Standing Tall in Your Community: Guest Post by Robert Hruzek

by Joanna on May 10, 2009

stand-tallHow do communities form, anyway? Well, there’s a fundamental principle at work, and it’s one we rarely think about, if you ask me. (Uh, didn’t somebody just ask me? Anyone?)

Where I get gas every now and then (no, silly – for my car, not for me!) there’s this lone tree standing over there, all by itself. Man, I’m talkin’ tall – that thing towers up into the heavens like the Jolly Green Giant!

The funny thing, though, is that it’s not really any taller than most of the other pine trees that grow like weeds around this part of Texas.

No, what makes it seem so tall is, well, it’s standing there all by its lonesome (an East Texas expression that means all by itself).

And therein lies an interesting observation…

Not the Only One

One of the great things about being online these days is the chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself; to extend beyond the old boundaries we knew before. You know the ones I mean: geography, politics or your favorite kind of pie… All the things that define us.

Now, that may not seem like such a big deal to some of you, but believe me, it’s an amazing development for little ol’ me, I’ll tell ya! After all, bein’ something of an introvert and all, well, reachin’ out and touchin’ someone (if you get my meanin’) just doesn’t come, y’know, natural to me.

But what really surprised me, though, is how many times I’ve read this blogger or that one makin’ the exact same claim – especially the ones with, y’know, what seemed like bazillions of folks in their respective communities. I mean, who knew? They all seemed pretty outgoing to me.

On the other hand, an interesting thing happens when you get online, doesn’t it? Ordinary barriers seem to fall away and you find yourself communicating mano-a-mano with folks from all over the place at the drop of a hat (sound of dull clunk). Oh, it doesn’t necessarily come natural at first, but once the words start flowing across the screen, it becomes pretty easy to become fully engaged. At least it was for me.

I mean sure, these days I can communicate pretty easily with folks from Romania, Germany or Scotland, to name a few. And it’s likely that Alina, Ulla or Joanna will agree that yours truly is certainly a friendly, outgoing character (heavy on the character). But that’s ‘cause they see the end product of, well, years of practice.

So how does one transform oneself from a lowly, sniveling, pathetic jello-like wallflower (which, at one time, described me to a tee) to someone who can easily trade truths, tips or tamales with the best of ‘em? Hey, not to worry, my friends; Dr. Bob is here to help!

So, if you’re a natural introvert (as opposed to what – one that came out of a bottle?), there’s a great technique I learned a while back for breaking out of that shell, so to speak. If you’ll just allow me illustrate it with a little story (after all, it’s what I do here)…

A Big Change

Many moons ago, when I left college life to move back to Houston and the, y’know, real world (the one where you have to actually earn a living), I decided to move my church membership from a very small one to a really, really big one. It was gonne be quite an adjustment, I’ll tell ya. But I knew it was necessary.

See, in my current church, I was one of only three young singles. And, as much as we enjoyed each other’s company, well, I felt it was time to sorta “get out there” more – you know, spread my wings a little. Now remember, I was still pretty introverted back then, so this was a big step for me.

On the other hand, the church I was moving to had something on the order of a thousand singles about my own age. (Like I said, it was a BIG church!) I’m tellin’ ya; that was a big change!

But as I said, it was something I had to do ‘cause it was time to break out of my introverted shell and grow. And hey, what better way to face the risk (sound of terrified scream) of bein’ around so many more people than I was used to? It was bound to get me out of my comfort zone in a really big way.

So, just before visiting that church the first time, I looked in the mirror and said to myself, “Bubba, you’re gonna stand tall, stick out yer hand, and meet ‘em!” And that’s exactly what I did!

The results were nothing less than amazing!

I’ll tell ya; I met plenty of interesting folks that first day – although I must admit I didn’t remember a single name (I have a terrible memory for names *sigh*). But it set the tone for my continued attendance at that church for years to come. (PLUS – that’s where I met the future Mrs. MZM!) And, once the initial hesitation wore off, it became far easier to chip away at the ol’ introvertism (or whatever you want to call it) and head in the opposite direction.

But by far my most interesting observation was, when I failed to stand up straight when I stuck my hand out (which happened on occasion), somehow it made a huge difference. It was as if the energy simply wasn’t there – unless I straightened out the ol’ spine a bit. Amazing!

Truth be told, I’m still something of an introvert when it comes to a room of folks I don’t know all that well. I’m honestly getting’ better at it, but all I can say is, gimme a chance – I’m still growin’, y’know? And once I began to explore the online world, that practice really helped set the tone for meetin’ new folks there as well.

Anyway, in my opinion the real secret to becoming an outgoing, friendly communicator is actually pretty simple: Stand tall!

Time to Come Out of The Shell

ninja_turtlesSo are you an introvert? Believe me, I understand perfectly. Especially when you’re new at it, it’s pretty easy to be a little intimidated by the ones who seem to be “out there” already. Trust me, I know exactly how you feel; I felt the same way.

But remember, online communication eliminates a whole distracting dimension from the game, y’know? I mean, think about it for a minute (sound of grinding gears). You don’t have to worry about your hair or if your makeup is on straight, or that you might have just eaten a spinach soufflé for lunch and you have a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth right there. The only thing that matters are the words you say.

Hey, why not try it?

All ya gotta do is (virtually, of course!) stand up straight, mosey right up to someone and say “Howdy!” You’d be surprised how easy it gets, especially after you’ve done it a few times. After all, that’s how every online community got its start!

Why not be a part of it?

Photo: Stand Tall, by Robert Hruzek

Oh, and the Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Turtles dropped by for a quick portrait, too.

Robert HruzekRobert Hruzek currently lives in Houston, Texas, and is usually employed as an engineering project manager. He has travelled, lived and worked in many locations within the United States and around the world.

Robert writes on the Web at Middle Zone Musings. It’s described as a comfortable place to have a cup of coffee, swap a few stories and share practical ideas for the real world. He doesn’t ask for much, just a bit of your brain every now and then. Why not drop by, take a load off, and relax for a spell…

You may contact Robert by email at: rhruzek [at] sbcglobal [dot] net.

Previous guest posts from Robert at Confident Writing include:

Dead Ends (Part 3) (now who could resist a title like that?), 3 Keys to Powerful Writing and the unmissable  Two Simple Steps to Writing with Authenticity

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Middle Zone Musings » Oh, the Places I’ve Been
05.28.09 at 1:32 pm

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Lillie Ammann 05.10.09 at 5:31 pm

Robert,
If you hadn’t already said it yourself, I’d say you were a genius for writing on Joanna’s theme this month, filling in with a guest post while she’s gone, and creating an entry in this month’s WILF group writing project at MZM. But since you’ve said it yourself, all I can say is thanks for the tips for this introvert.

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..National Day of Prayer 2009

Robert Hruzek 05.11.09 at 1:32 am

So, you really think I’m a genius? Tell Mrs. MZM! :-D

From one introvert to another - it really works! (Still got a ways to go, though…)

Lillie Ammann 05.11.09 at 1:56 am

Robert,
I’m sure Mrs. MZM knows you’re a genius. After all, you married her. :-)

Lillie Ammanns last blog post..National Day of Prayer 2009

Matt Hayward 05.11.09 at 1:56 am

First things first, Robert…

Cowabunga! Kudos to you for the Turtles pic!

And, as they say, second things second…

A great lesson to be had here, I reckon. I’m what you could call an extreme introvert. Probably in part due to the social anxiety and paranoia I suffer from. But, it’s truly amazing what a difference simple things can make.

One of the things I have learned (sorry, but nothing new for me here) is exactly what you mentioned: Straighten your back. Just that simple action really makes all the difference. If it’s okay, I’ll offer an explanation as to why. Alright, I’mma do so anyway. Sorry.

When you present yourself as confident, regardless of how you feel on the inside, people will see that and interpret it as your confidence being displayed. When people see a confident person, human nature (perhaps unfortunately) dictates you treat them differently. Maybe due to our ancestry and the idea of an ‘alpha male’ or female, of course.

Now, here’s the funny part. A lesson taught to me when I first got into my sales career: People mirror those around them. A cheerful person entering a room of grumpy people will quickly find themselves feeling grumpy. So too with a confident person: You appear confident, the other person becomes confident, you, rather subconsciously, mirror that confidence and so it grows.

So, for any introverts out there, let me give you an old adage: “Fake it ’til you make it.” Mainly because, if you fake it you really will make it eventually.

And Robert… Keep on truckin’. You’ll get there. :)

Matt

Matt Haywards last blog post..My Favourite Characters

Robert Hruzek 05.11.09 at 11:12 am

@Matt - It’s funny how that works, isn’t it Matt? I mean, logically it makes no sense. But there it is. And, although the “fake it till you make it” strategy actually sounds insincere (it did to me when I first heard it), lemme tell ya; it’s a tried-and-true method that really works!

Hey, tip o’ the hat for droppin’ by, Bubba! Oh, and Michaelangelo says, “Howdy!”

Brad Shorr 05.11.09 at 1:35 pm

Hi Robert, Lillie, Matt - Great advice, Robert. I’m going to give it a try at the next opportunity. I’m also an introvert, and walking into a crowded room is not something I look forward to. That said, some of my best experiences and business opportunities have come from big meetings and parties, so it pays to keep trying and not let yourself be overwhelmed and intimidated. Posts like this help!

Brad Shorrs last blog post..Social Media Squeeze Endangers Midsized Firms

Robert Hruzek 05.11.09 at 2:31 pm

@Brad - I think we’re all proving my point about the “I didn’t realize that about you!” thing. I mean, you’ve been an on-the-road salesman, fer cryin’ out loud - how CAN you be introverted and successful at that?

But it’s really a matter of managing it, wouldn’t you say? And that’s essentially all I’m sayin’ here. Just lay out a plan, then execute it. Hey, thanks for the contribution, Brad!

Robert Hruzeks last blog post..All Entries: What I Learned From Community

Tumblemoose 05.11.09 at 2:44 pm

Robert,

I’d bet with the hat, you’re like, what? 19 feet tall?

This is a good point about how you present yourself being an invitation for others to participate. I also agree with Matt about the mirroring.

Paying attention to the little things brings big results

Tumblemooses last blog post..Trying something new

Paul 05.11.09 at 4:24 pm

Thanks for the great advice Robert!

I’ve found to my cost that being intimidated can also be mistaken for aloof-ness (is ‘aloofness’ even a word?).

I’m often stood at the edge of a crowd, nervous about diving in and offering my hand out in greeting. More recently I have forced myself not to think too much and to just ‘get in there’.

Now I can do this with more confidence and my back straight! :)

All the best,

Paul

Pauls last blog post..Alvin’s Story - Career Perspective

Janice Cartier 05.11.09 at 4:27 pm

Stand tall. Nice ring to it.
And a perfect day to hear that.
I think I will get out my balancing ball and do some spine exercises on this rainy Texas day. LOL But really, that’s what I am going to do. Stretch that spine.
I have some strangers that I need to make friends with very soon and I want them to like me. ;-)

Janice Cartiers last blog post..Ladders On The Right Wall

Ulla Hennig 05.11.09 at 4:35 pm

Robert and Brad,
let me be the third introvert in your round. Robert, you’ve just described my own experience and feelings. The Web really helped me to come out of my shell, very cautiously at the beginning, and then getting more “audacious”.

Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Memories and Old Stuff

Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome 05.11.09 at 7:00 pm

Surprisingly I’m not an introvert in real life, but I feel introverted online. I find creating and being involved in community difficult and tiring. I do it (and do it well), but it drains me much more than writing and other blogging activities do.

Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..Creativity & Paying the Bills: Dave Rhodes Interview

Karen Swim 05.11.09 at 8:34 pm

Robert, lol, this is a great post!!! Of course I am an off the chart extrovert (seriously, tested and I scored so high ) but I have my introverted moments and could relate. You were the one who needed the pep talk to shake hands, and I was the woman waving to the cars driving along the 405. I am so glad you stood tall and met the Mrs. (see how God works, we call that a twofer - you got better at interacting and got a great wife to boot!). I will now forever smile when I see a tall tree. Straightening my spine and going to conquer some mountains. ;-)

Karen Swims last blog post..Let’s Connect - Maybe

Robert Hruzek 05.11.09 at 9:25 pm

Wow, turn my back for just a couple hours, and THIS is what happens! A tip o’ the hat to all y’all!

@Tumblemoose - George, ya big galoot! That’s only when I’m on my horse! I’m actually only 4′-3″ tall in the flesh. But hey, you said it: pay attention to the little things. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Sorry.

@Paul - I think “aloofness” probably is a word. If not, we can make it one, can’t we? ;-) I know whereof you speak and I’ve been there, Bubba. Take that step; it’s worth it!

@Janice - Ah, exercise - I could watch it all day! Try not to kill yerself, though. My guess is they’ll probably like you just the way you are. Just sayin’.

@Ulla - Yes, I remember when we first “met”, Ulla; glad you stuck your neck out, if you get my meanin’! You’re turning into quite the creative shining star, in my opinion.

@Alex - Now that’s an interesting statement. Why do you think that is, Alex?

@Karen - What, YOU, an extrovert? I mean, who knew? :-D Hey, you’re the extrovert I visit with when my soul is sorta creakin’ and groanin’! All it takes is one look and I say to myself, “Man, I may be a little nuts, but that lady is just plain whack!” Bwa-ha-ha-ha! (But in a, y’know, nice way.)

Robert Hruzeks last blog post..All Entries: What I Learned From Community

Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome 05.12.09 at 1:39 am

@Robert
I’ve been trying to figure that out. I think it’s because it’s just me in front of a computer screen. There’s no feeding off the energy of the people before me - it’s just the screen pulling my energy into it (and my wrists getting Carpel Tunnel strain) ;)

Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..Creativity & Paying the Bills: Dave Rhodes Interview

Robert Hruzek 05.12.09 at 11:09 am

@Alex - OK; I think I can see how that would work. Hey, at least you’ve identified something important about how you tick. Gives you something upon which to work with, right?

I’m kinda the opposite - I draw energy from those I’m communicating with, be it via computer screen or in person. In person is harder for me because of the, y’know, wallflower thing - but I’m gettin’ better. Once the barriers are lowered a bit things get ‘waay easier.

Janice Cartier 05.12.09 at 3:48 pm

( LOL Robert, I caught myself watching yoga just the other day. Thanks for the boost. ;-) )

Janice Cartiers last blog post..Ladders On The Right Wall

Joanna 05.13.09 at 9:57 pm

Robert, I agree with Lillie - you’re a genius :-) A guest post, a WILF entry and a great conversation on how to make connections both on and offline. Thank you :-)

wilson 05.14.09 at 9:25 am

Robert, I was wondering, what is the specific name for the tree? I did take botanical lesson during my college, but I cannot figure out what’s the name of the tree that you’re posted here! Silly me, isn’t it?

Love the ways you’re describing about the stuffs, keep it coming and I’m sure many will love it as I did!

wilsons last blog post..For The Health’s Sake, You Should Stop Eating the Hot Breads Fresh Out of the Oven!

Robert Hruzek 05.14.09 at 11:26 am

@Joanna - Yes, I am a genius; and if you don’t believe me, just ask! :-D

Thanks for opening up the forum, Joanna! Tip o’ the hat to ya!

Robert Hruzek 05.14.09 at 11:27 am

@Wilson - That’s a Pine tree, Wilson. Very common around these parts. They usually grow very straight and tall, and are thus often used to build the frames of houses.

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