Dance of Dissonance: Introverts and Self-Promotion

Yay! I get to be on TV tomorrow, to talk about introverts and introversion and, in the process, promote my book and my ideas and even myself!

Ugh. I’m going to be on TV tomorrow, to talk about introverts and introversion and, in the process, promote my book and my ideas and even myself.

I really do get to be — I really am going to be — on TV tomorrow on a local morning news-and-a-latte program called “North Dakota Today.” And I really do get to — I really am going to — talk about introverts and introversion and, in the process, promote my book and my ideas and even myself.

How am I really feeling about it all, today, right now in this moment? God’s honest truth? It’s the same gray as always (tomorrow will be my sixth appearance on the show): We’re talking not only cognitive but also emotional and even physical dissonance. I’m actually doing a strange little dissonance dance that involves patting myself on the back for my initiative while simultaneously smacking myself on the forehead for it. Imagine what the neighbors must think.

I’ll bet you’ve been here yourself if you’re an introvert like me. Tell me if you’ve heard this one:

Yay! My job interview is tomorrow!

Ugh. My job interview is tomorrow.

Or …

Yay! My annual review is tomorrow!

Ugh. My annual review is tomorrow.

You and your introverted self work hard to make opportunity knock, and when it does you answer the door and let it in. But seconds … or hours … or days … or weeks later, when you (finally) realize the imminent ramifications of having said yes, you go back to that same door, stare at it a little regretfully, and mutter to yourself only half-kiddingly: “What have I done?”

Why am I in the midst of my own psychological tug-of-war today … again? Well, nerves are a part of it. TV isn’t exactly my natural habitat, after all, although it’s getting a little easier each time I go on.

But TV per se, as a medium and an experience, really has very little to do with it. There’s a lot more to this story, mine as well as yours in whatever form it takes.

Introversion itself explains most of what’s going on when you find yourself conflicted about the prospect of sitting in some kind of hot seat — one you actively sought out, ironically — answering someone’s questions as you try to present yourself, your ideas, your product/service, your achievements, your potential in the most compelling way.

Whether you’re interviewing for a job you really want or telling the boss about your diligent personal efforts or, in my own case, appearing on TV for two four-minute segments on “Job Search Success for Introverts,” it’s basically a foregone conclusion that if you’re an introvert and you’re in a question-and-answer situation — especially one that involves aspects of self-promotion — you’ll be half excited for the opportunity and half wanting to barf your breakfast (your percentages may vary).

Let’s home in on the barfing part. For starters, the energy output involved (in presenting and answering questions, not barfing) will be enormous, and you likely already know that from experience. You might talk more during one two-hour job interview than you normally do in an entire day … or two … or five. It’s exhausting.

You also know that you will have little or no time to think through your responses to the various questions that will be thrown at you. When I’m on TV, for example, members of the viewing audience won’t be impressed if I create 30 seconds of dead air to prepare my answers to the anchors’ questions; they’ll be asleep — or hammering the clicker in frustration to escape to another channel. They, to say nothing of the anchors, won’t think I’m deliberate and reflective; they’ll think I’m a loon. So I have to think on my feet and respond to the anchors’ questions quickly. Again, not the introvert’s usual cup of tea. And again: exhausting.

Finally, there’s that word, that semi-nauseating concept: promote. Self-promotion? Blech. You’d rather let your actions — past, present, and future — do the talking. Same here.

But it doesn’t always work that way. Hence the dance of dissonance when you’re presented with — or is that faced with? — talking about yourself and what you have to offer.

So what will I be doing between now and tomorrow morning to have a successful segment on “North Dakota Today,” despite my paradoxical struggle? Three things, which I encourage you to adapt to your own needs in similar circumstances.

For starters, I’ll rest up tonight and get a good night’s sleep, knowing I’ll need to go into tomorrow’s segment with an energy cup that runneth over.

I’ll also think about and practice responding to a few of the sample questions that I myself provided to the anchors in a handout I emailed to the show’s producer earlier today.

Finally, I’ll remind myself that the anchors want to help me help their viewers, not embarrass me or trip me up with trick questions and curveballs. They want viewers to stick around and learn from some knowledgeable guests. They’re not interested in loons. Or barfing.

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