The ABCs of Image – Communication -Introversion and Others Focus

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introvert communicationThe other night I lost it while I was cooking dinner. My version of losing it isn’t particularly scary, I just banged some pots and pans around in the kitchen and did some noisy washing up, but lost it for me, and I couldn’t at the time really figure out why. I knew I was a bit tired, but that is not normally a reason for me to lose my cool. It wasn’t until I awoke at 4am with my epiphany I realised why.

Image and style are more than just fashion and what you wear, which is what I write about most of the time. There is an ABC of image:

  1. Appearance
  2. Behaviour
  3. Communication

and of course there are many crossovers between what our appearance communicates, what our behaviour communicates and how we choose to communicate using appearance and image which I talk about lots in my posts bout Yin and Yang and Personality Style.

Communication is an endlessly fascinating topic (in my book) and in fact I have a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, so I’ve been studying the topic for a long time. The more I understand about communication styles and how we think, act and behave, as well as the personality aspects of communication the more it helps me understand my clients, friends, family and myself.

There are many different personality aspects that influence us and our communication styles, how we behave and feel. We may be introverts or extroverts (and I use these terms here in the Myers Briggs sense of how we gain energy from time alone, or time spent with people) and I know that I’m an introvert (and I’ve mentioned it before here). What I know about myself is that I need time away from people to recoup my energy. It’s not that I don’t love spending time with people, but I can’t do it all day every day without becoming exhausted. I remember when I used to be a publicist for Penguin Books and when I’d arrive home from a book tour I’d pretend sometimes to my friends that I was still away on tour so I could just spend a weekend by myself regaining my energy after having spent such an intense few days non-stop with an author (which I loved to do).

Now all the jobs I’ve been happiest doing include other people. It includes you, my wonderful readers, it includes my personal styling clients, it includes my fabulous personal stylist and colour analysis training students and I’m really happy to have you all in my life. My work is what I’d call “Others Focused”. I love to help you look and feel great, that inspires me and gives me great satisfaction.

Yet as an introvert I need to spend some quality time with myself away from everyone (and that includes my family too).  So when I spat the dummy (cos there were too many dishes in the sink from the icecream making my husband had been doing with his 5 year old son, when I needed to drain a big pot of pasta) and I’ve spent the past 3 weeks training students (6 days a week) and then had family time all long weekend with all 5 kids (the youngest who is 5 follows me everywhere and wants to engage in constant conversation with me) my energy was gone, I had none left in me to behave in a calm manner.

My 4am epiphany was that all that “others focus” of the past 3 weeks had left me depleted of any energy.  Normally after I’ve finished training I schedule a few days off, but this time I had no time to do so and had clients booked every day.   And then the  weekend came but there was still no time for me to get away or just spend time by myself.  I realised that often when I’m starting to feel this way I make an “emergency trip” to the supermarket for that essential item that dinner could not be made without.  And it’s actually about getting 30 minutes to myself, with nobody talking to me or wanting something from me.  I don’t have to be “on”. I can switch off.   I don’t engage the checkout-chick with conversation.  I smile and pay but that’s as much as I’m able to communicate with the little energy I have left.

So with this realisation as an introvert who spends a lot of time focusing on others (and having to worry about all those “others” who are my family who want my attention) I need to make sure that I ask for “me time” before I get to the snappy snapping point.  It’s why I hardly call my friends.  Not because I don’t love them, but because so often my energy has been used up that day on my work and family and I just don’t want to talk to anyone else (I’m not one of those women who constantly has the phone strapped to her ear).

I do love to see people, spend time with people and see my friends.  I just need to pace it out and give myself breathing and alone-time, to space it out so that I’m not exhausting myself mentally. It’s a lie that introverts don’t like spending time with people, we love them.  It’s just we don’t want to spend every hour of every day with people and need time to ourselves.   We can’t always be “on”.  We are not snobs or think that we are too good (which is often the comment I’ve heard from extroverts about why introverts don’t necessarily contribute to the conversation or go out of their way to talk to people they don’t or barely know), it’s just that we  have to turn use more energy to engage and know that the amount of energy we have is finite and we need to recharge by not engaging with other people.

This is why I make sure that I don’t spend my weekend working, I have to have time to recoup (and I get lots of requests to work weekends cos that is everyone else’s time off and most people don’t think about this being “work” to me).  Also, if I do work on a weekend, I’m terrible at taking time off during the week (I just can’t force myself to do it).  It’s why I also avoid the computer otherwise I’d work all the time and burn myself out.

Interestingly when I’ve been at AICI conference sessions where the topic of extroversion and introversion come up, and we have to split ourselves into two groups, there are way more extrovert image consultants than introverts, which doesn’t surprise me.  But this does make me feel like I’m the odd one out in the crowd at times.  I have often wished to be an extrovert as I feel life is easier when you are one.

Are you an extrovert in a career dominated by introverts?  Or are you like me?

 

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49 Comments

  • This post could have been about me. Like you, my jobs have always involve other people, Most people would not characterize me as such, but I am an introvert and while I really enjoy being around people, I have to have time to myself. I totally identify with those emergency trips to the store, and am often not terribly disappointed when plans fall through and I suddenly find myself with “free” time.

  • This post could have been about me, too. I’m an introvert and a fellow INTJ. All I can say is that the “me” time (meaning away from absolutely e v e r y o n e ) is essential to keep both myself and my family sane 😉

  • I’m an introvert in a sea of extroverts — my family! My husband and three children are all extroverts — they love nothing more than to spend every waking moment talking and interacting. Luckily for me, together they make four, the perfect number for the card games and board games they enjoy — the perfect excuse for me to go off to my room and read, LOL!

  • I am actually an extravert, but I still relate to alot of what you are saying. Much of the work that I want to do is solitary – organizing, writing, or creating – so I have the same need for time alone, but for the opposite reason. When I am out with a group of people, I come home fired up and ready to get some work done and can be not-very-patient with people who want to follow me around and chatter at me (one-on-one actually takes a HUGE amount of energy out of me). This weekend I spent some time thinking through just this very thing; I must try to stack my schedule in such a way to plan a quiet morning to get work done at home the day after a party, for example.

    It is good to bring the topic up with such a personal illustration. I could go on all day about my challenges in this area, but the bottom line is we have to understand ourselves and offer one another grace. 🙂

  • I am an introvert who works among extroverts. I like to chat one on one or in small groups (<5), but just being around people, whether or not I am interacting with them, drains me. It is very difficult because I work in an office that encourages extroversion.
    Thanks for writing this post. It helps to know there are others in similar situations who are successful and happy.

  • Oh my you are a mind reader or we are pretty closely attuned. My post today is about the same topic albeit from a bit of a different slant. I too, despite seeming like a blatant extrovert, am absolutely an introvert and kind of shy for that matter too. I really enjoyed reading about your epiphany and the need for some down and alone time.

    Accidental Icon
    http://www.accidentalicon.com

    • I was plagued by shyness as a child, I’ve managed to overcome for the most part my shyness where necessary – but it feels like acting a part, rather than really being me. I look forward to reading your post Lyn

  • Interestingly, I just took a modified Meyers-Briggs test. I was not surprised to learn I am 80% introverted. I’m a retired nurse and my work, although I loved it, exhausted me. Even family time while I was married and raising a daughter exhausted me. The noise!! Time spent alone feeds my heart, soul and creativity. Silence is luxurious. Luckily, everyone in my life now knows I’m an introvert and they don’t take it personally. They know I love them like crazy but I need lots of time alone and silent. At 58, if I don’t take care of myself, certainly no one else will and I don’t expect them to. I ask for what I need and am lovingly given it.

    • I used to assess and train (Myers Briggs) in law enforcement, where most of the entrants tend to be extroverts who find introverts very hard to understand. I ended up explaining the main difference as being that extroverts can go straight to the pub after a long hectic day but the introverts need a bit of time and space to themselves first – that their source of energy is internal. I didn’t think it was a brilliant explanation – but it worked for them. Once they understood the different needs, they stopped ribbing/teasing and bullying those who needed the time out. Their career decisions were often different too – the extroverts found fraud etc boring and the introverts found being out on the street not their thing.

        • I think you’re right. Often seemed to think they were being given the brushoff by members of the team, when they weren’t.

  • Hi Imogen
    I love people and am very interested in others. I get on easily with new people, enjoy a raucous party and can be pretty wild and silly myself at times. I have made a successful career in PR, Marketing and Fundraising. I love hosting events for my clients and standing up and talking in front of 100 people with a microphone about my topic is something I enjoy to do!
    So when I tell people that I consider myself an introvert, they honestly can’t believe it as I seem the exact opposite. What they don’t see is how I need days to get over each and every one of these things. I quickly run out of steam and just cannot stand the pace that my more extrovert colleagues and friends thrive on.
    I am kind to myself and allow myself down-time. I have learnt to design my work so that I get regular breaks and time for recovery from the busy times.
    Even to myself I am a paradox!
    Emma xxx

  • I’m an extreme introvert. For every hour I spend with other people I need at least as much time destressing alone. When I worked outside the home I found it very stressful. I’m SO glad I’m in a position now where I spend most of every day alone, in my own space, quietly creating.

  • Imogen, we’re obviously sisters under the skin. I’m an educator and do a lot of community activity projects. I love people – in small groups for limited amounts of time! Then, I need a break. Fortunately, I have an office where I can shut the door. I really relate to your comments about phones. For me, they’re work tools. When it comes to friends, I want to spend time one-on-one F2F, NOT in the phone!

  • Yes, perfect description of me! I have a houseful of kids and quiet moments are scarce. My solution is to go to bed (with a good book) when the little ones are tucked in for the night, and leave my husband chatting with the older boys… for hours sometimes. It exhausts me to think about. My sister recharges by chatting on the phone, I need to rest and recharge after a phone call. I just need a complete break from ALL people to be OK.

  • Everyone needs downtime. A hot bath, an afternoon nap (if y

    u don’t nap the 5 year old can, while you rest and read…), an early morning 15 min walk, half an hour of coffee and reading before the household is awake – you work it out and may need to establish that these times are “your time”.
    Good on you for keeping weekends free. Anyone who doesn’t understand that you don’t work 24/7 will be leading a frazzled, stressful, disorganized life which will eventually unravel.

    • I like to go for a run first thing in the mornings, but sadly due to a small injury I’m currently unable to run. Yes I sometimes like to just walk away.

  • Hi Imogen,
    Your introversion may be one reason why you do such a fantastic job of blogging. There’s quite a lot of evidence to show that introverts respond well to social media because it gives them some space and some choice over when and how they communicate. In comparison,us extroverts are relatively addicted to the face-to-face stuff.

    • I do think introversion and blogging go together as you have to spend lots of time by yourself when you do it! But I certainly know a bunch of bloggers who aren’t introverts too.

  • Oh wow! I have read this article twice and want to say a big “thank you”. So glad there are many who are on the same track as me.
    I now know it is ok as an introvert to be myself, take my time out when I need and want it and still be present to those around us.

  • Like you, definitely an Introvert in an industry of Extroverts!

    Do you think that by branding oneself as introverted works for or against in terms of marketing?

    I’d be curious to know whether colour/style clients would rather spend time with an Extroverted Image Consultant, or whether that preference would be down to their own personality type. For instance, would an Introverted stylist appeal to an Introverted clients – or would one personality type look for someone with different qualities …?!

    Enjoyed your Blog. Thanks, Imogen!

  • I am definitely an introvert but nobody who works with me will believe it! As a special education teacher I am working with people constantly all day long. Students, parents, para-educators and other teachers; it never stops. Weekends and summer vacations are decompress times for me. It is so important to understand ourselves and not think we are being unfriendly or selfish for needing that quiet re-charge time.

  • As an introvert myself (INFJ) I can perfectly identify with this feeling of being overwhelmed. I used to work in people-oriented jobs and was exhausted after a short while. Sadly, most jobs I see advertised are similar to prior ones and I begin to consider working from home more seriously. Now, when I have a family of my own, spending the whole weekend reading in bed and hardly uttering a word is almost impossible. And I do think life is easier for extroverts.

  • Can relate to all that, particularly the five year old following you around wanting constant attention when I desperately needed some down-time. I had to teach my son that if I was walking away from him, it meant I had reached the end of my tether and he needed to be quiet. It was a sanity-preserver for me, and it meant that he survived to adulthood without his mother strangling him. He has done just fine but is still very intense.

  • Wow – what a great article and very timely, having been holding back my own version of ‘losing it’ for a few days ….. A bit of an ‘ah ha’ moment.

    Like many people here I am introvert working in a sea of extroverts doing all things people, communication and culture in my role. I deeply care about individuals, what makes them unique and finding work that allows them to grow, shine and be the best version of themselves, but paradoxically find myself overwhelmed in really large crowds, even if I know everyone.

    Thank you for sharing it has helped put some perspective on my week too.

  • I have been told that I am “over the top” and ” overbearing”. The truth is that I am an introvert and was the shyest little girl ever. I have lots of extroverts in my life so what people see in me is a front. I DO wear my heart on my sleeve but I love my own company and NEED it too.
    I am happier in crowds as I can hide , whereas in a one on one situation I have to perform.

  • This quote could be my mantra:

    “I love the feeling you get when someone cancels plans you didn’t want to have in the first place.”

    LOL!!!! That is so true of me!

    I’m an INFP – and I love solitude.

    On my cell phone I almost never use the phone feature. My loved ones know they need to text me, not call me. 🙂

    I find crowds exhausting, so when I go to a movie theater, I try to hit it at the least busy time of the week, when only a couple other people are watching the same showing.

    I also avoid big public events like sports games, concerts, crowded shopping malls at Christmas, etc. Even if I’m not interacting with all those people in a crowd, just being among them drains me.

    When I interact with people, I much prefer just one person at a time, connecting face to face, on a deeper level than is possible at a party with lots of other people.

  • I am in the introvert club. It’s a good thing you know this about yourself at an early time in your life. I didn’t find out until years after leaving a draining profession(other based 100% of the time) And now, I find that I thoroughly enjoy being in smaller groups, one on one and being alone.

    One of the things I’ve found is that those years of pretending to be extroverted gave me insight into human nature and a wealth of knowledge about my profession. It is serving me well later in life. You see, while most were doing the “talking”, I was “listening.”

    I don’t know if you’ve experienced this. But I found that being introverted among extroverted people is a valuable tool because you become more other focused. And many extroverts love being around introverted people because they are highly attuned to others needs.

  • When I found out I am an INTJ and showed the description to my husband, his first words were “Oh, now you make sense.” He loves to be the center of attention, and always wants my attention. At least now he understands how draining it can be for me. I need my me time. I used to go “shopping” just to get away. It did help to just get away with nobody asking for my time and attention.

    I’m so glad to know I’m not the only introvert.

  • I totally understand where you’re coming from. As a homeschooling INTJ I have to be very rigid about my planned solitude, or I would lose my mind. Although I have down time scheduled into every week, my main recuperation happens when my sons are gone to summer Scout trips and camp, and my husband is at work. So you can imagine how I felt when my youngest pulled a ribcage muscle and had to come home early (on his birthday, no less). Not only have I lost 2 days of long-anticipated blissful quiet, but I also have to be nurturing and sympathetic, and organize a birthday bash, blah, blah. Humbug!

  • I’m an introvert and a teacher of 8/9 year olds. It’s so lovely that the girls often want to stay in and chat at lunch time but I often just need that down time to recharge for the next session. We’ve come to a good compromise though. I’ll tell them they can stay if they want to work quietly on their art projects!
    I’m exhausted at the end of the week but after more than 20 years I still love what I do. I’m just appreciative that these days, my own kids have grown up so I can just relax when I get home from work! Am looking forward to the 10 day camping trip next hols!!!

  • I’m an introvert and also physically disabled so fatigue is a big factor in my life and even tho a lot of my friend’s would call me an extrovert they don’t see the real me I need days alone to recover just from one meeting That is why i only have a select few friends who are precious to me Sometimes other people can’t understand why i don’t immediately answer their emails or phone calls while my closest t friends seem to understand why often need a lengthily down time esp if
    I’ ve been stretching myself way to much for others I need to often put me first and that is very hard Thankyou for a great article it really spoke to me

  • Really liked the comment you made about introverts being perceived as snobs or too good. I was 50/50 Introvert/extrovert on Myers Briggs, but my introversion has gone up in droves since having children and not getting enough sleep. I just can’t think straight or muster my social energy very well and I’m anxious not to be perceived as a snob. This is causing trouble in how I want to dress, I really like dramatic/glamorous elements, but glamour implies an aloofness, which I can’t overcome when I’m tired. So ‘friendly’ is a word I have to have trumping glamour in my style recipe, until I feel happier and can be more friendly in person! Or stop worrying about what everyone thinks, which would probably translate in a more relaxed aura anyway – I will practise. Anyway thank you for this post, it has given me some insight into an ongoing conflict with the style I love and my level of comfort,

  • This is why since my husband retired, I started having a “girl’s day out” with just myself. It is the only way I get that alone time. A “girl’s day out” is not a threatening to him as, “I need some time alone, away from you!.”

  • I can relate. Currently I’m a stay at home Mom. I take care of my mildly autistic older son Daniel and miss my deceased younger son Thomas. I’m more comfortable with one on one or small groups of people. In larger groups have to have either someone I love to focus on or one of my hobbies (fortunately handheld video games and books can be done most places). Although need my alone time I don’t trust my son unattended especially when I’m being productive because that’s when he is the most destructive (he’s torn holes in our walls and floors) or mischievous (runs off, dumps out anything he can get his hands on including flour, rice, sugar, dish soap, hand soap, body wash, shampoo, etc, flooded rooms that have a sink, and has been running off). I am fortunate Lee is either an introvert or understands my need to be alone so if he’s at home we’ll stay in separate rooms most of the time and occasionally will take care of him so I can do my thing. I live for when Daniel is at school because that’s the only time I get a true break from him. Curiously my sister is the only living person who doesn’t drain me (my son Thomas was the other).

  • Being an extrovert isn’t all peaches and cream. I have some introverted sisters who whack me over the head often for “wanting to be the centre of attention or vain” after they ask me to do some public speaking or perform for something because “they are too shy”
    Introverted women can become jealous in an instant over extroverted women and extroverted women end up with hawk eyed husbands who think because you talk and chat freely you’re on the prowl. It’s a nightmare and so you end up trying to rein it in and be quiet and then all the introverts are happy that you are not stealing their sunshine and you end up growing mouldy and bored and dying a little inside.
    So extroverts pay for it dearly too. And a little aside… extroverts need time out too. Just not as long as introverts. We charge up a tad quicker and feel great when there are not too many introverts around getting growly over us being happy and vibrant after a quick charge.

    I suppose you can liken it to a mobile phone charger. Some phones charge up quicker than others and some can run a long time on 1% while others shut down on 3%

    Get it?

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