The High-Energy Fallacy
Many advice givers tell us you can get attention only by projecting enthusiasm and dynamism. Find out why that’s wrong.
“Let’s face it, no one wants to listen to a languid, low-energy presenter. People flock to passionate, high-octane speakers. So learn how to inject firepower into your topic and your delivery,” says a speaking coach.
“When you write your About page, your job is to dazzle your audience,” proclaims a marketing guru. “This is no time to play the introverted wallflower.”
On stage, that is, we are supposed to be theatrical, brimming with emotions, forceful, profuse with gestures. On the computer page, we should likewise go large, preening with superlatives and punchy self-praise.
To understand why this guidance is misguided, consider the findings of a 2014 study by Stanford University psychologists Tamara Sims and Jeanne Tsai. Adults who appreciated excitement and vitality chose physicians whose profiles exhibited those qualities, while adults who preferred relaxation and calm chose physicians who personified peace and serenity. Moreover, with an emotional fit between patient and physician, the patients more often followed their physician’s advice and rated them more highly than with a mismatch.
This research aligns with my own observations while coaching hundreds of business owners, self-employed professionals and aspiring freelancers for nearly three decades. First, it’s just false that everyone prefers dealing with the personality type that society promotes – extroverts. Therefore as an introvert you don’t need to put on an act, projecting an effervescent or commanding presence that isn’t you. By coming off as your best authentic self, you attract those who would rather hire an unshowoffy but brilliant graphic designer or a counselor with gentle wit and understated helpfulness. Additionally, both you and the client are better off when expectations and reality click.
For more evidence that the high-octane style doesn’t reign supreme with audiences, take a look at some most-watched TED talks of all time. In number one, with more than 73 million views, educator Sir Ken Robinson uses a good-humored, conversational tone to keep the attention of his audience. No fiery showmanship whatsoever! In number two, watched 65 million times, social psychologist Amy Cuddy talks about body language. An academic, she lets the drama of her content impress the audience. In the third most watched talk, by Simon Sinek (59 million views), and top talk number four, by Brené Brown (58 million views), we again fail to see a high-powered, go-getter speaking style. Sinek draws diagrams on a flipboard instead of strutting around generating drama, while Brown tells self-deprecating anecdotes with sincerity and conviction rather than bombast. Take a look and compare what you see with any speech by uber-extrovert Tony Robbins.
Similarly, when writing your bio or describing what you do there is no need to rah-rah or pump up your achievements so they’re larger than life. Focus instead on presenting yourself as the kind of person you really are. Many people will prefer a quiet yoga teacher, a thoughtful dentist, a skeptical and irreverent management consultant or a gently encouraging therapist. As with the patients in the Stanford research study, those who appreciate what you genuinely have to offer will gravitate to you, making for a pleasant working relationship that benefits you both.
Where extroverts dominate culturally, people exhort you to fit that mold. In fact, however, audiences, readers and consumers respond to personalities all over the spectrum. So don’t pretend you’re the bee’s knees when you’re more like a relentless beaver – or vice versa. Even stodgy tortoises have fans.
Whether you are a bee, a beaver, a tortoise or a panda, learn how to communicate your personality so it attracts your ideal clients. Through August 25, get $50 off my Personal Branding for Introverts online course with this link.