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Posted Monday, January 24, 2011, at 1:16 PM

The real difference between introverts and extroverts isn't social skills; it's about how you recharge your batteries.

When most people think about extroverts vs. introverts, they often envision the stark contrast between the charismatic guy wowing the room with a rip-roaring joke and the awkward, quiet guy in wrinkled khakis blending into the fake fern in the corner.

In reality, many highly skilled communicators are introverts who have learned to manage their energy.

Introverts sometimes get a bad rap because people assume being introverted means that you can't communicate. But that's not true.

Simply put, extroverts get their energy from other people, while introverts get their energy from being alone.

It's not about how confident and poised you are during the cocktail party. The true introvert vs. extrovert test is how you feel when it's over. Introverts leave group gatherings needing to recharge. Extroverts leave fueled up and ready to hit the next one or, at the very least, debrief the entire evening with their spouse on the ride home.

It's a sliding scale. We all have our moments where we need to be alone or with others, but most of us tend to fall on one side or the other.

Introverts may not be as naturally inclined to connect with others. But introverts can become quite skilled at social banter and even speaking to large groups.

Contrary to popular belief, extroverts don't have an exclusive lock on being great communicators. We've all been the victim of a raging extrovert blathering on with a disjointed stream of consciousness, leaking irrelevant commentary out all over the place.

An extrovert's need to get some energy off others can sometimes blind them to how their message is being received. It can also keep them from giving the other person a chance to participate in the conversation. (Full disclosure, I'm a frequent perpetrator of this social crime.)

Introverts face different challenges.

For many introverts, the first hurdle is recognizing that you don't have to be overtly charismatic to be a good communicator.

When it comes to connecting with others, listening is one of the most important elements, and that's something introverts are often quite good at. Here are three things introverts do to take the stress out of communicating:

1. Schedule downtime.

If you're going to an important meeting in the afternoon, make sure you've got some alone time in the morning. Be proactive about turning off your phone or shutting your door, whatever it takes to help you bring your best game to the important interactions.

2. Aim for 25 percent output.

You don't have to do 50 percent of the talking to hold up your end of a conversation. You can listen 75 percent of the time. Use the remaining 25 percent to respond to what the other person is saying or to ask questions, and you'll create a meaningful connection.

3. Practice in advance.

Don't wait for a high-pressure situation to practice the art of engagement. Extroverts have been honing their skills for years. If you want to hold your own in a conversation, plan some good questions in advance. It may feel weird asking your dog what he does for a living and what he likes about it. But if you practice on Fido, you'll be more natural with humans.

Introverts can be great communicators. You just have to be selective about how and where you expend your energy.

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Angst is in the air: Be careful it's catching
Lisa Earle McLeod
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I can't take any more. The economy is tanking, the election is endless, and now it looks like I might have to sell my blood if I want to keep my kids in mac 'n cheese. Oh, and did I mention that, thanks to falling house prices, I probably owe more on my home than it's actually worth? I want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and have somebody wake me up when my 401(k) bounces back. I don't know about you, but I'm finding myself so jittery about, well everything, that it's all I can do to surf the net. Kind of ironic, isn't it? I should be working more, but I'm so anxious about my finances that I'm actually working less. Alas, such is the world of grown-ups - stress, anxiety, depression. And to think that I wasted much of my childhood wishing I could be in charge of my own life. Why in the heck did I ever think that was a good idea? Give me a few cookies, a blankey and a nice place to lie down and I swear I'll never complain about an early bedtime again. These are tough times indeed. Even if you're still OK, you'd have to be one cold, hard, rich person to stay immune to all the angst in the air. So how do you cope? How do you get through today when you're so worried about tomorrow that you can't see straight? I overheard a news commentator say that people are thinking twice before they go out to eat or buy new clothes. I'm guessing that those are the people who still have jobs. Because the people without jobs aren't spending a nickel on anything except cheap carbs and keeping a roof over their heads. Yet as depressing as our collective and individual situations may be, the last thing we need to do is let our fear get the best of us. If you spend all day quaking and anxious, guess who wins? The fear. Yes, I know FDR had a roof over his head when he said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," but he was right. Every moment you waste paralyzed with fear is a moment you could be doing something, or resting up so that you can do something tomorrow. It's been said that there are only two emotions, love and fear, and all the other emotions are derivatives of those. So I'd like to make a suggestion. Let's chose love. Let's decide to love each other and to love ourselves, no matter what happens. And if you're really a Pollyanna, perhaps you'll join me in deciding to love the fact that this crisis is serving as a call for us to become our better selves; a call for us to look within and rid ourselves of consumerism, greed and the need to keep up with the Jones; and a call for us to have more empathy for those who are struggling. Maybe this is a chance for all of us - and I include myself - to decide that we love our country and we love our fellow human beings more than we love our stuff. Yeah, I know it sounds hokey. But you don't change your circumstances until you change the thoughts that created them. Cowering under the covers in fear may feel safer. But in a crisis, the truly powerful response is love. (c) Copyright 2008, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved. Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author and nationally syndicated columnist. Her books include "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.