Quiet Influence: The Introvert's Guide to Making a Difference

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This is the first book on influencing others that is aimed squarely at introverts, who make up half of the U.S. population. Jenifer Kahnweiler demonstrates how introverts, who get their energy from within, can be the most effective influencers of all by playing to their natural strengths rather than by trying to use traditional, extrovert-based influencing methods.

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One Stop Trying to Act Like an Extrovert

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“Lower your voice and strengthen your argument.”

Barbara McAfee, Author and Singer

 

Did you know that ...

The best ideas often emerge in the depths of solitude?

Writing a persuasive email may move a project along faster than a standard conversation?

Listening for what is not said is more important than listening for what is?

 

Quiet Influencers—those people who make things happen without in-your-face techniques—learned these lessons through experience. Like ripples in a pond they deliver a big impact without making a loud fuss. When introverts need to be influencers, they focus on careful thought and depth. There isn’t much fanfare or much noise. In their quiet, humble way, introverted influencers make sure that the people they are hoping to impact get the message. Yet they are frequently overlooked and underestimated by organizations and colleagues who buy into the idea that talking reigns supreme.

If you are an introvert, chances are that you’ve tried to influence others by mirroring your more outgoing colleagues. My guess is that such an approach isn’t working for you: it’s exhausting, unsustainable, and ultimately ineffective. Contrary to what most books on influence will tell you, the answer isn’t about becoming the extrovert you aren’t. I believe, however, that you will become a more effective influencer when you stop trying to act like an extrovert and instead make the most of your natural, quiet strengths. By sharing specific stories and tips from successful Quiet Influencers, this book will show you how to identify, magnify, and apply those natural strengths so that you can make a big difference without making a lot of noise. You will discover how you can acknowledge your internal energy, tap into its wisdom, and thoughtfully engage with the outside world.

 

Two The Six Strengths of Quiet Influencers

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“One indication of influence is the ability to stand boldly against hostile trends and thereby alter them.”

Madeline Albright, Former US Secretary of State

 

Time magazine’s April 18, 2012, edition profiled one hundred of the most influential people in the world. The write-up included this insight: “Before microphones and television were invented, a leader had to stand in front of a crowd and bellow. Now she can tweet a phrase that reaches millions in a flash. Influence was never easier—or more ephemeral.”4

Clearly, the nature of influence has changed with technology. But at its core, influence is still about “the capacity or power of persons to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behaviors, and opinions of others,” as Webster’s dictionary defines it.

I believe that influencers make a difference by challenging the status quo, provoking new ways of thinking, effecting change, or inspiring others to move forward.

Influencers labor in every type of workplace, from sound-stages to hospitals. Their jobs range from administrative assistants and authors to parents and community activists. Sometimes, they hold traditional positions of power: they are our most inspired political leaders, academics whose life’s work it is to birth new concepts, bosses who motivate people and harness resources, and committee chairs who move projects forward. Just as often, however, influencers don’t have the big title. They are simply people who encourage change and growth and achievement: the team member who comes up with the great idea, the middle manager who takes a project to fruition, the colleague who has a knack for changing the boss’s mind, the intern whose favorite restaurant becomes the new team lunch spot.

 

Three Your Quiet Influence Quotient (QIQ)

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“What I want most to do is be influential.”

Philip Johnson, Architect

 

Would you like to know how well you perform as a Quiet Influencer? Start by taking this quiz to determine your Quiet Influence Quotient—your “QIQ.” This tool will let you know how effective you are at using each of the Six Strengths and give you a way to assess your progress as you apply the ideas in the book.

Based on actions that demonstrate the strengths that set Quiet Influencers apart, the QIQ will also give you an idea of how much you have in common with highly effective Quiet Influencers. Assess yourself by indicating how often you engage in these behaviors, using a scale from 1 (never) to 5 (almost always). A caution: Try not to overanalyze the questions. Your initial response is usually the most valid. Also avoid being too tough or easy a critic. Instead, when you respond, be as objective as possible.

Total the numbers you circled. The following ranges reflect a rough estimate of your QIQ.

Caveat: This is not a scientific or “normed” instrument. Instead, it is a quick self-assessment tool that will help you see which of the strengths you use most often, which could use some development, and how you fare overall. Use it as a guide and starting point as you collect ideas from the book.

 

Four Strength #1: Taking Quiet Time

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“What a lovely surprise to discover how unlonely being alone can be.”

Ellen Burstyn, Actress

Julie Irving is an administrative professional who supports more than sixty people at the Battelle Energy Alliance, a contractor for the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Julie won the prestigious American Management Association’s Administrative Professionals Innovation award in 2009 for voluntarily creating and executing a car blind-spot safety program for her company and the wider community. It has reached more than ten thousand adults and children at regional and local events.

The educational safety program Julie conceived and implemented has certainly influenced others and saved many lives. Her motivation to pursue her journey came in the form of a potentially tragic car accident involving her daughter. Julie said, “One day I received a phone call from my daughter. She told me that she had been involved in an accident. Now, nobody was injured in the accident, but it seemed quite unbelievable. You see, she told me that she was backing up her Dodge Durango and backed into a ‘monster truck.’ I asked her why she didn’t check her rear- and side-view mirror’s before backing up, and she said, ‘I did, but I couldn’t see it. It was in my blind spot.’ Now, I have great trust in my daughter but have to admit that this story seemed a little hard to believe. So I decided to get online and do a little research on back-over accidents. What I discovered led me down an incredible road that not only changed my life, but touched thousands of other lives as well.”

 

Five Strength #2: Preparation

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“Intuition is critical in everything you do but without relentless preparation everything you do is meaningless.”

Tim Cook, CEO, Apple

Jake is an introspective associate director of English for a large educational nonprofit organization. Recognized as a highly effective manager, Jake fits the bill as a Quiet Influencer. The Quiet Influence strength that has become his signature quality: Preparation.

Take how he handled this challenge as an example. In the testing phase of a new teacher-training program, Jake needed to convince a significant number of regional partner agencies to persuade their teachers to use new and improved materials. He faced two key obstacles: one, the fact that the agencies and teachers already felt overloaded, and two, the risk these partners perceived about getting on board before the program was finalized. Most agencies said they would rather wait until all the kinks were ironed out before investing the time and effort necessary to launch a new curriculum.

Jake thought carefully about these objections and crafted a plan to convert these regional agencies into critical development partners. First, he created a short teaser video with animated stick figures. It was poignant yet humorous so that viewers could relate to the issue and presented the problem that needed solving. Jake distributed the video to a wide range of new and potential partner agencies. Next, he discussed his vision for the program in one-on-ones with key opinion leaders within the regional agencies. After a sneak preview presentation, Jake asked them to each submit a proposal for consideration as a tester.

 

Six Strength #3: Engaged Listening

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“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought and attended to the answer.”

Henry David Thoreau, Philosopher

Elisha Holtzclaw is a pediatric oncology nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. When talking with Elisha, it becomes apparent why everyone from the chief nursing officer to her peers rates her so highly; one described her as a “quiet soul with a great influence on patients.”

Elisha listens attentively and closely to patients and their families. Her calming presence and empathic, tuned-in approach encourages them to share their feelings and questions. The result? Elisha helps move them forward to make what may be the hardest decisions of their lives.

This anecdote demonstrates her tremendous listening skills in just such a situation. A young terminal patient was just a few weeks away from death. Elisha had become a trusted confidant to his mother as she traveled the course of his treatment. One day, in the outpatient clinic’s infusion room, the child slept after having received pain medication. In this private, quiet, dimly lit space, the mother sat in a reclining chair and Elisha sat on the bed, rubbing the patient’s leg to comfort him and listening to the mother to comfort her. Intently focused, Elisha looked into the mother’s tearful eyes and empathetically maintained a connection to her pain. The mom asked, “Be honest with me. I know that you will. Please tell what you would do if you were in my shoes right now. Would you go for hospice or press on for treatment?

 

Seven Strength #4: Focused Conversations

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“And now whatever way our stories end I know you have rewritten mine.... Because I knew you, I have been changed for good

Steven Schwartz, Composer, Wicked

Haley Kilpatrick was an introverted fifteen-year-old in Albany, Georgia, when she was compelled to turn her frustration into action. Having felt out-of-place as a middle-school student, she wanted to help her younger sister get through those tough years with fewer challenges. Her solution: starting a mentoring program that paired middle-school girls with high-school students who had survived and thrived.

After sharing and shaping her vision with her supportive mom, Haley approached her school principal to propose a program in which high-school girls would meet for one hour weekly with interested middle-school girls. Together, they would tackle the middle-school girls’ problems. Her principal agreed. When 80 percent of the middle school’s girls came to the first meeting, Haley knew she had struck a chord. “That fall day in 2002 changed everything.... In that moment I realized just how much these girls needed support and guidance.” Girl Talk was born.

 

Eight Strength #5: Writing

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“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”

Isaac Asimov, Author

As an introvert, Helen Thorpe strongly preferred staying in the background in her role as political wife to Colorado governor John Hickenlooper. As an accomplished journalist, though, she rarely shies away from tackling politically sensitive and complicated social issues. Her first nonfiction book, Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America,33 has received critical praise and is a riveting piece of journalism.

In preparation to writing the book, Thorpe spent five years following the journey of four teenage Mexican girls through high school and then college in Denver, Colorado. Two of the girls were from families who were in the United States legally and two had parents who had entered illegally. Thorpe takes readers along through the twists and turns of these girls’ lives. Through their personal dramas, she powerfully enters the debate about immigration.

“This is not a policy book,” she explained. “You understand the policy debate by reading about the human story. You really get what it means to be legal or illegal.” In speaking about the book, Thorpe described a girl named Marisela. “She is so eloquent and can speak so much to her parents’ situation and hers. It is not a situation with any easy answers, but she manages to articulate why it is painful to be who she is.... I have compassion for their traumatic experience. There is no way for them to get a green card.”

 

Nine Strength # 6: Thoughtful Use of Social Media

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“In social media what matters are... real relationships. Networking is always important when it’s real and it’s always a useless distraction when it’s fake.”

Seth Godin, Author and Entrepreneur

Selah Abrams is a low-key thirty-something engineer at a top global media company. There, Selah has been involved in the operation of several of the organization’s most successful social networking initiatives. Additionally, he drove the creation of a well-respected in-house business resource group for younger employees.

Selah is also very proud of planting the seeds for the Atlanta chapter of the New Leaders Council (NLC) “which works to train and support the progressive political entrepreneurs of tomorrow—trendsetters, elected officials, and civically engaged leaders in business and industry who will shape the landscape.”44

His involvement dates back to 2009, when he learned about NLC from a colleague while in Baltimore. Intrigued, he looked up the organization and saw it had a function going on at that very moment in nearby DC. Selah was able to catch the tail end of the meeting. He was won over by the sincerity, effectiveness, focused mission, and friendly environment set by its leaders. Selah reminisces, “From there, it was a no brainer to start up a chapter in Atlanta, where I saw a dire need for the training of the vanguard of young civic and political leadership, regardless of their issue.” His efforts, along with the energy of others, paid off. The Atlanta chapter has graduated four classes of civic leaders and was awarded the Digerati Award for social media in 2011.

 

Ten Making a Quiet Difference

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“Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man.”

Iain Duncan Smith, British Politician

 

As I write this conclusion, I am reflecting on a series of group coaching calls I had today with Quiet Influencers in an information technology organization. As we discussed some of their leadership hurdles, I couldn’t help but notice the obvious preparation they had done for the call. Every now and then, the line was silent as they carefully thought about their words and shared their insights and experience to help others on the call move forward. To me, these productive sessions presented a microcosm of Quiet Influence at its best.

Like these professionals who aspire to make a difference, the people you met in this book and the experience and lessons they shared imparted a key message: introverts can be highly effective influencers when they make the most of their own natural strengths instead of trying to act like extroverts.

I believe their stories have staying power. I hope you remember Julie and how Taking Quiet Time helped her hatch a lifesaving initiative. I trust that you’ll be inspired by the story of Jake’s perseverance and how his intensive use of Preparation paid off for a tough teacher training initiative. When you need to tune into a person, perhaps you will recall how Elisha’s Engaged Listening made such a powerful difference in building trust. And as you plan a new initiative, you may remember Haley Kilpatrick’s effective use of Focused Conversations as she launched Girl Talk and helped so many young girls grow in self-confidence. When you face an opportunity to persuade others through Writing, you can think of Helen Thorpe and how her compassionate writing helped readers understand the backstory of immigration. And humble Selah Abrams may come to mind when you want to bring about change by tapping into the power of a Thoughtful Use of Social Media to rock the world.

 

Your Quiet Influence Quotient (QIQ) Self-Assessment Product

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