It was afternoon break time. Although I’ve started the day with a lot of energy, I was already tired by then. I chose to just sit there, looking around, not in the mood for conversation with anyone in the room. When I noticed him looking at me from afar, he starts walking in my direction and stopped kneeling in front of me with tears in his eyes and hands clasped together …
What followed was not a marriage proposal, nor a declaration of love.
Last weekend I was again a lead assistant to one of the ORSC* courses I took back in 2009. I didn’t want to go this time, but for some reason, I didn’t cancel. So here I was again: the introvert who chose last September to rekindle the ORSC community in Toronto (and made great progress since), who was totally ignored last month while assisting another ORSC course with the same leader.
I had a hunch why that happened: the course leaders prefer to talk about the ORSC certification program (to enroll new students), and I was one of those who dropped out of this program. Usually, during a three days course, the 2nd day the leaders invite assistants to have lunch together, while the 3rd day they invite the assistants to join them in front of the room for the Q&A session. Last month none happened: no lunch together, no assistants during the Q&A session. The other two assistants were invited to speak from (the back of the room) about the certification (one was already certified, the other was going through the certification program). Were the leaders afraid that I would say something negative about the certification program?
At the beginning of that course, I’ve asked to be allowed to share with the students that we have a community of ORSC practitioners in Toronto, and we could help each other if they join us, but I was not invited to do so. I felt small … unimportant … invisible … …
This last weekend though was different!
I didn’t care if the leaders would ignore me again, I do what I do because I strongly believe that a stronger ORSC community could help its members flourish (me included). I don’t expect external recognition for putting in time and effort to strengthen this community.
These three days, I took every opportunity I could to talk about this community, how the introverts are, and their strengths. I opened up during the interactive exercises, in the discussions with leaders during the breaks, when I was asked to give my input (as an assistant) at the beginning and the end of each day.
I talked about this community with the leader who ignored me last time, inviting him to join the virtual meeting we’ll have tomorrow (he will). I mentioned why it would be beneficial to CRR Global (the institute offering these courses) to support the communities of ORSC practitioners in the world. I shared my insights and my reason for dropping off the certification program (which is geared toward teams, while I prefer to use ORSC methods with individuals, and build/ strengthen communities). I mentioned how uneasy the introverts are in large groups (but ok in smaller groups), how easy their energy gets depleted (and need quiet time to during the breaks to recharge). And that introverts they prefer to express themselves through other channels than talking.
And, the 3rd day, the magic happened!
At one point, during the debrief of a morning exercise in the larger group, the leader (who ignored me last time) invited and made space for the quiet people to speak up!
And one did! With an unexpected clear voice, an introverted student shared her insights … leaving everyone in awe!
I was so happy, she made my point!!! Introverts are deep thinkers and have great ideas to share if extroverts are willing to stay quiet for a moment and listen!
When we split into smaller groups for exercises, everyone was active and fully present … which proved another point: we, introverts, are more comfortable to open up in smaller groups.
During this course, the assistants were invited to lunch with the leaders the 2nd day, and the last day they were invited in front of the class during the Q&A session … including me!
The person who kneeled in front of me with tears in his eye? He is the leader who ignored me a month before. This time, during the afternoon break of the 3rd day, he simply wanted to apologize for how he treated me (the introvert) last time, thank me for coming back to assist another ORSC course and for putting time and energy to strengthen the Toronto community. He looked at me a few more seconds after he stopped talking, bringing tears to my eyes, and stirring deep emotions buried inside.
I thanked him, then stepped outside to cry out loud before getting back into my assistant role. It felt so good to be acknowledged and recognized for being an introvert, and for what I do.
I never experienced before a leader understanding an introvert, and I’m so glad he finally got it! During the last day, he invited twice and made space for introverts to speak up in the larger group!
Now, it’s your turn:
How often do you speak up and share how you are, so others understand you better?
Or do you expect them to guess or figure that out? They might get it wrong because they think from their own perspective.
*ORSC = Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching