Sometimes, we just have to suck it up.
If you’ve been part of The Introvert Entrepreneur community for a while, this statement may surprise you. You know that my fundamental message is that there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. We don’t need to be fixed, and we don’t need to become something we’re not in order to fit into society’s extrovert expectation. (See “Related Posts” below for further reading)
Saying “I’m an introvert, so I don’t/can’t/won’t…” sets a terrible precedent for introverts everywhere. Some people who don’t empathize with what it’s like to be an introvert in an extrovert-oriented society will see such statements as complaining, whining, or hiding. Not exactly the image we want to portray!
That’s why a recent story by Rachel Belle titled “Maybe Marshawn Lynch is Just an Introvert” caught my attention. Lynch is a running back for the Seattle Seahawks and is known for being in “Beast Mode” during games. He’s also known for his open dislike for media interviews, recently being fined $100,000 for not speaking to the media after a game (which he is under contract with the NFL to do).
Belle’s assessment that he’s an introvert sounds entirely accurate. It probably explains why he avoids the spotlight when he’s off the field.
I have every reason to empathize with Marshawn when it comes to those post-game interviews. It can’t be easy to put all of your energy into a game and then have reporters grilling you afterwards, win or lose. This would be true for any player, but especially for an introvert who gets intensely focused on one thing, then finds it challenging to shift gears that quickly and have to deal with so many people so publicly.
However… if he has anxiety about speaking in public or to the media, his introversion probably contributes to his discomfort, but it’s not the direct cause. And he shouldn’t get a free pass (from the media, fans or himself) to “play the introvert card” and not fulfill a contractual obligation to the best of his ability.
The cause of public speaking anxiety – speaking generically, but perhaps some of this is true for Marshawn – could be a fear of judgment, overwhelm from too many questions/the format of the event, or lack of preparation. He could simply be either too exhausted or too keyed up to care about talking to the media. Or it could just be a genuine disdain for public speaking (which is not a defining trait of being an introvert!).
It’s not giving introverts much credit when we say, “it’s not fair to expect that of him,” or “just leave him alone.” He’s a public figure, people want to hear from him, and that’s the clear expectation. He’s an introvert with what appears to be at least a mild fear of public speaking, and with that information, a solution can be found.
While famous introverts like Marshawn experience this anxiety in a very public arena, most of us not-so-famous introverts also feel the anxiety on a day-to-day basis. Instead of being forced to speak to the media, we’re being told to speak up more in the workplace. To be more visible around the office or in the community. To pull the spotlight onto ourselves and our business so that people know we exist. Those are the pressures we face, and while we’re not going to be fined $100,000 for our silence, we do risk losing our job, clients, customers, or business if we don’t speak up and out.
We have to suck it up and do it.
But we don’t have to do it strictly according to everyone else’s rules. That’s why owning your introvert preferences is important: you see them as an asset, not an excuse, and you develop ways to cope with uncomfortable situations.
If you’re like Marshawn and are being forced to speak, here’s my advice:
- Hire a media consultant or speaking coaching to learn how to handle the pressure and prepare for interviews (even the routine, predictable ones).
- Insist on being the second or third person interviewed, so you have time to decompress a bit.
- Practice positive visualization, meditation, or breathing exercises to calm anxiety.
- Give the occasional one-on-one interview in low-pressure environments in order to build confidence and get more practice.
- Learn to extrovert, treating the word as a verb. You don’t have to become or pretend to be an extrovert, but develop ways to project your energy outward for those 10 minutes or so.
- Be your introvert self and listen, pause to think before answering, and don’t waste energy trying to pretend to be super outgoing. Just answer thoughtfully, honestly, and keep the focus on the game and the fans.
- Get over yourself. Remember that it’s not about you, or about the media: it’s about the fans who want to hear your thoughts and be given a reason to keep on cheering.
For the rest of us, we can follow the same advice. Instead of dealing with the media, we might be navigating office politics, but similar strategies still apply.
Earlier I referred to an “extrovert expectation.” I believe it’s unhealthy for introverts to be expected to behave, talk, and think like extroverts. But it’s normal for us to expect people to share their talents, perspectives and ideas. How they do that sharing is going to be unique to each person, and part of making public speaking comfortable for all is to accept that reality.
There are plenty of introverts who show up and do the press interviews and feel fine about it, because they’re at peace with who they are, and they’ve acquired the skills they need to feel comfortable and confident. They’ve identified certain introvert strengths that they can call on to create a positive interview situation. Or they acknowledge that they hate it but graciously do it anyway, knowing that their message is more important than their discomfort.
I’m not saying it’s easy or that we can never push back. Being an introvert informs how you show up in the world, but it doesn’t define it. You can learn how and when to ask for what you need to be your best. You can choose to expand your capacity zone and move through your fears. If we want more positive, authentic introvert energy in the world, that’s a choice we need to make.
PS: I asked The Introvert Entrepreneur Facebook Community what they thought of the story… here’s some of what they shared: