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Discussion on: Public Speaking for Introverts

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Scott Hannen

I hesitate to use the word "introvert" as a label that can describe an individual's characteristics in detail.

That being said, many introverts might be surprised to find that public speaking is not only bearable but is even more comfortable than one-on-one interaction. A few reasons:

  • 1:1 Social interactions can be ambiguous. What is our relationship? Why are we talking? When are we done? Introverts may overthink such details, or the lack of clarity may make them uncomfortable without them realizing it. Public speaking is unambiguous. I'm here to say this. You've chosen to listen. This is how long it will last. Then it's done.
  • Much of what we desire in 1:1 interactions is still present. When speaking we can still feel a rewarding sense of connection with our audience. We still see them as individuals, but they are individuals comprising a group to which we speak. We can think of how our presentation might benefit individuals. We see them responding to our speech and it energizes us.
  • This is a peculiarity of some introverts, but we hate to be interrupted. It's not an ego thing. We just express sentences and thoughts in a certain way. We might begin by saying what we don't think and build from there to explain what we do think. It's exasperating when someone cuts us off halfway through when the words we've spoken either don't say anything complete or even express the opposite of what we're about to say. (I've often told people, "Of course what I said doesn't make any sense. It's the incomplete first half of a thought.") Maybe that's not just introverts, or maybe it bothers us more. Anyway, when speaking publicly that problem goes away. You can express a thought the way you want to without getting stopped halfway through.

This isn't to say that I would replace 1:1 interactions with public speaking. Rather, we might just be surprised at how much we enjoy the latter. As we get comfortable speaking publicly a version of ourselves begins to emerge which resembles how we'd like to present ourselves in more personal interactions. As we recognize it we allow it to come out when speaking to individuals. Our public side and our personal side each help the other to grow.

integerman profile image
Matt Eland Author

There's a lot in there. For me, the core of being an introvert vs extrovert is how you recharge. Do you recharge by being alone or talking with one or two close friends or do you enjoy parties, groups of people, and larger-scale socialization? Most people are somewhere in between, and this can change over time. I'm a very introverted fellow, but I can act like an extrovert - particularly if I care about a cause or group of individuals.

I love what you're saying with:

Rather, we [introverts] might just be surprised at how much we enjoy [public speaking]

I certainly have been surprised myself.