In a world filled with people trying to get in the last word, introversion can be viewed as a sign of weakness. After all, aren’t the people given the most praises and accolades the ones who are the boldest and loudest?
Manson (2017) said:
Chances are, the way these big-mouths treat us is the way they treat countless others… While big-mouth’s think they’re helpful by offering unsolicited criticism or advice, we see it as dominance and disrespect. No one wants to live under the thumb of this type of person.
Manson lists some of the best ways of handling aggressive and abrasive people by:
§ Limiting the amount of time they are in our domain
§ Keeping information to ourselves
§ Keeping opinions to a minimum
§ Complimenting them
§ Using tactical responses
Although these are great recommendations for dealing with over-the-top personalities, they don’t go far enough in illuminating how introverts can take advantage of their quiet power. These responses, while admirable, are reactive as opposed to proactive.
Manson noted that big-mouth individuals believe they are helping others by offering unsolicited criticism or advice. So, instead of appeasing people who provide unsolicited or unwanted advice, they should be taught or corrected in a sophisticated fashion.
After all, don’t we have a right not to be imposed upon by others?
All too often, introverts are inclined to soothe others by being compliant. The uncomfortable smile, restlessness, and agitation could be signs that introverts are relenting to infliction by others.
While such behavior may not be “Bullying,” in the traditional sense of physical or mental abuse, the violator is usurping our power.
The most significant advantage that introverts have lies in their mystery. People only know what you tell them and what your actions reveal. Invariably, people fear the unknown and respect what they don’t understand.
And familiarity does breed contempt. So, use your introversion to persuade and leverage your power accordingly.
Allowing people to become better acquainted with you should be a privilege and a treat.
Here are a few tips to consider when dealing with social offenders:
Establish a dominant presence. By walking and talking with confidence and self-assurance, people will either attempt to establish a positive connection with you or merely leave you alone. Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion asserts, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Essentially, the law says that no matter what you do, people will do what you expect and what you don’t. By directing your energy in ways that keep your control, you are not at the behest of others regardless of their actions.
Smile sparingly. A perpetual smile is a sign of weakness. Ultimately, smiles are an invitation for engagement and acceptance. And unless you don’t want a plethora of uninvited attention, smile when you want to engage in a mutually beneficial alliance or choose to participate in random acts of kindness.
Allow the action to come to you. Often introverts attempt to be more extroverted when involved in situations where overt friendliness is called for. However, allowing the action to unfold without forcing it is comforting, relaxing, and enjoyable during social and professional events.
One of the introverts’ greatest strengths is the ability to observe situations analytically. To violate your core strengths merely because of external expectations is a recipe for self-sabotage.
Become the center of your universe through enlightened self-interest. Enlightened self-interest is when you, as well as society at large, benefit from an opportunity. If you follow the dictum, “Do no harm,” society benefits because the care and sensitivity exercised by many introverts usually improve others. You are positioned to never betray yourself by constantly considering your self-interest first.
Be professional, not nice. This is a difficult one. A police officer friend of mine once told me that when seeking compliance from others, it is best to be professional versus nice. Depending on the people and situation, being “nice” can be an albatross around your neck.
If exercised incorrectly, kindness can be interpreted as weakness. One of the most effective actions you can take in establishing a position of strength and professionalism is to call people by their last name. This immediately draws lines and controls the interaction.
Even within relaxed work environments, calling people by their last name does not allow the environment to spill over into laxity.
These are mere suggestions for moving you towards using your introversion for greater respect. It’s more of a philosophy and mindset than tactics for gaining power.
As an introvert, you choose the people and situations you engage in.
This doesn’t necessarily apply to extroverts. If Fred, known for always joking around, sharing stories, and expressing opinions, comes to work one morning quiet and reserved, more than one co-worker will ask Fred if something is wrong.
He will hear endless inquiries. “Hey Fred, is everything okay? You are quiet today.” Contrary to popular belief, even Fred may want the power that goes with silence now and then.
Assertive vs. Passive-Aggressive Behavior
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Assertive as “Disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.” Conversely, Passive Aggressive is defined as “Being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness).
In many instances, assertiveness is encouraged, and passive aggression is frowned upon. Cherry (2019) said:
Being assertive and emotionally open is not always easy. When standing up for yourself is difficult or even scary, passive-aggression might seem like an easier way to deal with your emotions without confronting the source of your anger.
To overcome passive-aggressive behavior, experts suggest becoming more direct and communicative to the offending party. By not dealing with the offending person head-on, the person exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior might create more friction at home or work.
Conversely, Burnett (2015) said:
But often, passive-aggressive behavior can be deliberate, whether provoked or not. It’s not always a bad thing; passive-aggressive behavior is a way to retaliate if you’re at the wrong end of a power dynamic. Aggression is all about causing harm, but humans are so complex it doesn’t have to be physical harm; it can be psychological or emotional…
If your boss is rude to you, you can’t grab his tie and slap his face until it turns blue, no matter how vivid the fantasy. But you can ignore emails, turn in reports late, bad-mouth him to colleagues, forget to arrange meetings he requested and various other things that cause him hassle and embarrassment overall.
He might take it out on you anyway, but he won’t have any way of officially reprimanding you as he can’t prove any active hostility.
If you are focused on responding to what’s best for a situation, you must always be strategic in your actions. Quiet power merely gives you options to operate effectively in society. Once you embrace the fact that you’re not in a popularity contest, life becomes much more fulfilling.
In the end, introverts can either take advantage of the power of introversion or play into the hands of those who would exploit that power.
William Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage… and we’re mere players…” Are you playing your part? And are you playing it well?
Burnett, D. (2015, Feb. 19). Ok, don’t read this article about passive-aggressive behavior-Honestly, it’s fine. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3yHbOgT.
Cherry, K. (2019, September 18). What is passive-aggressive behavior? Very Well Mind. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3RN2D7A.
Manson, A. (2017, Nov. 15). How to handle a loud mouth. Paired Life. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3O9PhiC.