A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and an Introvert– Are We One and the Same?

Understanding Highly Sensitive Persons

What Are Highly Sensitive Persons?

The question above is a bit misleading because the name literally creates the definition. Highly Sensitive Peerson (often shortened to HSP) are individuals who are thought to have a much higher sensitivity to stimuli of physical, emotional, and/or social natures. But it’s not just a choice for these individuals. It is believed that they’re different at the deeper levels of the central nervous system.

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?

The term itself was coined by psychologists Elaine Aron and Arthur Aron during the course of their research into this phenomenon. The pair published a book in the mid-1990s entitled “The Highly Sensitive Person” that has gone on to form the backbone of biological and psychological research into this unique type of trait.

According the couple’s research, roughly 20% of people are thought to be in the Highly Sensitive category. While that number may seem a bit high, it’s likely that many people who are actually HSPs have not yet been classified as such or have even admitted it about themselves. That’s not surprising considering we’re living in a society that prizes loud, boisterous, colorful individuals over the shy, silent types. (Learn more about the Extrovert Bias and how it has affected your life whether you know it or not.)

However, we’re not alone. Scientists have identified high sensitivity in at least 100 other species on earth.

What Causes High Sensitivity in Humans?

Nobody has a definitive answer for that yet. Experts suggests that it’s likely a combination of factors including genetics, social education (especially during early childhood), and our environments.

Interestingly, scientists have pinpointed that children who are raised by parents who are cold or aloof, or those who have suffered a significant trauma are much more likely to become highly sensitive and carry those traits through to adulthood.

A Highly Sensitive Person can become overstimulated very easily, leading to emotional outbreaks, shutting down, and inability to function as normal.

However, it’s also been proven that you’re much more likely to be a Highly Sensitive Person if the traits run in your bloodline.

As with most things, the most likely explanation is that some people are born genetically primed for High Sensitivity and something in their early childhood experience triggers it or leads them down a path where these sensitivities are heightened.

How is a Highly Sensitive Person Different from an Introvert?

Strictly speaking, yes. While many an introvert will exhibit traits that are similar or identical to those of a Highly Sensitive Person, there is a major distinction. Introverts are overwhelmed almost exclusively by social stimuli—say being forced to attend a big party with dozens or hundreds of people. A Highly Sensitive Person, on the other hand, can be overstimulated by just about anything from social situations to loud noises to flashing lights.

However, there is an interesting correlation between ebing a Highly Sensitive Person and introverts. Research shows that 70% of those classified as a Highly Sensitive Person can be objectively classified as introverted (via personality tests like the Meyers-Briggs that we’re all familiar with.)

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? You are Not Autistic

Another question that pops up often is whether or not a Highly Sensitive Person falls on the autism spectrum. Autistic people often struggle with sensory input issues. However, scientists who have studied both phenomena have found marked differences that lead them to believe a Highly Sensitive Person is not autistic.

How Can You Tell if You’re a Highly Sensitive Person and Not Just Introverted?

A Highly Sensitive Person may, according to VeryWellMind):

  • Cry when they experience something of profound beauty (such as a song or a photograph)
  • Become agitated when watching television shows or movies that feature a lot of actions, visual stimuli, or dialog
  • Be very centered around their inner life—living deeply within their own heads.
  • Experience anxiety when wearing uncomfortable clothing
  • Limit their social circles to just a handful of individuals with whom they develop very deep relationships
A beutiful photo like this may touch a Highly Sensitive PErson very deeply indeed.

As you can see, determining if you’re an HSP or introverted can be difficult. However, introverts are individuals that get overwhelmed easily in social situations. The key component is the social aspect of the overwhelming stimuli. Introverts don’t normally experience heightened anxiety or emotional instability when faced with cute puppy videos or tight jeans (unless they too are an HSP).

See if You’re an HSP

These days there is an online quiz for anything. Much like the Meyers-Briggs personality assessment which can tell you if you’re an introvert or extrovert (And what kind of either you are), there’s an online HSP test too!

Elaine Aron has created the test herself. It can be found here.

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

The Struggles of an Introvert:  Your Life is Shaped by How People See You

It should come as no secret to you, my fellow introvert, that people’s opinions of you—of the things you do, the things you say, and the things you like—has a very real emotional impact on you. People that showcase a positive response to you almost always become friends (or at least a person we hold in high regard). Those who let slip even slightly negative impressions fall somewhere on a spectrum that spans between Minor Annoyance to Mortal Enemy.

man looking through thick glasses

While many of us learn to devalue other people’s opinions at a surface level and insulate ourselves from harmful negative energy, what we don’t often see is how that negativity insidiously inserts itself into our brains. Even as we tell ourselves that we don’t care what people think, we’re reevaluating ourselves at a deeper level and are much more likely to shield our true selves from people in the future.

But that’s not just a grumpy introvert talking. Science (specifically psychological studies) have shown that the opinions of others are massively important in our lives even if we don’t realize it.

“Humans and animals use the reactions of others to help determine what is valuable: what to eat, what is dangerous, what is attractive, and (for humans) what to wear, what medicine to take, and for whom to vote—to give but a few examples. Each object, from food to parliamentary candidate, has a perceived value, which can be changed through social influence. Consequently, understanding how our values are changed by social influence is of considerable importance. We have shown that, when effective, the opinions of others alter a very basic mechanism of the human brain that reflects an immediate change in our values. Social influence at such a basic level may contribute to the rapid learning and spread of values throughout a population. These values could range from the quality of food to race and gender stereotypes.”

How the Opinion of Others Affects Our Valuation of Objects – PMC (nih.gov)

Negativity Breeds Bad Results for the Introvert

This goes far beyond Herd Mentality (or The Law of Social Proofing). We’re talking about when a negative attitude or idea can literally reshape your future.

Some of this negative energy is couched in what is subjectively seen as positive reinforcement and often comes from our closest family and friends. In fact, these close relations often have the most impact on our own mental state and can—without knowing it—create life-altering crossroads at which we make decisions not with our own best interests at heart but with the advice of those other top of mind. (Want to read more about how friends and family teach you to fail?)

Indeed, sometimes the opinion of others about us affects us via proxy. The Extrovert Bias that Susan Cain writes about at length in her book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking is essentially culturally-adopted stigmatism of introversion as a personality type and introverted people as members of society.

This stigma is founded on the belief that an introvert is somehow less important or valuable to society than an extrovert. This belief is erroneous. Objective studies have found that introverts perform just as well (or often better) than extroverts in important leadership roles. This, it is believed, stems from the fact that an introvert’s ego isn’t as big as that of an extrovert. Essentially, the quiet folks are pleased when we get results rather than when we get pats on the back.

Unfortunately, because this bias is so widespread, it impacts your life as an introvert at many levels.

  • It changes the dynamics of your relationships
  • It minimizes your chances of being promoted at work
  • It skews your pool of potential romantic partners
  • It makes you work harder to see the same sort of success
  • It equates to roughly $500,000 less in your pocket over the course of your lifetime

(Curious about how your introversion has affected your life? Many of the ways in which it has will shock you.)

But, if you are an introvert and you’re fighting this uphill battle just to be accepted as equal to an extrovert, what can you do to get any traction?

Three Ways to Crush the Stigma that Every Introvert is a Second-Class Citizen

Number one: Stop being shy

Not all introverts are shy. However, a good many of them are. And even if you aren’t chances are people will describe you that way. Why? Because your natural introverted personality traits like rejoicing in solitude, cherishing quiet moments, speaking only when you have something important to say, and either refusing to engage in confrontation of refusing to let that confrontation visibly raise your perceived emotional distress level makes you seem shy to everyone else.

Number Two:  Learn how to communicate better

Communication is a two-way street. Unfortunately, introverts and extroverts communicate differently. Extroverts tend to spout half-formed ideas from their mouths, looking for input to complete them. Introverts tend to wait until they’ve made a decision or formed a complete thought before speaking. Extroverts have a much harder time listening and digesting what anyone else has said. Introverts tend to be very analytical and do well at perceiving and remembering facts but often miss emotional clues to the meaning behind the words.

The easiest way to break free from this social stigma and be successful at work and happier in your personal life is to learn to communicate better. My book, An Introvert’s Guide to Wealth, has an entire section about communication skills including:

  • Active listening techniques
  • Tactical conversation tools you can use to guide communication
  • Non-verbal techniques that help extroverts understand the words coming out of your mouth better
  • Tips about perception that will help you understand how different types of people communicate and how you can shift your style to meet everyone’s needs

And there’s so much more.

Number Three:  Have faith in yourself

Like, unreasonable amounts of faith. Not to get too weird on you, but there may be evidence out there that the metaphysical realm can actually influence your life in very real ways (spotting synchronicity, and understanding the strange ways in which your mind actually creates its own subjective reality through perception).

When you understand that your thoughts may have very real and measurable effects on the outside world, then it’s not too far of a stretch to think that positivity begets positive results. Learning how to chase those negative thoughts away and replace them with faith that’s founded in understanding your own strengths and the power of the skills you possess can have amazing results!

Take Your Future In Your Hands

Your life won’t change unless you change it.

But change can be scary.

I created AnIntrovertsGuidetoaWealthyLife.com and wrote An Introvert’s Guide to Wealth to help you overcome those fears, take those steps to reshape yourself, your life, and your career in ways you previously would have thought impossible.

I did these things because I changed my life in very real ways—going from super-shy introvert to successful retail leader, doubling my salary in just three short years, earning promotion after promotion, accolade after accolade . . .

And I did it all without throwing away my introversion or forcing myself to fake being an extrovert. Instead, I embraced the very same (very quirky) traits that had set me apart from family, friends, and my peers all my life. I flipped them around and used them as tools to get the results I wanted. I know you can too!

Let’s do this, together.

Start here.

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

How to Get Anyone to Say “Yes”

A Subtle Psychological Trick You Can Use to Nudge Decisions in Your Favor

How to use tag questions to get anyone to say "yes"

Introverts aren’t generally known for their conversation skills. As a rule, we like to stick to ourselves and spend far too much time in our own heads to succeed in a world that was created by and for extroverts. So, if we want to carve out a place for ourselves (either in our personal or professional lives) we have to learn conversation tactics to help us get what we want and need.

One of the biggest ways we can change our lives is buy learning how to get other people to say “yes.”

The Power of Yes!

Thinking of going to your boss and asking for a promotion or a raise? How are you going to get them give you the green light? Planning how to approach a potential romantic partner a t a party? How do you get them to agree to a date? Seeking capital to get your start-up business off the ground? How can you get an investor onboard?

In all these situations you need the listener to say “yes.” One little word—just three letters—yet so powerful!

And while there are a ton of variables that go into achieving a successful outcome in any of these situations—from wearing the right clothes, to having enough experience, to showcasing great financials—there is an easy psychological trick you can use to put the frosting on the cake and put your listener in a more agreeable mood.

Tag Questions Trick the Mind Into Agreeability

Derek Borthwick, author of How to Talk to Anybody: Learn the Secrets to Small Talk, Business, Management, Sales & Social Conversations & How to Make Real Friends, introduced me to a tool called Tag Questions. These questions are specifically created to generate a positive response—to get the listener to say “yes”—and are placed at the end of a statement.

For example: “I’m glad the sun has come out. It’s going to be a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

It may or may not turn out to be a beautiful day but the natural (and expected) response to that question is “yes.”

Although tag questions can be used in any situation from the board room to the bar room, Borthwick mentions tag questions in conjunction with sales pitches. Studies have found that people will be more likely to buy a product or service when asked if they have simply said “yes” several times before being asked.

This phenomenon happens at the subconscious level. We repeatedly agree with a person’s statements and it shifts our mind to be more apt to say “yes” even when we’re unsure if we actually agree!

This tactic is widely used in psychotherapy and hypnosis the generate susceptibility and a “therapeutic alliance.” It’s actually called The Yes Set.

How Does the Yes Set Work?

It sounds too simple to be true:  by getting someone to say “yes” to disparate tag questions you’re able to subtly change their attitude and overcome mental obstacles to “buying” what the speaker is selling.

But when you dig into the mental mechanics of it, it’s not so hard to understand why it works. People like to be liked. We also like to be around people like us. We gravitate toward individuals who have the same hobbies, attitudes, and speech patterns as us—even body language plays a tremendously important role in how we feel about people we haven’t even met.

Tag questions allows us to use subtle suggestibility to create:

  • Authority
  • Comradery
  • Feelings of good will

All of these can effectively change how a listener perceives a speaker on very basic levels. Therefore, if the speaker then proposes we go out to dinner Saturday night or that they deserve a 15% raise because they’ve worked so hard, we’re more likely to say “yes.”

Groundwork is Essential for Tag Questions to Work

While the Yes Set is powerful, it won’t move mountains by itself. If a listener already has existing assumptions or feelings about the speaker, those must be overcome first through positive social interaction, effective communication, and presentation of facts that paint the speaker in a good light.

However, if the subject has no preconceived notions about the speaker or if they already like the listener, the power of the Yes Set can be tremendous. This tool can reap significant financial benefits for folks promoting their products or services to targeted audiences. It can also change the course of a career if your boss already likes you. It can even change the dynamic in a long-standing personal relationship to a more positive note.

Next time you’re in a conversation, sprinkle tag questions throughout your conversation and see first-hand how this psychological tactic really works!

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

The Frustrating Necessity of Making Time

How To Fight Your Way Through a Jungle of Priorities

Garonzi Stefania, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Time is something we only have a finite amount of. As much as time is a human construct and as elastic as it is (according to the physicists), it limits how much we can do in a day. And as much as we’d like to, we can’t make time, can we?

A Little Story About My Personal Grievance with Time Management

I worked in the retail (grocery) industry for 26 years. Over that illustrious career, I worked with and for some of the best people I’ve ever met—manager’s that would bend over backward to help you out, make you laugh, or just feel respected.

I’ve also worked for some toolbags that shouldn’t have ever been elevated to a managerial position. Period. Selfish, arrogant, dweebs who come in to work with a coffee in their hand, telling “locker room” jokes, sit in an office all day, and do anything they can to get out of actually doing work. (I wish I had known these tricks for spotting and dealing with difficult people back then!)

One such disaster—a man who shall remain nameless here—said the one thing to me that has pissed me off more than any other remark a boss ever laid upon me in those 26 years.

A Little Context . . .

At the time, I was running a dairy department single-handedly. My daily routine went something like this:

  • Wake up at 3:30 to be at work by 4 AM
  • Pull all the outdated stuff from the entire department
  • Order tomorrow’s load
  • Put up 300-450 cases of dairy product
  • Fill 7 milk racks floor-to-ceiling
  • Fill three doors of eggs
  • Order the next day’s milk deliveries (from three vendors by phone!)
  • Take care of all the damaged items
  • Clean up the cooler and get it organized for the next load coming in that night

If I had any time leftover, I’d pretty up the department, straightening shelves and such.

The company had set metrics that applied to all associates to see how effectively they were working with expectancies about how many cases you should be able to stock in an hour, how long it should take you to do an order, etc. I was hitting 130%-150% effective every day without fail—doing the work of one-and-a-half employees and providing 12 hours of billable labor in an 8-hour shift.

One thing I was constantly failing to do, however, was check the dates on the drinkable yogurt the company thought it was a good idea to merchandise in with the sodas at the register coolers. When the boss called me into the office to talk about it, I explained exactly how much work I was doing (with the company metrics provided).

Instead of thanking me for the effort, looking for ways to leverage more help in my department, or even offering a solution to our outdated yogurt drinks, he simply told me that I had to “make time.”

He wanted me to do even more work in the same eight-hour shift! I was pissed beyond belief.

How the hell do you “make time?”

I held that conversation in my mind for the next 15 years—bringing it up in gripe sessions with my fellow employees—and it still irked me up until a few months ago. What changed? I read something that forced me to shift my entire perspective on how I viewed time.

Time Is a Human Construct—It Doesn’t Really Exist!

I picked up a copy of Jen Sincero’s You’re a Badass at Making Money a while back. It was in that book that she reiterated something I’d heard time and time again but had never really understood until those bold words were before me on a page.

Time is a human concept. We created it so we could segment our days and wrap our monkey brains around our perceived realities.

Sincero went so far as to mention a tribe of First Peoples here in The United States have no concept of time. For them, all of time—the past, the present, the future—are all happening at once!

Before we get too far out into the weeds and start talking about how Marty McFly zipped back to 1955 to save his own parent’s marriage by rocking Johnny B. Goode on a high school stage three years before Chuck Barry recorded it—let’s get practical.

In an interview with Zibby Owens, Jen Sincero cleared up her perception of time as it applies to our daily lives nicely. She said bluntly that if something is important to us, we have to “make time” for it.

“Time really is, as Einstein — was he the one who said that it’s a concept? It really is a concept. You can’t wait for time. You have to make time. Make it happen for yourself because it is there if it’s important. It really is”

Jen Sincero

This skewed my whole bent on this decade-plus long grudge I’d held against an old manager. I still think he’s a jerk, didn’t handle any situation well, and should have done a lot differently, but maybe I was wrong too. Because if something is important to me, I do “make time” for it.

I carve out hours a day to play video games. I lop minutes off my life droning in front of Twitter or Tik Tok. I mindlessly watch TV to unwind after a stressful day. I make time for all these activities even when they fail to add value to my life or get me any closer to my professional goals.

Realigning Your Priorities—Take Time to Make Time

Suddenly, it dawned on me—I was repeatedly failing to make the things I held as important actually important.

I was prioritizing leisure activities over productivity. I was swapping mindless entertainment for self-enriching learning. I was letting honest-to-goodness money-making time slip through my fingers while I chuckled at dogs riding skateboards and people getting hit in the genitals by various objects.

So how do you “make time?” You take back your life from all the little routines you’ve slipped into that don’t add value. Identify them. Eliminate them. Be ruthless.

And just like that, you’ll find yourself making time.

That doesn’t mean that occasionally droning in front of social media or playing video games or watching TV should be completely excised from your life—relaxation and mentally checking out have a quantifiable value too! However, the majority of that time should be given to the activities or goals that you repeatedly tell yourself are important in your life.

Making more money, improving your interpersonal relationship, realigning your career path for a more rewarding experience, investing in a hobby you’ve always secretly thought frivolous, even finding the time to figure out what really is important to you—all of these are made possible through making time for them.

Your assignment is to look critically at your life.

  1. Write down the things you’ve always considered important but never seem to have enough time for.
  2. Track your time daily. Use a phone app or a notebook and jot down how much time you spend doing anything.
  3. At the end of the day or the week take stock. Identify those time-wasting activities that consume your day.
  4. Actively eliminate or reduce those unnecessary time-wasters.
  5. Reprioritize those things you identified as actually important and start spending that newly-minted time wisely!

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

Controlling Someone Else’s Reality

How to manipulate someone's perception of you to change their reality and get the results you need to get ahead in your professional career, earn more money, and live a wealthier life.

How Skillfully Manipulating Conversations and Communication Can Get You the Results You Need

The mind works in mysterious ways. We’ve seen how it can take the input from your five senses and twist it to fit into a vision that’s unique to you. We’ve also seen how it can (with scientifically measurable results) change the real world through ways that physicists are just now beginning to understand. It all hinges around perception–your mind’s ability to make sense of the world as you see it. So, if your perception is your reality, you can learn to control other people’s perceptions to make their reality what you need it to be.

We’re not talking about real mind control through the internet like researchers at The University of Washington seemed to demonstrate in 2013. Nor are we talking about Gaslighting like The Guardian warned us all against. We’re talking about skillfully spotting and understanding communication clues other people are giving you and formulating your response to subtly influence opinions of you and outcomes of conversations.

This is a useful tip for introverts to learn because we’re not naturally the center of attention in any gathering and sometimes (whether we like it or not) we need to be. If we’re gunning for a promotion at work, if we’re trying to showcase the value we bring to the company, if we’re trying to manage difficult employees or coworkers, we need to learn how to read people, then feed them the information they need to make the decisions we want them to.

Being a Full-Body Listener

Listening to the other people in the conversation is the first–and most important part–of this not-so-nasty scheme. But it’s not enough to simply hear the words coming out of their mouths. You really have to take in all the energy they’re putting out verbally, physically, and mentally. Use all of that to really understand what they’re saying (and what they want you to hear). Doing so will help you formulate the correct response.

People communicate on so many levels–some research even confirms electromagnetic direct brain-to-brain communication–that can be almost impossible to get the straight dope without digging far below the surface. Below are a few tips on how to become a full-body listener and really get to the heart of a conversation.

  • Active Listening–This set of techniques can not only help you understand what people are really saying but will help them feel validated (and valued) as well. Researchers at Duke University have pinpointed three solid habits for good active listening.
    1. Leave Distractions Aside: Make sure the speakers know they have your full attention
    2. Be Mindful of Your Body Language: Sit close, incline your head, hold eye contact, make positive acknowledgements (nods, etc.)
    3. Ask for Clarification: Summary what the speaker has said then ask specific questions to confirm or deny your assumptions.
  • Read Their Body Language–Look for clues in the way their holding themselves: arms close to the body or open and expressive, eyes focused on you or wandering around the room, body erect and uncomfortable or relaxed. All of these subtle hints will let you know if they’re being genuine, snarky, fearful, engaged, or bored to tears.
  • Letting Silence Speak for You–Derek Borthwick, author of How to Talk to Anybody, has an interesting technique to illicit more information when a speaker is reluctant to give it up: silence. Uncomfortable silence. It will make people’s brains go into high gear and they’ll speak to fill it–often giving away more info and opinion than they had intended to.

Communicate Your Intentions

You can’t assume that the other people in the conversation are understanding everything you’re saying as deeply as you’d like them to. The old trick about speaking as if to a child or to someone that knows absolutely nothing about the subject is a good technique to use but even then you may lose some of your followers. Sometimes, you can’t even assume they’re listening to you at all.

That’s why you have to hammer home your point as quickly and succinctly as possible:

  1. Minimize small talk–it’s a time waster than can lead you astray.
  2. Get the recipient engaged with the conversation (usually by asking them bout themselves or their role in what you’re discussing).
  3. In certain circumstances–employee/employer relations–it’s appropriate to ask them to reiterate your point so you know that they got it.

Here are a few more tips you can use to make sure your presentation goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Avoid Confusion–Prepare your conversations in your head before, if you can. Take a moment during the conversation to ensure the words come out right. Pay attention to your speech.
  • Get Out of Your Own Head–Don’t let your own doubts derail the conversation. Getting wound up about what the listener may be thinking about you or what you’re saying often spirals out of control.
  • Don’t Try Too HardStephanie Vozza, writing for Fast Company, says that overcompensating is the easiest way to lose your credibility. Instead, be your authentic self and bring the same game every time.

Be Bold and Don’t Get Lost in the Weeds

There comes a moment in every conversation where your point has to get across or the whole endeavor is a waste of time. This is the point of no return during which you have to be direct, decisive, and bold–often to a point just shy of rudeness.

Introverts will often couch their main point in a lot of extraneous talk because we’re very aware of the listener’s emotional response to what we have to say. However, doing that can water down your main idea, lead to confusion, and may function as a sign of deference to the listener (which can be terrible for employer/employee relations in the long run).

Instead, clearly make a bold statement. It’s uncomfortable but when pulled off correctly it showcases your idea, your courage, and your value to the team.

“I don’t believe in going around the block to go next door; I believe in direct communication. I believe in saying, ‘Here’s what I heard. Is that what you were told? If so, I’d like to present my side of the story.’”

Roberta Matuson, author of Can We Talk? Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work.

This is all great advice if you’re driving the conversation or are politely given the chance to express your message. However, we all know there are times when you feel as if you can’t get a word in edgewise.

Hijack the Conversation (The Right Way)

“’He who speaks, controls’. . . I had always believed that statement to be true. We see it all the time — at networking events, bars, and especially now in political debates. Whoever is louder, more verbose, and more theatrical dominates. Points are given to those who put on a show.”

Dave Schools

Have you ever tried to have a two-way conversation with a boss who talks too much? Or maybe you’ve spoken with a coworker or employee who takes every opportunity to go off on tangents about how previous managers have done things in the past. Sometimes problematic conversations devolve into tit-for-tat finger pointing and blame assignment or contests in which the participants try to one-up each other with sob stories.

None of that is helpful or to the point but how to you break in?

With a technique called cognitive incision. The basic premise is that if you tactfully insert a strategic question, the speaker has to shift his thought pattern and what he’s talking about to answer that question. This helps you steer the talk away from harmful or wasteful topics back to where it should be. Often the question needs to be either shocking, comedic, or witty because it has to be big enough that it takes a moment for the respondent to think about their answer. This beat is important–it’s the “incision” from which the tactic got it’s name.

To use cognitive incision, you must listen closely to the speaker, track their statements, and predict where they are going. The sharpness of your question is absolutely crucial. It cannot be simplistic, easily dismissed, or nominal. It should be relevant and well-timed. Maybe humorous. It should go off like a curiosity detonator in people’s minds.

Dave Schools

Dave Schools, Founder of Entrepreneur’s Handbook and Crypto Handbook, uses the clip from Downton Abbey below to illustrate how the question of “what is a week-end?” completely shifts the tone, the topic, and the destination of a conversation.

But sometimes it’s not enough just to shift the conversation. Sometimes you need to control it. In those cases, you have to stop the intended listener from ranting, reminiscing, or waxing poetic and get to the point you need to discuss. Derek Borthwick, author of How to Talk to Anybody, has identified an easy way to do just that with one simple word.

Pick a strategic point in the other person’s soliloquy and insert “and.” Follow that “and” immediately with what you intended to say.

The word “and” is important here because it allows the other person to assume you agree with the point they just made without you actually having to agree with it. It also breaks their tirade and allows you the opportunity to insert your thoughts into the conversation.

Practice Makes Perfect–find Your Guinea Pigs

Instead of jumping in feet-first and hijacking the Monday staff meeting, practice on a more receptive audience first. Look for conversations with friends and family in which you can use these techniques to subtly shift conversations, insert your thoughts, and really control the outcome of the interaction. Once you’ve built up some skill and confidence, attacking those big interaction (with your boss, a potential employer, a problem coworker) will seem a lot easier.

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

How Has Your Introversion Affected Your Life?

Your Innate Personality Type Impacts Your Life at Every Level

Even If You Realize It or Not!

Introversion has been in the spotlight a lot recently. Mostly, the books, the blog posts, the websites, and such have been about how you too can succeed as an introvert! While that message is great (and completely true) it strikes me funny that it seems to miss the point. Why do introverts need to be told they’re good enough to do anything they want to do in life?

your introverted personality type can impact everything from your own perception of yourself to your paycheck.

The Extrovert Bias

The introduction of Susan Cain’s groundbreaking book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking is all about how her life and the lives of other introverts she’s come across over the years have been molded and impacted by our society’s inherent extrovert bias. It’s something that we’ve all internalized as a result of overt and subconscious exposure over the course of our lives—starting at a very young age.

This extrovert bias essentially boils down to the idea that extroverts are basically better at more important things in the real world—leading companies, making money, managing people, running households, being role models, and so much more.

Cain points out not-so-subtle brainwashing that occurs even in children’s cartoons that lead us all to buy into this fallacy and (as introverts) subjugate ourselves automatically to the extroverts that run the world.

The Extrovert Bias Impacts Our Ideas About Success

Cain traces the birth of the extrovert bias to sometime around the Industrial Revolution and its infancy stretched into the 1920s and 30s. When our world’s societies changed from agrarian lifestyles of subsistence to industry-driven lives of relative luxury, we also elevated a certain type of person above all others. We’re talking about Men of Industry! Explorers! Radio and Movies Stars! Inventors (and people, like Edison, who stole from them)! Robber barons! Industrialists! The World’s First Millionaires!

These individuals (both men and women) had big personalities, took bold risks, made big moves. They invented new things. They changed cultural norms. They created new habits, hairstyles, and fashion. And how could they not? Our collective consciousness was obsessed with them. They were plastered all over newspapers. Everything they did made it into radio broadcasts. They were the Reality Entertainment Stars of their generations.

Woman walking toward the Hollywood Sign

The names that stick out to me are big ones in history:

  • Charles Lindberg
  • Teddy Roosevelt
  • Thomas Edison
  • J.P. Morgan
  • John Jacob Astor
  • Henry Ford
  • Douglas Fairbanks
  • Bonnie and Clyde

Because so much attention was focused on these audacious people, Western Society began to associate with their success (real or perceived) with their personality rather than their actions. This divorcing of success from action makes no logical sense as those successful people still had to put in hard work to get where they were. However, in our collective Zeitgeist, these individuals became celebrities. Hence, we have the first real modern rise of The Cult of Personality.

This is the point in history which created our modern views about how personality integrates with admirable traits like:

  • Innovativeness
  • Courage
  • Charisma
  • Intelligence
  • Power
  • Wealth

And, unfortunately, these connections persist today and impact us all in very real, very measurable ways.

“The Extrovert Ideal has been documented in many studies, though this research has never been grouped under a single name. Talkative people, for example, are rated as smarter, better-looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends. Velocity of speech counts as well as volume:  we rank fast talkers as more competent and likeable than slow ones.”

–Susan Cain

The Extrovert Bias Impacts How People See Us

the bias against introversion can change how people feel about us--even if they don't know us.

Because of this inherent bias in how people perceive introversion and those of us who were born with these types of personalities, we’re often categorized as lesser citizens. Consciously or not, people will rate introverts as:

  • Weaker
  • Less intelligent
  • Less successful
  • Less attractive
  • Less interesting
  • Less desirable as friends

This skewed perception of introverted people has been spotted in anecdotal studies but also confirmed with experimentation. Researchers have devised ways of removing this bias or skewing people’s perception by priming their mental pumps in such a way that the end up rating introverts higher on these subjective scales of success.

Usually, such experiments involve showing participants photographs of an individual and creating descriptions of them with deliberately chosen words which subtly paint the individual as either introverted or extroverted. Participants are then asked to rate the individual based solely on the photo and the description they’ve been given. The ratings vary greatly depending on the description associated with the photo.

This clearly singles out the participants’ own preconceptions about introverts and extroverts as the deciding factors for the ratings they give.

The Extrovert Bias Impacts How We See Ourselves

Sadly, the extrovert bias present in our modern society doesn’t just impact how people see us introverts, it impacts how we see ourselves as well.

Cain points to a study conducted by psychologist Laurie Helgoe in which people who had been classified as introverts via standardized and accepted methods were asked to describe themselves. These individuals used objective identifiers (like “green-blue eyes” and “high cheekbones”), pointing to specific, verifiable physical attributes.

On the other hand, when those same people were asked to describe a “generic” introvert, they used negative, almost derogatory terms like “ungainly” and “skin problems.” There’s no possibility that those same introverts don’t internalize at least some of those negative impressions!

This stigmatization of the word introvert has impacts that reach far beyond our own emotional happiness. In fact, this negative bias can literally change our lives!

The Financial Impact of the Extrovert Bias

This bias against introversion can limit a person’s professional growth, colors their professional relationships, and even cuts into their paychecks.

Introverts will make one-half million dollars less in their lifteitme than extroverts will.

For example, one study found that extroverts fill an estimated 88% of all roles at the supervisor level or higher across various industries nationwide. That’s even more shocking when you realize that only 50%-66% of the population are extroverts. Why is there such a disparity? Several management studies have found that introverts are much less likely to be groomed for promotion that extroverts. Companies and leaders are engaging in this biased behavior even when it doesn’t make good business sense. Indeed, a study conducted at Wharton found that introverts are objectively better managers and outperform their extrovert counterparts on multiple measurable level of success.

So, there are far fewer introverts in leadership positions than there should be. That means that we’re also making much less than we should be. Indeed, a study conducted by The Ascent found that the average annual salary of an introvert is $12,600 less per year than that of an extrovert! That means an introvert will make, on average, one-half million dollars less over the course of their career than an extrovert does.

But what does this really mean for you and your family? Well, what could you do with 23% more money in your paycheck every week?

What Can You Do Crush the Stigma of Introversion and Take Back Your World?

You can get those promotions you’ve been passed over for. You can get the job of your dreams. You can make people look up to and respect you. You can make more money than you ever thought possible.

All these things are within your power even if you’re an introvert.

The first step is changing how you view your personality type. You need to shed those outdated ideas and attitudes about introversion that you’ve adopted, inherited, accepted, and internalized. Learn to recognize the power in your introverted personality traits and those habits that set you apart from friends, family, coworkers, and even your boss.

That’s what An Introvert’s Guide to Wealth is all about. Unlock the power of your personality and embrace a new life.

Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are

Reshaping the Way the World Sees You (and How You Act in It)

In the video above, noted researcher Amy Cuddy explains that how we use our bodies (both unconsciously and consciously) can have a dramatic effect not only on how other perceive us but how we see and express ourselves.

Awkwardness is Our Armor

As an introvert, it’s easy to feel awkward. We don’t know how to use our hands when speaking to a crowd, where to hold our arms when silently waiting for the bus, how our “Resting Bitch Face” makes the whole world think we’re grumpy.

If you’ve ever been super-self-conscious about how you come off to the world, this video can be truly eye-opening. Cuddy’s research shows–without a doubt–that our posture can not only shape how people see us but how our bodies physically (and physiologically) react.

She goes on to cite studies that use “likeability” to determine whether participants suspect a specific doctor will be sued or not. In short, the study found that people’s assumptions about the doctor’s fate were overwhelmingly shaped by whether the doctor’s posture, facial expressions, and overall body language caused the participant to view them as “nice.”

All of this should come as no surprise to introverts like us. Our poor posture or awkward gesture or unexpressive features have been causing problems for us with other people all our lives. However, the most surprising thing I pulled from it is that our body language can actually change who we become!

Cuddy, who studied “powerful people” and “non-powerful people” in various interactions and through various methods actually found surprising physiological links between automatic bodily responses and posture!

The Power of The Power Pose

Specifically, this research found that people who were perceived as powerful, who portrayed themselves as powerful, or those who innately believed themselves to be powerful had higher levels of testosterone (a performance-enhancing hormone linked to stamina, endurance, thought clarity) and lower levels of cortisol (the so-called stress hormone linked to all sorts of bad stuff including belly fat retention).

Shockingly, scientific research shows that role changes can also have these measurable effects. This can include stepping into a leadership role, taking on new responsibilities, or simply standing in what Cuddy calls a “high-power pose.” (Think Wonder Woman/Superman hands-on-hips stuff!)

The Real Science Behind Power Poses

Before you dismiss this as New Age mumbo jumbo or the same old mind over matter stuff you’ve read about for years, take a look at the numbers.

Hormonal Changes Brought On by Two-Minute Poses

Cuddy’s team found that by simply having participants pose in either high-power poses or low-power poses they could dramatically alter hormone levels.

For example, those who adopted high-power poses saw an incredible 20% increase in Testosterone levels. Conversely, those who adopted slouched, closed off low-power poses saw their testosterone decrease by 10%.

Stress-inducing cortisol also reacted dramatically. High-power posers saw a 20% decrease in cortisol levels while low-power posers had an average stress hormone increase of 10%.

Keep in mind, these dramatic results were created by simply having the participant stand (or sit) in a prescribed pose for just two minutes!

But what does this really mean? Well, Cuddy and her team used risk aversion a measure of how much those hormonal changes actually affected participants using risk aversion measurements. When given the opportunity to gamble, 86% of power-posing, testosterone-enjoying participants put money on the line. That’s compared to just 26% of low-power posers.

Simply changing the way you hold your body when you’re out and about in the world, dealing with a boss at work, speaking to strangers at a gathering, or conversing with a loved can actually change:

  • How you’re perceived
  • How you feel about yourself
  • How you approach various situations

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

There is No Spoon—Perception Is Reality

Our minds actually create our reality through perception and our minds can actually influence reality. Science and parapsychology combine with an age-old management mantra to get spooky!

How an Age-Old Management Gem Gets Mind-Bendy When We Apply Science

If you’ve read any self-help material pertaining to communication, you’ve no doubt come across the statement that a person’s perception is their reality. Usually this comes in the conflict resolution or direct leadership section of the book where the author is trying to get you to understand that not everyone sees everything through the same lens. And while most authors use this statement metaphorically to call out a person’s natural tendency to remember certain bits of a conversation and forget others (as they fit or don’t fit within their own mental construct), I’m talking like actual reality! The one that’s right before your eyes! (Or is it?)

Yes, I grew up watching The X-Files. I wanted to be Fox Mulder. But that doesn’t mean I was (or currently am) a crackpot. I believe in science, the scientific method, measurable quantities, facts, and well-supported theories. However, the more I dig into perception, the stranger it gets.

Before you tune me out, let’s get into to some hard, undeniable scientific truths.

Your Mind’s Eye Doesn’t See What’s In Front of You

We perceive the world through our senses. The big 5 are sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Some would argue that there are several other senses that we can layer on but that gets into the realm of pseudoscience and we’re going to steer clear of that for today. The heaviest hitter in the big 5 for most people is sight. Unless your vision is altered in some way, you’re likely relying on your eyes for the vast majority of sensory input. Now, other senses often play a bigger part in memory recall (especially sound) but for this discussion were talking about the immediate construction of our individual reality—perception.  

So, we could argue that your eyes don’t lie and everything we see in front of us is real. I’m going to tell you right now that’s wrong.

Perhaps you already know that every person perceives colors differently due to physical differences in the eye. I once had a pair of pants that I absolutely considered to be blue but every time I put them on, my wife called them purple.

But did you know your mind also takes the stimuli your eyes pump into it and messes with that as well?

The Blind Spot!

Each of your retinas—the bit in the back of your eye that’s loaded with photoreceptors—has a considerably large empty spot in which there are no photoreceptors. This, logically, would create a blind spot somewhere near the center of your field of vision. But you don’t see an empty spot, do you? That’s because your mind take clues from the nearby photoreceptors, does a little jiggery-pokery, and fools itself into erasing that blind spot.

This article in Scientific American goes into detail about this phenomenon and even gives you several methods by which you can trick your brain into revealing this blind spot—it’s kinda freaky if you’re up for it.

Victorians (specifically physicist Sir David Brewster) attributed this magical band-aid that covers the gap in your field of view to God, however, modern scientists believe that this “filling in” is a manifestation of what’s called “surface interpolation.”

“. . . an ability that has evolved to compute representations of continuous surfaces and contours that occur in the natural world—even ones that are sometimes partly occluded (for example, a cat seen behind a picket fence looks like one whole cat, not like a cat sliced up).”

Leslie G. Ungerleider of the National Institute of Mental Health, Ricardo Gattass of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Charles D. Gilbert of the Rockefeller University, and other physiologist are currently exploring the mechanism behind this process at the neural level, however, for our purposes, the phenomenon represents just one of the ways your brain alters the real world to create your own personal reality.

Your Brain Treats Imagined Stimuli the Same as Real Ones!

Okay, so your brain is a tricksy thing that plays fast and loose with objective reality. It takes real input, smudges it a bit and makes you think that this altered perception is real. That’s cool (not really).

But what if I were to tell you that your brain also makes imaginary things very real?

I’m not talking about manifesting a rabbit in a hat or wishing for a million dollars only to answer the door for one of those publisher’s sweepstakes guys. I’m talking about the fact that your brain treats imagined stimuli in an almost identical way to real stimuli.

Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience measured the mental “effort” musicians expended while playing music, listening to music, and imagining music. They used various measures including pupil dilation and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on trained musicians and non-musical types (like me!) What they found is that regardless of whether the musician was actually playing, listening to, or mentally imagining themselves play a song, the measurable effects on the brain and the body were nearly identical. (As you would expect, the effects were very much muted on those who had no experience actually playing music.)

The effect isn’t limited to musicians though. Research conducted at The University of Colorado at Boulder and published in Science Daily looked at imagination therapy and it’s the very real improvements patients with phobias made using it. For this study, people with certain phobias were asked to imagine their specific phobia—dogs, spiders, heights, etc. Simply doing so created very real physical fear responses in the individual—increased sweating, faster heart rates, more rapid breathing. However, the study went on to prove that repeated imagination sessions in a environment that was proven to be safe—a therapist’s office—actually decreased the physical response to the actual phobia in real life just like traditional exposure therapy!

Want more research into how your brain fools you every day?

There’s even a cognitive scientist named Donald Hoffman who has made a concrete Case Against Reality.

But now that we know this, what can we do with that information?

Your Brain Can Actually Change Reality

This is where it gets even weirder. I’m going to tell you know that your brain can actually change reality. Not in the hippy-dippy sense that positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes (though they actually do) but in the sense that the very act of perceiving something can change measurable reality.

The Studies Back the Statement

Perhaps you’re familiar with The Baxter Effect. Discovered by Cleve Baxter—a former CIA interrogation specialist) this measurable phenomenon became the basis for the wildly popular Secret Life of Plants.

In essence, Baxter was messing around with a potted plant in his office one day when he had a little too much time on his hands and hooked the poor thing up to a polygraph (lie detector) machine. Baxter noticed that when he expressed harmful thoughts toward the plant (specifically, burning it) the plant exhibited measurable electrical responses similar to those humans express when placed under stress. Baxter then recreated the experiment multiple times and found that even if the plant was miles away, it still reacted in a similar fashion at the exact time he thought about harming it.

His thoughts created a response in the plant!

Another lesser known experiment by Helmut Schmidt involved random subjects, random numbers, and some random lightbulbs.  In short, Schmidt hooked some lightbulbs to a random number generator. The bulbs should have theoretically lit completely at random—which they did when not being observed by test subjects. However, when Schmidt introduced the experiment participants and told them to “psychically” manipulate which lights came on, he recorded results that were 1%-2% higher than would be expected by chance.

Of course, if you’re looking for a more commonly accepted demonstration of how your perception of reality actually changes reality, look no further than the extremely well documented placebo effect. Multiple studies over generations have shown that when people believe they’ve been given medication, their medical conditions measurably improve—even if the pills they’re given are nothing but sugar tablets!

In fact, scientists like Alia Crum, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of Stanford’s Mind and Body Lab, are still trying to find the limits of the placebo effect. So far they’ve found that:

  • People who believe doing physical work in a job counts as exercise actually live longer
  • Telling subjects a milkshake is “indulgent” makes the person feel fuller
  • Making a subject believe a drink is caffeinated actually increases blood pressure

So what does this all mean for you?

Your Reality is a Creation of your Mind and Your Mind Affects Reality

Combine real results uncovered in those two fields of research we dipped into above and the statement that your reality is a creation of your mind and your mind can actually change reality becomes disturbingly/delightfully true.

I’m not saying that imagining a pile of money at your front door is going to result in you becoming rich. I will tell you that going to work every day with the expectations that you’re going to have a crappy day will—more often than not—result in you having a crappy day.

Does projecting positive thoughts about money and wealth in general directly lead to more wealth landing in your lap as Jen Sincero suggests in her book You are a Badass at Making Money? Maybe not. But I can tell you that positive thoughts about money and wealth will improve your attitude about making that money and actually putting in the work necessary to “make it rain” will be a hell of a lot easier.

Now, you don’t have to take this leap with me, but I personally believe in a higher power at play in the universe—not necessarily a bearded dude on a white cloud (Christianity) or Alanis Morisette who can destroy you just by opening her mouth (Dogma).

My personal higher power is more like that proposed in Unified Field Theory or a Universal “Intelligence” that can influence (and be influenced by) our thoughts. I’ll get into this more in another post because it deals with parapsychology, reincarnation, similar beliefs and iconography in disparate ancient civilizations, and the like.

However, even if I’m wrong about all of that, my practice or projecting positive thoughts into the universe isn’t going to do any more harm than putting a few more people in a better mood for the day. If I’m right. . . well, let’s just say Einstein once called Quantum Entanglement “spooky action at a distance.”

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

Video Trailer for An Introvert’s Guide to Wealthy

The video trailer for my new book (An Introvert’s Guide to Wealth) is now live on YouTube–just in time to celebrate the launch of the book in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

If you’ve ever wanted to hear what a formerly shy, seriously introverted author from Downeast Maine sounds like, now is your chance! (That’s my real voice–yikes!)

Look forward to more videos on that channel as time goes by–extended audio versions of blog posts, book excerpts, rants about introversion, maybe a little karaoke (not likely!)

How to Stop Being Shy

Don’t Let Your Fear of Social Interaction Dictate Your Life

I wasn’t always shy. That’s the hard part. Looking back on it now, it’s almost impossible for me to believe I was a gregarious little fellow when I was young. I have memories from when I was three or four of my friends and I playing in the kiddie pool my mom had set up in the front yard—putting ladybugs on toy boats and watching them float away and teenaged girls (my sisters’ friends) carrying me around everywhere, dressing me up like a doll. I remember when I was a little older making fast friends with the kids staying in the next campsite over, riding our bikes through the woods, crawling down bunny trails, and swimming in the pond until we were so chilled and wrinkled our parents must have been wondering if we were hypothermic.

Stop Being Shy:  Learn what shyness is, how it's different from introversion, and 5 steps to overcoming shyness.

But something changed for me around the time I moved to my grandfather’s house in 1985 and changed schools in second grade. I quickly became a very shy person. My circle of friends shrunk to a handful. I grew fearful of social situations. I had trouble speaking out in class. I couldn’t muster the confidence or the inner strength to speak with kids I didn’t know. Everyone who was larger or older than I was seemed like a giant just waiting for the opportunity to bite my head off.

This was an era of upheaval for me and my family. I didn’t know it at the time but the medical bills accumulated by me—undiagnosed asthma—and my mother—recently diagnosed diabetes—had pushed my family’s finances to the brink. We’d had to surrender the home we lived in to the bank and took possession of my grandfather’s house after he died with the help of my aunt (who surrendered her financial claim to the home without much fanfare).

For me, as a child, this financial affected me but in ways I only now understand.

  • My parents could no longer afford new clothes for me as often they’d like so I ended up in hand-me-downs and thrift store finds
  • They weren’t able to pay for cool vacations to Disneyland (or even Six Flags) like other kids enjoyed. Instead, we spent weeks in the woods at remote campsites my father had discovered decades ago as a pulp wood truck driver.
  • Activities like sports and band were difficult too because new equipment (cleats and shin guards, and saxophones) were out of the question.
  • The home we lived in had an ancient septic system that simply couldn’t handle the demands of a modern family (showers were few and far between).
  • Food was cheap-ish but mostly junky—soda, chips, Little Debbie.

While I was happy, relatively healthy, and had a huge backyard (including ledges, forest, and blueberry fields) in which to play, these things were affecting me without my even knowing or understanding.

  • Imagine being a new kid coming into a new school not knowing anyone.
  • Imagine packing on several unwanted pounds and being labelled “chubby” or “fat.”
  • Imagine dressing in outdated clothes and wearing the same ones until they ripped out or you outgrew them.
  • Imagine not being the cleanest of kids.

While this childhood is far from terrible and millions of kids have it much worse, you can bet your bippy that I was the brunt of a thousand jokes, that I got picked on by fancier kids, that I got bullied by bigger kids.

And all of this was new to me. I didn’t know what was different or why I was being treated this way. (Turns out, kids of that age are just judgmental little turds who adopt the attitudes of their parents—or maybe that’s too harsh.)

Overnight, my gregarious nature vanished. I became shy.

I wouldn’t trade a moment of my childhood though. It made me into who I am today and made me appreciate my parents more than you can imagine. But, after 30 years I’m just now starting to unpack the emotional and financial impact my childhood has had on my life since. It’s my hope that:

  • My story will resonate with some of you.
  • My successes will inspire you.
  • My advice will help you change your lives for the better.

Are You Shy?

  • Are you fearful of social interactions?
  • Do you lack the confidence to stand up for your beliefs?
  • Do you lack necessary communication skills to do more than “get by” in life?
  • Does anxiety strangle every attempt you make to break out of your shell?
  • Do you hyper-fixate on failure?

The root question is, are you shy?

That’s not really an easy question to answer. Unfortunately, shyness is a complex state of being that’s been so wrapped up with various other emotions, perception styles, personality types, and social stigmas that it would be hard for the average person to give you a good example of what shyness is.

So let’s start there.

What is Shyness?

Shyness, defined by KidsHealth.org, is

“. . . is an emotion that affects how a person feels and behaves around others. Shyness can mean feeling uncomfortable, self-conscious, nervous, bashful, timid, or insecure. People who feel shy sometimes notice physical sensations like blushing or feeling speechless, shaky, or breathless.”


Even that’s not very clear or concise. The follow up they tack on to the end of that definition is perhaps more to-the-point but it’s even vaguer. “Shyness is the opposite of being at ease with yourself around others.”

The key phrase there is “with yourself.” In essence, shyness is extreme self-consciousness—to the extent that it creates anxiety. That anxiety then shapes your thoughts, your emotions, your actions, your responses, your attitude. Sometimes that can be perceived as a lack of confidence but it’s not really. It’s more of a learned response to situations which have occurred in the past.

For me, my shyness really took over when I began to get bullied—for the way I looked, for the way I dressed, because I didn’t do cool things or hangout with cool people.

It didn’t help that I was already biologically tuned to be an introvert.

The Connection Between Shyness and Introversion

Many people confuse being shy with being introverted. They are not the same thing. Introversion is a very specific personality type (a syndrome of various personality traits) that occurs because of various biological and social stimuli. In recent years, there has been a ton of research into introversion and the biggest takeaway from it all is that introversion is likely something we’re born with, not something we acquire or learn.

Differences like increased baseline electrical activity in the brain, larger numbers of specific neuroreceptors, and variations in cerebral blood flow patterns all point to very real physical differences between introverts and extroverts. (If you’re interested, I created this blog post to help people understand just what is an introvert.)

The reason many people wrongly equate shyness with introversion is that introverts and shy people exhibit many of the same behaviors. Both:

  • Prefer to be alone
  • Avoid social situations
  • Are very self-aware
  • Don’t often speak out in crowds
  • May have trouble effectively communicating
  • Have increased anxiety when forced into interactions
  • Struggle with interpersonal relationships
  • Have to work harder to enjoy professional success

The biggest difference is that shyness is almost always a learned behavior. There is some scientific evidence that roughly 20% of the population is genetically predisposed to shyness, however, further study finds that a significant portion of those with the genetic markers for shyness do not develop the temperament.

Shyness is Not a Lack of Confidence

Confidence is your ability to be comfortable with your personal skillset as applied to whatever situation you’re in. Shyness is your emotional reaction to situations in which you don’t feel comfortable. One is a personal comfort level, the other is an emotional response to discomfort.

The difference is a little hard to understand. For example, a shy person can be supremely confident in their ability to write excellent short stories, persuasive articles, and blog posts but when it comes to public speaking, they’re an absolute disaster. On the flipside, a confident person can be at ease striding into a room full of perfect strangers but they might become shy if asked to sing a song or do a dance—even if they’ve perfected the routine in private.

There is a link between shyness and confidence. Building confidence in a certain aspect of your life will naturally reduce your shyness in that particular avenue (and those avenues that are tangentially related). So, for example, you’re extremely shy in social situations but you gradually improve your social performance (usually through what experts like to call exposure therapy), you’ll incrementally increase your confidence. With that increased confidence, you’ll likely experience less anxiety (which means you’re diminishing your shyness).

The good news is that because the vast majority of shy behaviors are learned, they can be unlearned. It’s not going to be easy because learning those behaviors was—at some level—automatic and undertaken by your subconscious mind. Unlearning those behaviors will take active mental exertion and requires personal responsibility.

Regardless of where you are on your personal improvement journey, the 5 steps to overcoming shyness below will help you claw back control of your life from the fear, discomfort, and emotional stress that your shyness has caused you.

5 Steps to Overcome Shyness

Understand Your Shyness

It’s important to recognize and understand your shyness for what it is—a learned behavior. If you continue through life thinking that your shyness is an ingrained part of your personality, you’ll never be able to root it out and change it.

It may help to take a look back through your life at the situations that likely contributed to your shyness. For me, it was bullying by kids my age and older. For you it may have been negative interactions with a parent or sibling. I’m not a psychologist and I can’t really help you unpack all of that, but I know that when I recognized these influential moments in my life, I was able to de-emphasize the power the long-lasting emotional effect stemming from them had over me.

Mindfulness techniques may be helpful to you here. Acknowledge the negative incident and the emotions it causes within you but don’t allow yourself to dwell on it or them. Let them wash over you. Let them go. We live in the moment and our past only shapes us (and our future) if we let it.

Practice Interactions with People You Trust

Exposure Therapy works because you incrementally increase anxiety-inducing situations so you can learn to cope with the stress they cause. You can do this yourself to help combat your shyness. However, I would suggest you start by working with people you trust. This may be a parent. It may be a friend. It may even be a co-worker or mentor. Whoever those people are, force yourself into those uncomfortable situations and use the mindfulness techniques above to take the power away from the negative energy they generate.

Recognize the Value of Your Thoughts, Emotions, and Opinions

Shy people often sublimate themselves to the will of others. We often go with the flow just so we don’t rock the boat. But you can’t do that forever without sublimating your life and your life is yours. It’s the only one you have and you can’t afford to waste it. Live it.

I’m going to say this now. It sounds hokey but it’s true. Your thoughts, your emotions, and your opinions have value. They are what create you. And you have value.

I mean both in the sense that you’re a human being and should be respected as such but also in the sense that your individual contributions to the world, to your family, to your relationships, to your work, to strangers even, have value.

Sometimes it can be hard to see that value ourselves. Sometimes we have to see ourselves through the eyes of others in order to recognize that value. If it’s not enough that I see your value and acknowledge it, start believing the compliments and positive feedback that people give you. Too often shy people write off those positive interactions as one-offs. “Oh, they must not know the real me.” “She didn’t really mean that.” “He just said that to be nice.”

In my experience, everybody is reluctant to give praise—even the most positive of people. So, if somebody said it, it was real enough, true enough, and powerful enough to make them say it. Believe in that authenticity.

Be Assertive and Be Genuine

Assertiveness can be hard for shy people. As mentioned above, we often sublimate ourselves to others with stronger personalities. However, when you tie that assertiveness to your genuine self, you’re tapping into a strength that reaches right to the core of you.

I’ll give you an example. I’m a leader in the retail world and have dozens of employees under me. I’m also a perfectionist and NEED things to be right. I take pride in my work being complete and the finished product being attractive, presentable, and proper. When I first stepped into a leadership role years ago, I allowed my shyness to overrule that natural perfectionist tendency. I was happy if my employees were just getting the job complete. However, that led to mediocre results, poor reviews from my superiors, and employees who were really disengaged with their work. For them, it was just a task they had to do for 8 hours before punching a clock.

One day, I decided that I could no longer stand sitting by and watching this mediocrity. I dialed my perfectionism to eleven and came to work with it blasting. At first it was hard (very hard) for my employees to buy into this new me. It made more work for them. They were getting more “constructive” feedback than they were accustomed to. They were frustrated. However, when the praise from up the ladder started raining down, when the sales figures rocketed, when customers came in to give those same employees compliments on the quality of work they were now providing, those same employees internalized that pride and that perfectionism.

My assertiveness rubbed off not because I just repeatedly beat people over the head with it. It worked because it was coming from a very authentic place within me. I was showing one of my core personality traits and how it could positively affect our entire department.

Give Yourself a Break (but Not Too Long of One)

If you’re shy and an introvert, you’re in for a long road. You will easily be overwhelmed emotionally, mentally, and physically (dopamine spikes are a real thing). It’s necessary to give yourself a break, an opportunity to rest and recharge those mental batteries. However, don’t let procrastination sit in. If you break for too long, your natural emotional momentum will kick in and it’ll be like starting all over again. Instead, give yourself a timeline—an hour, a day, a week—and then get back to work. Schedule it, if you have to. Let people know about it. Tell them you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and need to take a lunch or that you’re going to table the project you’re working on until after the weekend.

You’re the only one who knows your own thresholds. Just be sure that your threshold you’re approaching is real, not imagined.

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!