I was working for an insurance company several years ago when it was announced that everyone had to put together a presentation and deliver it to the entire department. My supervisor knew how much I despised public speaking. But it was required for my job, so I did it. The first presentation was a “practice run” in front of my superiors and co‐workers. I was scared stiff, but luckily, both my supervisor and head manager told me that I looked completely at ease. In fact, they said that I had done an outstanding job…the best presentation in the entire department! You can imagine my surprise! The next presentation was also in front of my superiors and co‐workers, but this time, we were being videotaped so we could watch it back and critique ourselves. Again, I was told I did an excellent job.
The next thing I knew, my supervisor—who, again, was fully aware that I was still completely terrified of public speaking—came to my desk, announced to me that I would be giving a presentation to the corporate officers scheduled to visit in the next couple of weeks, and walked away while I was in the process of trying to decline. I had no choice in the matter. I lived the next two weeks in complete and utter stress.
I lived through all three presentations and, in fact, was told that I excelled, but that did not make public speaking any easier for me. Nor did it make me any less nervous each time. Extroverted employers, in general, have the belief that they can “create” an extrovert by putting an introvert into more and more of these types of situations. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is good occasionally, and it may get a bit easier with time and experience, but introverts will probably never rid themselves of the extreme stress they feel before such events. And is it really fair to an introvert to force them to live in constant fear of being put in these situations? Employers need to embrace the multitude of personalities and skills of their staff and assign the tasks appropriately.
Sometimes I wish I could change, but then I realize that the only reason I wish this is to make it easier for myself to fit into society because our society is filled with extroverts. It certainly would make life easier. But I don’t really aspire to be an extrovert. I like who I am. I like being inside my head. I enjoy learning about everything and anything I can by reading and listening. I enjoy taking in what others have to say and trying to figure out why people do what they do. I just wish that, somehow, there were a more comfortable place in the world for me—one where I don’t have to feel I am doing something wrong when doing what comes naturally to me, one where introverts and extroverts can be understood, accepted, and, yes, celebrated for who they are.