WHEN SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Sometimes speaking less means winning more…grant awards, that is. The old saying actually goes, “Speech is silver; silence is golden,” which is actually a perfect way to view the balance of communication needed for truly effective grants professionals. And this is can also be a proverbial boon for introverts and those who work with them and love them!
I’m all for speaking up for yourself and what you believe is right in your personal and professional life. But listening well and deeply brings its own rewards. Many grant professionals self-identify as introverts, I among them. And in the past it was all too easy to think that my need for quiet solitude, my fear of mingling and my intolerance for hours of small talk disqualified me cultivating foundation and corporate donors. The Orfield Lab in Minneapolis, Minnesota is billed as the quietest room in the world. It is a completely sound-proof, pitch-black room where the only soundtrack is your own heartbeat. Media stories have characterized it as a place where the silence could drive you insane. I characterize it as in my top three fantastic bucket list adventures. Introvert Goals.
Realizing that you get recharged to face the world through solitude, that you prefer one-on-one communication and that you often take time to process an idea before responding does not mean that you will spend your life in a small cubicle churning out grant after grant. (Unless that’s your dream job, of course.)
I cringe now to think how I passed up an opportunity once at a larger organization, when the department director offered a small team of grant writers, including me, the opportunity to communicate directly with the large and small foundations we applied to annually. If I had the seriously tricked-out DeLorean from the classic movie “Back to the Future,” I would go back to that meeting and issue a gentle kick to my other self’s posterior. Note to hard-core Sci-Fi fans: Please do not spend a lot of time here thinking about how time travel would or wouldn’t allow for that; just go with me for a minute.
Know Your Value
If only I had known then what I know now. My natural tendencies to listen first, summarize back to the main speaker and take time to strategize afterwards would have been a great way to help this organization connect more deeply with these foundation donors. Instead I did the corporate meeting room equivalent of shuffling my feet, glancing sideways and edging away, which was to look at the table and shake my head no. Guess what, when major gift officers and other staff began to meet with these foundation trustees and officers, I found myself feeling more and more disconnected from the process, and more and more dissatisfied with my job—ultimately leaving it for another worthy organization.
My point is this. If you’re introverted, don’t sell yourself short. If you’re extroverted, don’t overlook that quiet person on your team who gets things done. As we discussed in the January 10 #grantchat on “Asking for Introverts,” many introverts have become national and world leaders, bringing positive change to millions. Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi, all introverts, were no slouches when it came to making a difference! We all have gifts to bring to the table that helps us serve more communities in need.
In the years since my spectacular failure to grasp a bold new career opportunity, I’ve learned more about how to play well with others. So basically the lessons of kindergarten finally sank in, you’ll be thrilled to know. What this means for me now is that I can better use my own internal wiring to help secure more grant funding and other donations. And I can present in front of hundreds without fear. Owning the greeting line at a large networking reception? I’ll leave that to my extroverted colleagues.
I created a free download of my favorite articles, books, and resources that helped me embrace my inner introvert. Click here to download your copy of the “Introvert Resource Guide”.