Just as Eskimos have 97 words for snow, I have as many reasons for why I blush. I’m extremely introverted. And with people I don’t know, I’m extremely shy. While shyness and introversion don’t always go hand in hand, they often do and in my life they’ve enjoyed a long and deep love affair. Flushed cheeks are the primary tell of this internal dance.
Thanks to people like Susan Cain and the impact of her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, introverts are having their moment in the limelight. With that, introversion is increasingly being considered a good thing. But this hasn’t always been the case, at least for me. Like many sensitive introverts, my path includes a breadcrumb trail of panic attacks. Like many introverts, I learned over time, as a survival mechanism, to present as more extroverted than I am. Usually not easy; typically draining; often painful. And in my case, generally lit up by bright, red cheeks.
As a kid, my cheeks got me teased. As a young adult my quiet and rosy ways led to being passed over. A turning point came during a job interview when I was 27 and told I simply wasn’t loud enough to be effective in a leadership role. My face burned, but not out of shyness this time. This was my pitta nature stepping up. Pitta, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is one of three doshas, or energetic mind-body types. It’s an Ayurvedic term (yoga’s sister science) referring to the fiery energy within us that facilities transformation. It dawned on me in this moment that, you know what, my face is already red, my emotional tell is waving its big flag with no signs of stopping, what do I have to lose?
So I disagreed. I didn’t argue or get defensive; I soft-spokenly and matter-of-factly disagreed with the interviewer. I spoke about a rich and nuanced view of leadership. I explained the ways in which I’m able to connect deeply with people and effectively make things happen, to even hold court when the moment is right. I demonstrated my perceptive capacities, passion and willingness to speak from my heart. I shared my presence. Me and my quiet voice, along with my scarlet face, held our own within a group of gregarious and unabashedly vocal people.
The gifts of extroverts are many. Extroverts often bring an infectious energy and enthusiasm to groups and situations. They can typically share ideas quickly and easily. Moreover, they tend to be comfortable asserting themselves and thereby effectively position themselves as well as convey their point of view. The reflective and observant nature of introverts, on the other hand, lends well to thoughtful decision-making, responsiveness over reactivity. The strengths of introverts often lie in their capacity to pick up on and, in turn, integrate frequently overlooked subtleties that house high impact potential. Introverts can typically “read” people and situations and thus offer supportive strategies for balancing energies and emotions. Of course when the gifts of extroversion and introversion come together, things can really fly.
That turning point interview of mine was nearly 20 years ago (yes, I got that job) and now here I am, representing for nearly 10 years now quiet leadership behind the scenes at 8 Limbs. I’m the one who from time to time hears 8 Limbs Owner, and self-identified extrovert, Anne Phyfe say, wow, I can see how important this is to you, your face is all red. Like my fellow introverts, I often spend my days tracking shifts in the air and unspoken sensibilities, searching for portals of opportunity and new ways of understanding. I bring a felt-sense voice that plays nice with more extroverted types to ensure 8 Limbs walks its talk and embodies is mission.
I have decided to step out from behind the scenes to write a monthly column for the 8 Limbs blog. In it I’ll share some of the ways we walk our talk as a business and speak to the importance of mindful leadership and conscious business. If you see me at the Capitol Hill studio and mention this post, you’ll be sure to see one particular shade of red splash across my cheeks: a sweet, subtle pride.
Posted by: Ashley Dahl, MSW
8 Limbs Executive Director Ashley Dahl holds a BA in philosophy from Boston University and earned her Masters in Social Work from the University of Washington. Prior to working at 8 Limbs she oversaw youth development programs for the city of Seattle and provided training and advocacy services across Washington State. Getting out in nature year-round keeps Ashley feeling whole. Traveling, art, food and a bit of sass are some favorite ways she connects with others.