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Okay, so first thing's first… yes, this post on how to be quiet and reflective was inspired by a tweet by Tom & Lorenzo, who asked the question in response to just the latest in a series of blog posts and articles asking the same about introverts:
Just once I'd like to see an article like “Extroverted? Here's Some Tips on How to Be Quiet and Reflective” https://t.co/jOhLJKZuT3— Tom & Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo) August 29, 2019
Now, on a scale of joke to dead serious, I have no idea where this tweet falls. I don't know if Tom & Lorenzo knew the type of conversation they were about to spark, or if they only just hoped to spark a conversation, or if the conversation was just a happy coincidence. But I do know one thing: this tweet highlighted the very different ways that people think about introverted and extroverted people.
People tend to think that being introverted means being shy, antisocial, or even just loving alone time. And, by contrast, that being extroverted means being outgoing, social, and loving people.
The truth is introverted and extroverted are none of these things. And all of these things. In fact, it's not even a little bit related to these things. You can be an outgoing, social introvert who loves people. You can be a shy extrovert. And no, that combination doesn't make you an “ambivert.”
The key here isn't about shyness or love of people (either of which can change over time)… it's in how you respond to being reflective.
Introverts recharge their batteries when they are reflective. Extroverts drain their batteries during reflection.
That's it, that's the whole difference. If you want to know whether or not you're introverted or extroverted, just sit and do some major self-reflection for a time and make note of how it makes you feel. Do you feel motivated, energized, and ready to get up and do something? Or do you feel tired and unmotivated?
This is one reason why so many writers are introverted. Not only does writing allow them a creative outlet that doesn't drain their battery, but good writing requires a level of self-reflection: it's part of the process. It's why I say the best writing comes from when you are deep inside your comfort zone — something that extroverts don't like to be in for very long.
Does that mean extroverts are bad writers?
Absolutely not! I've said it before, writing is not just for introverts.
But if you are an extrovert and you want to be able to leverage the power of reflection for your writing without draining your battery, then read on.
3 tips on How to Be Quiet and Reflective
1. Start to question your own experiences.
This might sound a bit crazy, right? Why would you need to question your own experiences? You know what you saw, what you felt, what you learned.
But reflection requires going deeper than the memories to ask as many questions about the experience and about what that experience meant to you as possible.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you sit down and start racing through every memory you have to start questioning it. Rather, start with today. At the end of the day, sit down and think about everything that happened today:
- Who did you talk to?
- What did you do?
- How was your coffee this morning?
- What did you accomplish today? What did that accomplishment mean to you?
- What did you struggle with today? How did this struggle affect your day?
- What conversation did you want to have but didn't? Why?
- What did you write today? How do you feel about it? Did it turn out the way you planned?
These might seem like unimportant questions in the overall scheme of things, and maybe they are to some people. But being reflective means truly analyzing your thoughts and behavior. And the best way to do that is to think about the small things.
2. Look for opportunities within these questions
You know that saying “never answer a question with a question?” Well, forget it. That's bogus advice when it comes to self-reflection.
You have a whole list of questions about your day. Answer each one of them with this question: are there any opportunities in there?
The type of opportunity depends on the question:
- What did you accomplish today? What did that accomplishment mean to you? — Opportunity: how can you use this accomplishment tomorrow?
- What did you struggle with today? How did this struggle affect your day? — Opportunity: how can you make this struggle smaller tomorrow?
- What conversation did you want to have but didn't? Why? — Opportunity: How can you have that conversation tomorrow?
- What did you write today? How do you feel about it? Did it turn out the way you planned? — Opportunity: how can you leverage this when you sit down to write tomorrow?
This is where journalling or note-taking or some other writing activity can really come in handy. In fact, hand-writing out these questions (and their answers) can help them stick.
3. Build the habit.
For you to be able to truly use reflection to improve your writing, you'll need to make it a habit: build it right into your routine.
This can be hard to do if you're running around after kids or racing from one client to the next to the next. Or if you're simply not used to sitting in a quiet room every day.
But stick with it. Block out that time every day to sit and reflect on everything you experienced that day, what the experience meant, and how the experience will impact you moving forward.
I admit, this is usually the step in which introverts have a big advantage, because every time we stop to reflect, we get energized. Our battery gets recharged. But for extroverts, this can feel a bit draining, especially after a day of talking and interacting and socializing that got you all pumped up and now all you want to do is sleep.
Schedule this time to reflect every day, and trust that the results are going to come and that overtime you will see growth in your writing. Because you will. Just not overnight.
After your reflection time is done for the day, get up, stretch, and get right back into your normal routine. Watch your favorite show, play your favorite game, go out with friends or talk with your partner – whatever it is that you normally do to recharge and unwind.
Why does Reflection Require Quiet?
Have you ever thought about how easily someone else's words can clutter up your mind?
Think about it: when someone tells you not to think about a pink squirrel, what's the first thing you think about? That pink squirrel!
And all his little pink squirrely family.
By sitting in quiet, it gives your mind the chance to clear through and sort out all that chatter that came in from other people – the ads, the conversations, the clients, the articles – and just focus on your own thoughts and questions.
Follow these tips on being quiet and reflective for a few weeks, and see how much your writing grows.
True, it's not like you'll suddenly have a larger vocabulary than before. And reflection won't make you the next bestselling author. But what it will do is help you develop and hone your storytelling skills.
And, in the end, isn't that what all extroverts and introverts are trying to do?
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