folks need to learn to listen more than talk, we hiders have to be willing to speak up if/when we can be of service. When we recognize that doing so doesn't have to be about promoting ourselves but rather can be about helping others, we more easily overcome our hesitation and are willing to risk speaking up despite our self-doubt.
6. Using uncertainty as opportunity. It was excruciating but liberating for me when I realized that what often causes me the greatest distress (my inability to communicate effectively) was actually a reflection of my strengths. I naturally do all of the things that were labeled as harmful in the previous blog - take a step back, listen to others, sit with complexity, put things in order, and iterate as needed - and these gifts are exactly what enable me to help my clients succeed. You see, if we don't do these things at least on occasion, we are just running endlessly from task to task, absorbed in the minutiae, missing the bigger picture, and stuck in confusion or inaction. Cave dwellers like me are experts at staying in the dark long enough to be able to see the light, however small it may be.
You might notice that many of these helpful strategies also allow us to generally be more objective. It has taken me years to understand that this correlation may be at least partly why scientists and other quantitatively-strong individuals are not well known for their ability to share or promote their ideas. As always, it is my hope that my experiences may provide hope and possibility for these folks, especially because I so passionately believe that these ideas are the very key to transforming our struggling world.
If you take nothing else from this blog, take this: there is no shame in hiding, or perhaps any other thing we tell ourselves we "shouldn't" be doing. The goal of growth need not be to erase our weaknesses, it can simply be to bring them into harmony with our strengths. It takes practice, and we need confidence, not judgement or recrimination, to be able and willing to begin.
Check out these related articles:
- "Hiding" in your communications: When it's harmful
- How committing to co-creative process is different from producing an outcome
- Tips for sharing research visually
- Using visuals to support your writing process
- How to use visuals for analysis and discovery
- The power - and responsibility - of expertise
- Best practices for communicating with Spanish speakers
- Using storytelling to advance your organization's mission