Out of my comfort zone

October 11, 2010

An amazing thing has been slowly taking place in a virtual world and I almost didn’t notice. Okay, I actually just noticed it today.  If you follow me, you probably know some of my history – that I didn’t know what Twitter was a year ago.  Today, I have two accounts (you can follow @pattyblount2 for tech-comm or @pattyblount for personal interests which are: chocolate, my sons and fiction – writing and reading it.)

What you may not know about me is that I am – or maybe was is the appropriate verb – an introvert at heart. Growing up, I was the girl hiding in the shadows, her face pressed in a book.  Kids stole my toys, took my turns, took credit for my ideas because I never spoke up. When I grew up and went to work, it was more of the same thing as others got the raises and promotions that should have been mine.  I was doing great work but yet, wasn’t getting noticed.

As I got older, I learned speaking up is a critical business skill.  I took some Dale Carnegie courses (which are amazing and highly recommended). I got better at it but I’m still not entirely comfortable with it.

Meanwhile, a trend started on the internet. It began with lists, like TECHWR-L, morphed into blogs and social networks. Professional wisdom, experience, opinion and even disagreement – all collected and focused in a single point in time.  I cut my teeth on TECHWR-L, lurking and reading every message with great interest. Members of that list taught me how to be a technical writer.  But I rarely posted or replied to posts. I always thought I had no wisdom or experience to share.

Over the years since I began in this field, I have (I hope!) collected enough experiences to form opinions – wise or other-wise (ha!).  With Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and our various blogs, it’s become easier for me to express them. I comment on subjects in which I have experience, ask questions on those I don’t, connect with other professionals who continue to teach me and shape the information products I deliver. It’s a subtle thing but I’ve suddenly realized I have an abundance of confidence as a result of my connections to all of you.  I noticed it to last week during a meeting to discuss content strategy for a new product offering. My heart was not pounding. I was not sitting in dread, waiting for the moment where I would have to share. I was calm, interested, expressed my opinions and the world didn’t fall off its axis.

I am enjoying an unexpected benefit of social networking – confidence. Thank you all.



  1. Patty, thanks for this post! I’m a life-long introvert myself, and find the Internet to be an excellent forum in which to speak up and share information. It levels the playing field. Like it or not, the preferred method of communication in society is spoken. For introverts, I’m guessing it is more likely to be written. I just hope that others of a more reticent nature will follow your lead and speak up through these new channels. All the quiet voices need to be heard. It’s easy to do so now using the options you mention. I’m glad you’re more comfortable, because everyone has benefited greatly by your comments. I certainly appreciate all your valuable input in the last few weeks in particular! Great post –

  2. Thank you so much, Julie. I find I grow more comfortable with time… I dip in a toe, if the water’s fine, I submerge a bit deeper. Twitter’s a great way to “dip in a toe” and with your work organizing #tcchat, a perfect way for other technical communicators to connect.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tristan David Bishop, Patty Blount. Patty Blount said: #techcomm #tcchat Social Networking Builds Confidence! http://wp.me/pEmW3-5U […]

  4. Nice thoughts, both of you. Actually, I think that most folks who start writings start as introverts. They use the written word as their first communication vehicle because they don’t have to put their face out in front. I, too, am an introvert by nature but started writing in HS and haven’t stopped yet (maybe paused a couple times). Add that to spending some time in choruses (safe because you were hidden in the crowd) and the confidence starts building.

    A stint teaching helped me remove the extreme introvert shackles, although you will probably see me at the outskirts of a gathering if I don’t know anyone. I’m still confident in who I am as a professional, but I tend to stay in the background socially until I get an “in”.

    Glad that the social network helped you get the confidence to be vocal. Welcome to the club!

  5. I also did a stint teaching SAP and once I got my voice to stop quivering, discovered I actually liked it. People still stop me in the halls to ask me questions.

    I hope more introverts use #tcchat to share; we’ll all be better because of it.

  6. Even introverts can be assertive and confident. I’m delighted for you, Patty, that you’ve made a way to enhance those characteristics in yourself.

    Besides, I’ve found that the old New Yorker cartoon is true. Changing one word in the caption: On the Internet, nobody knows you’re an introvert.

    (Link to the cartoon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Internet_dog.jpg )

  7. Very true, Larry. Thanks for commenting.

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