Introversion is not, in itself, anything to do with confidence. The introverts in your team may not need any help to be more confident!
Why may introverts appear to lack confidence?
Internal processing can cause introverts to appear to lack confidence. Consider in a meeting where two people are asked their views, one gives a confident sounding answer, the other pauses and attempts to add detail and data by referring to notes. External processing can mean we talk to think and answer immediately; internal processing means we think to talk and perhaps pause before answering. Add that to a greater desire for detail and accuracy and one person can easily appear less confident – even though it isn’t the case.
Being energised by being with people can lead to the appearance of general confidence, losing energy by being with people may cause some to hang back and appear less confident.
An introvert is often confident explaining themselves in writing as they consider and refine their words (internal processing) until their message is clear. Yet being asked to express the same thing in spontaneous discussion can lead to the opposite appearance. Appearing confident in this spontaneous discussion requires more external processing (a typical extrovert trait). Yet in neither case have we considered the accuracy of the message or its usefulness to the task in question.
Is confidence important in business?
In many businesses the projection of confidence is deemed as important. Extroverts are often seen as confident, where introverts are seen as shy, timid and having a lack of confidence. That maybe one of the reasons that in many business settings extroversion is seen as good and introversion not so.
But confidence is not only about holding your own and being the centre of attention. Many introverts are confident and not all extroverts are confident.
It’s also true to say that an appearance of confidence can help to create calm and belief in a product/ service or generally in a business. So confidence can be a good thing (but beware The Dunning Kruger effect- read on).
Praising people doesn’t always boost confidence
Introverts use internal validation a lot more than extroverts, and so many introverts value external validation less than extroverts. In English, praising introverts is (of course) good, but in itself won’t make them think they did a great job
This internal validation means that many introverts have a confidence that comes from an inner strength, rather than the external appearance of strength.
How to help an introvert be more confident
- Recognise self-awareness: Introverts tend to have higher self awareness that extroverts, as they reflect on things more. Be aware of the self-awareness of team members and consider it when thinking about confidence. The opposite can spell trouble. The “Dunning Kruger effect” is where a lack of awareness can lead to an increased belief in one’s infallibility (which can spell disaster). In other words, self awareness is a good thing.
- Support internal validation: To help an introvert be more confident means helping them validate themselves. Help them to understand what the elements of a great job are and then help them work out how well they did against those elements? That internal validation will help an introvert’s confidence.
- Support internal processing: In meetings and discussions accept that some of your team will want to throw out an instant answer and that others need to think about it for a second. Support this by allowing everybody to answer and giving them time to do so.