Volume 2, Issue 6, 03/27/08
The Introvert Smile
I'm sitting in a coffee shop, watching a man who's walking
around looking at the photographs on the walls. Apparently to
get a close-up view, he leans over the table of a woman sitting
at her laptop till his chin is just inches above her head! My
eyebrows rise, wondering what she'll do. She totally ignores
him! (He doesn't stay there long.)
I can't help but smile at this scenario – it's got my attention -
and the next thing I know, he's at my table, pointing to
another picture, asking me if I know which mountain it is.
I'd guess he's an extrovert :-). But what I'm thinking about
is my smile.
Some years into discovering myself as an introvert, I must admit
it's one of my favorite things in life. I coined the term
"conscious introvert" and I love turning myself into one. I see
four broad categories: reframing – that being an introvert is
an asset; taking good care of that valuable commodity, energy;
finding introvert ways of doing things in an extroverted world;
and becoming skillful at extroverting when it's called for.
Recognizing introversion as an asset may be the most
significant – it makes me happy.
Paying attention to my energy is challenging but not optional.
And has its rewards. It's challenging because the world is so
busy, and my life, too. And it's challenging because no matter
how much my body gets drained or over-stimulated, my mind has
an old habit of trying to ignore it. If I don't pay attention,
the cost is too high. But the more I pay attention, the more
energy I have, which is a good thing.
Finding introvert ways of doing things (in an extroverted world)
is like working on a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes I'm engrossed,
then I forget about it, then something draws me back into the
And it's a subtle process. Talking less and enjoying it more is
an "introvert way of doing things" for me - having less
expectation of myself to say what I'm thinking or feeling, not
only in extroverted environments but even in ideal introvert
situations, like one to one conversations. I'm finding it
Getting more skillful at extroverting is less like a jigsaw
puzzle and more like reading the whole god-blessed manual for
my cell phone, hoping it makes a difference. Out of my comfort
zone but a good idea. Occasionally I take an extroverting risk
and almost never regret it. Being a good small talker is a big
extroverting goal of mine. Periodically I practice a little
but mostly I just think about it, so far.
But about smiling. I've got a new category for conscious
introverts. I call it introvert/extrovert fusion. And I see
the "introvert smile" as an introvert/extrovert fusion strategy.
Last fall I learned that smiling stimulates many energy points
on the face. Wanting my energy points to be well-stimulated,
I've increased my smiling considerably since then :-).
But let's not underestimate the potential of a good smile!
A generalization made about introverts is the tendency to be
focused inward. Out in the world, that may happen because we're
engrossed in our thoughts, somewhat oblivious to what's going
on around us. Or it may be more deliberate, a strategy to
In either case, it's quite possible we're not smiling. And it's
not hard to see how inward-focused, unsmiling introverts could
give rise to assumptions of shyness, unfriendliness,
Here's where the "introvert smile" comes in. My definition:
an authentic (maybe subtle) smile, sending a message that you're
present, available, but not necessarily about to start a
conversation. It's extroverting in its outward focus and
introverted in the intention to "stay home." A comfortable
In the coffee shop, I don't know if I was doing an introvert
smile or a generic grin. The man and I talked a bit about the
mountain, he in sentences, me in one-word responses. It made
me happy and didn't use much energy. (And I stimulated my
energy points :-).
End of food for thought – on to some practical ideas:
A Practical Idea for Introverts
Try out the introvert smile.
A Practical Idea for Extroverts
Be on the lookout for people who seem shy, unfriendly, or
self-absorbed and wonder if you're right.