The Introvert

Just not into chit chat in a world and profession that cannot stop talking.

A few years ago, my daughter was sick and didn’t go to school. My son and I sat in the car the entire way to drop him off to school, and we didn’t say a word. Just sat in quiet and stillness. I hate having to elbow my way into a conversation. I wish people would just be quiet instead of talking over one another.

Heidi Brown’s book, The Introverted Lawyer: A Seven-Step Journey Toward Authentically Empowered Advocacy, was a godsend. I didn’t have to feel bad if I didn’t say anything.

In the ABA Journal, Heidi Brown writes in “Are you a lawyer with public speaking anxiety? You are not alone:”

The next step is to identify the potential original sources of these messages, perhaps long-ago and even perhaps well-intentioned caregivers, coaches, teachers, mentors or authority figures. As public speaking expert and author of Speak Without Fear, Ivy Naistadt, cautions, this is not a “blame game.” We are not going to call up these folks and announce, “You ruined my life!” Rather, it’s a pivotal moment in this transformative process when we can realize that the harmful messages many of us replay in our minds today as lawyers probably came from missives we heard, interpreted and entrenched in our brains years ago. The messages are outdated and no longer relevant to our current lives in the law. It’s time to delete and overwrite them.

The next step for me was to highlight other areas in my life in which I feel and possess swagger. I feel powerful when I hop on a plane to travel to a foreign country alone. I feel strong when I put on Everlast boxing wraps and gloves and climb into the ring with a boxing trainer. Recognizing other venues in our lives in which we feel intrepid helps us reframe our approach to daunting lawyering activities. Now in performance scenarios when the usual boring and outdated mental soundtrack kicks in, I “stop, drop and roll.” I catch myself before I tumble down the self-doubt slope, channel the swagger I feel in my travels and boxing lessons and launch new accurate statements: I worked hard on this. I’m prepared. I have a substantive and procedural plan. I deserve to have a voice. I’m entitled to say this in my own way. Some people question such positive self-talk as too touchy-feely, but these statements serve an important purpose. They are a 30-second reboot to get our brains back on track and focused on the intellectual task at hand.

Heidi Brown, Are you a lawyer with public speaking anxiety? You are not alone, ABA Journal, March 1, 2019

Each semester is a new level of anxiety. Yet like Heidi, I noticed that some of my strongest students over time are those who are the quietest. It’s okay to say nothing and just sit quietly.

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Nadia Ahmad

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