I received an email recently from someone who told me that she'd only just finally accepted that she was an introvert. “It's just who I am,” she told me.
I understand what she’s saying on so many levels. I have fought my own introversion for much my adult life.
In fact, I thought I was an extrovert. I'd go to a party thinking that I should be interacting and engaging. Instead, I’d be overwhelmed by all of the people and the noise and would leave exhausted.
I would try to be the person that I thought I was, but it never felt good. It always felt forced. And then I'd get into the car to leave, and I'd be thinking, “I think that went well...?” But I was never sure. It was really, really challenging.
But then I realized that I was an introvert. That helped me look at parties and gatherings with my friends completely differently. Now, I don’t expect myself to be highly interactive. It feels so much better now that I understand who I am.
The trick here is to let who I am drive my expectations.
I used to judge how I behave, how I respond, and how I feel. Now, I use that information as a guide.
It’s dangerous to decide who we are and then expecting ourselves to show up as that person.
When I let how respond to a situation drive my understanding of myself, it is more liberating and feels more authentic than giving myself a label and thinking that I would show up like that every single time.
I tell you all of this to say this: Being an introvert is not something you can fix. (I want to say “nor should you want to” but we don’t “should” around here. How you feel is just how you feel. And I’ve heard plenty of introverts say that they wish they could change who they are. If that’s you, here’s a reminder of all the amazing superpowers you bring to the table because you’re an introvert!)
If you are an introvert, then it just is who you are. I mean that literally, because it's about your chemical makeup. It's about how you respond to dopamine and acetylcholine, and how you use your nervous system.
The Science of Introversion
Dopamine is a chemical in our brains that drives motivation and pleasure through that motivation. If you're feeling motivated to earn money, get outside, achieve a goal, have an adventure that is dopamine at work in your brain.
The difference is how we each respond to dopamine. Extroverts love dopamine. It fires them up.
For introverts, dopamine can be very overwhelming. They're easily stimulated, so they're easily overstimulated.
Acetylcholine is another chemical in your brain that's also pleasure focused, but it is about deep thinking and focusing on one thing for an extended period and reflecting. We feel pleasure from acetylcholine when we turn inwards.
Extroverts thrive on dopamine while introverts thrive on acetylcholine.
There are also two sides to our nervous system: The sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system.
Extroverts favor the sympathetic side of their nervous system. It is action-based, so they enjoy discovering new things, daring, and adventure.
Introverts favor the parasympathetic side. It encourages us to conserve energy, so we withdraw, relax, contemplate, and think deeply.
So why are we this way?
You were born this way.
Whether you gravitate towards the dopamine and sympathetic side, or you gravitate towards the acetylcholine and parasympathetic side, it's just how you're built.
We can connect this back to how we all show up in the world. What is your happy place? Do you enjoy things like when your large group of friends are getting together? That is dopamine and your sympathetic nervous system being all happy and excited. You're curious, alert, outgoing, spontaneous and you're operating with your sympathetic nervous system.
Or maybe your happy place is tucked in at home with your book and your cat. Acetylcholine is active while you focus on one thing and process it. Your parasympathetic nervous system is enjoying the quiet, your heart rate slows down, and it allows you to contemplate.
What does this have to do with your marketing?
Dopamine-related marketing may easily overwhelm an introvert.
Consider the first time you do anything. Or when you’re in a situation where you have to shoot from the hip and you haven't been given the space you need to plan. Live video and live presentations, for example, can be really challenging. Speaking on someone's podcast may overwhelm you.
There’s nothing wrong with that! It's simply how you operate. It also doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You just need to be aware of what you’re getting into, and be more intentional and planful about it than an extrovert might be.
On the other side, acetylcholine and parasympathetic-related marketing tactics might be a better fit for you.
Perhaps you prefer to dig into a topic and do some deep thinking rather than pop around many different ideas. You might prefer to write a long, detailed blog post where you can really think and bring out all the details rather than doing quick, snappy posts.
The point I'm trying to make is that whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, it's literally how you're built and it's something that you should keep in mind and take into consideration when you're designing your marketing strategy.
As a quick aside… It occurs to me that this also might be part of the reason why introverts don't like small talk, because small talk is shoot from the hip and it's not deep thinking. So, small talk is dopamine related and drawing on your sympathetic nervous system. On the other hand, deep conversations can actually be very satisfying for an introvert because of the acetylcholine and the parasympathetic nervous system being activated during those conversations.
So, what do we do with all of this?
My takeaway is that I can be exactly who I am. Understanding the science behind introversion has allowed me to show up in my authentic way. It’s created a sense of validation and supports my preference to share deep, involved ideas in my marketing. It has dared me to show up as I really am and share what I really think, and I enjoy it a lot more.
Now that you understand the science behind being an introvert, what’s your takeaway?