Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.
We all know that magical someone who can walk into a room of complete strangers, strike up a conversation, and sustain that conversation all night long.
These extroverts have no problem with “small talk,” and they’re often the life of the party. People tend to gravitate toward them. They work the room like a master, flitting about, always with something to say. Everyone laughs at their jokes, which roll off the tongue effortlessly.
Annoying, isn’t it?
We all know real estate is a people business. Relationships matter. The key to building a large book of business is to meet people and connect with them. One of the agent’s most powerful tools in the CRM — customer relationship management.
The problem is that people can be exhausting.
We’re now well over a year into the COVID pandemic. In the beginning, it seemed like almost immediately everyone was lamenting the loss of contact. They just wanted to be with people. They missed hugging their friends.
Want to know a secret? I enjoyed the alone time. I like being alone a lot. Don’t get me wrong; I dearly missed seeing my friends. But large social gatherings? The expectations to engage with people I hardly know? Nope, I didn’t miss that one bit.
That’s because I’m introverted (mostly).
Many people who think they know me would say I’m quite extroverted. I can hang with the best at a party. I can network like a machine.
What few people see is that after the party ends, you’ll find me basically curled up in the fetal position, pledging to never engage with another human again. Many miss those moments when I slip out unnoticed and find a quiet space to clear my head — alone.
Being an introvert in an extroverted world is challenging to say the least. I suppose it’s equally challenging for extroverts when they find themselves alone or unable to engage with people due to COVID.
But few of us are 100 percent introverted or extroverted.
We’re humans, and though humans are complicated, the personality traits we have don’t typically fall to either extreme. Instead, they rage across the spectrum. We usually have both extroverted and introverted traits, often shifting based on the situation.
I’ve spent decades faking or hiding my introversion, and it’s taken those decades to discover that “faking it till you make it” is a bad idea. An even worse idea is trying to hide who you are.
There is no shame in being an introvert. Or an extrovert, or an ambivert (people who “have both introverted and extroverted tendencies,” according to Forbes), or an “introverted extrovert” — also called a “social introvert” — which is what I believe I truly am.
You should do you. Covering up a fundamental personality trait is an exercise in futility. You can’t change who you are, nor should you. The world would be a terribly dull place if all of us were the same. All the flavors of “verts” have their good points and bad points.
Personally, I think it’s essential for a social group, workgroup or team to have a good mix of personality types. The various points of view and behaviors are healthy, and they lead to a more productive and effective group.
That said, there are times when it’s helpful to nudge your thinking and actions in the other direction. Real estate is an intensely extroverted world at times, so though you should let your introverted freak flag fly, these tips might be helpful for those times you need to cross over to the extrovert side.
1. Understand your limits
Most of us introverts can handle all sorts of extroverted situations as long as they’re in reasonably small doses. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and engage — there just isn’t a way to get out of it.
But pay attention to your inner self, understand when you’re reaching your limit — and get out before you pass that limit.
Staying at a party, being out too late, lengthy small talk — all these things wear us introverts out. Knowing when to cut these activities short will save your sanity.
2. Take breaks
Sure, in the ideal world, you just leave a situation before you collapse, but sometimes that isn’t an option. Fortunately, we can often reset the timer by simply taking a short break.
How does one escape for just a minute or two to recharge? Blame your phone. Blame your bladder. Step outside to “take a call,” or head to the bathroom just to shut the door and breath.
3. Be honest
Sometimes you just need to lay it on the line. This tactic works exceptionally well with your friends.
Just say something like: “Look, I love y’all to death, but I’m not going out until the wee hours of the morning with you. I’ll go, but I’m out by 9 p.m.”
They might push you a little. Don’t succumb to peer pressure.
4. Challenge yourself from time to time
You know what makes things easier to master? Practice! Want a great way to practice being more extroverted? Volunteer some time for a charity of community service.
Yes, it might be awkward and uncomfortable at times, but it’s easier because you can honestly tell yourself you’re doing it for a good cause.
5. Work from home
If the pandemic gave one gift to the introverts out there, it was making working from home far more acceptable than it was in the past. Sure, you might need to go into a sales meeting sometimes, but you probably no longer have to go into the office regularly.
Relish that. Working from home is way easier for introverts than dreading office time.
6. Buddy up with an extrovert
An understanding partner can be super helpful in situations where you find yourself in challenging spots. They can make introductions, initiate the small talk, and allow you to ease into engaging.
You can develop listening skills with practice. And you should because good listening is critical for a real estate agent.
As an introvert, there’s also something about listening that is beneficial — you can’t and aren’t expected to talk while you’re listening. Ask open-ended questions, not ones that other people can answer with a simple yes or no, and you’ll find yourself with plenty of listening opportunities.
You do not have to be extroverted to be successful in real estate, or life for that matter. The introvert has just as much — in some cases more — to offer as the extrovert. Remember that we’re all different, and with a bit of preparation and practice, you can slide a little to the extrovert side when the situation calls for it.
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree living in the Texas Coastal Bend, as well as the one spinning the wheels at Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. “Retired but not dead,” Jay speaks around the world on many things real estate.