A friend and I had a conversation recently, in which she remarked that, when confronted with three side-by-side doors, she would always choose one of the side doors.
And I thought about that, because we introverts often slide along the edges of life, skulking. I suspect many of us make these kinds of choices – to be unobtrusive.
It isn’t always wrong; I maintain that the introvert tendency to enter a new group and listen quietly before jumping in and conversing is very intelligent behavior, and saves a lot of the errors that occur because of too quick assumptions about others.
Mingling with a group, listening, and paying attention to others can be very effective means of consolidating a group, and even leading a group.
But this habit of skulking can get out of hand, when we do it all the time, and unconsciously.
At one point in my life, I made an extrovert friend (yes, it is possible, and I learned a lot from her). When we attended a conference in a big hotel, I noted that the center entrance door had a doorman who would open it for guests with a flourish, and I sidestepped over to a less threatening, less public (or so I thought) side door.
She grabbed me firmly by the elbow, and said, “No. Always use the center door.” She then swept in with a regal carriage, her head held high. I gulped, followed her, and learned a lesson.
The lesson is this: make it a conscious choice. Tell yourself you have just as much right to be in the center, and even waited upon, as does anyone else. When you choose not to be in the center of any event, make sure it is a clear choice: I’m listening, observing, reflecting, but not hiding.
Because there will surely come a time when you want you, your expertise, and your talents to be recognized, a time when it really counts, but there will be no one to grab you by the elbow and say, “No. You must take the center door yourself.”
Consider the experience of Kari Rihm* who became a CEO on what she termed was “one of the worst days of her life” – the day after her husband’s funeral.
After 17 years as a stay-at-home mom, she reportedly had 180 days to learn the business and come up with a business proposal – or sell the business. How could she sell the business, when she didn’t even know what it was worth? So she decided to take charge. “I had to face a boardroom full of people, mostly men, and convince them that I could do this.”
She did so, successfully, later saying, “You have to understand and believe that you have the right to be there.”
You don’t have to, nor should you want to, wait for a major event such as Kari faced to convince yourself you have a right to be there. Start practicing every day – walk through doors consciously, with your head held high, recognizing you are making a choice.