How Introverts Can Succeed at Work
What do Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Darwin, and J.K. Rowling, all have in common? They are all people who made an impact on their world. They are also introverts.
Extroverts are celebrated in our culture as movers and shakers. They are perceived as strong leaders who are actively engaged, outgoing and assertive. Introverts, on the other hand, have strengths – creativity, focus, grit, and even leadership – that are usually overlooked. Instead, they are often viewed in less flattering terms: quiet, shy, or even poor collaborators. Because of this perception, many introverts go through their day trying to overcome their natural tendencies and to exhibit more extroverted types of behaviours that seem to be critical to success. It’s an exhausting way to live and limits their ability to use their natural strengths.
Furthermore, in a competitive job market, it may seem as though being an introvert may count as an absolute strike against you. After all, extroverts seem to get everything they want. But even though it may be hard to immediately recognise, being quiet or soft-spoken can be an advantage at the office. Here are some benefits of being an introvert at work.
Management Respects Your Opinion
One of the biggest pluses of being an introvert is that because you rarely comment on company culture or procedures, whenever you do speak up, people will tend to listen. This is especially true when it comes to discussing issues with management. So, if you feel like your shyness will keep you from being heard by the executives, think again. You’ll be surprised with how responsive management can be to the opinions of a quiet, productive person.
Play to Your Strengths
As an introvert, you’re almost undoubtedly more energised by ideas than by people. Try to think of meetings as an opportunity to be exposed to new and interesting ideas. Focus on the content rather than the interpersonal drama. Remember that you are crucial to outcomes. You are the one doing the thinking, while everyone else is doing the talking. Be sure to add your full value by being the voice of reason when the white noise dies down. Don’t allow yourself to be marginalised.
Remember that extroverts are saying things that are clumsy representations of what they mean. Don’t take their comments personally. Also, don’t be surprised when they change their minds three times. You change your mind too; you just do it in your head before you speak.
Don’t be Shy About Needing ‘Me Time’
Introverts get overwhelmed by external stimulation and need alone time to recharge. Instead of chiding yourself for not being more social, respect and honour your need for quiet time. Take a walk at lunch, shut your door for a few minutes, or enjoy a nice cup of coffee. Cherish a few minutes of quiet time before an important meeting or networking event. By savouring your solitude, you’ll feel re-energised, fresh, and ready to tackle new challenges. If anything good has come out of the paradigm shift in the way we work due to COVID-19, it’s the ability to work from home, be comfortable in your own company and show the concentration needed to do so. You could say it’s never been a better time to be an introverted worker!
Practice the Pre-Emptive Strike
Get into the habit of ‘creating the meeting before the meeting’. If something important is coming up for discussion, find a few minutes to talk to key people ahead of time. That way, you can get your ideas and concerns on the table without having to compete for air space with the loud people. Many introverts make the mistake of saving these conversations for after the meeting, which can be misconstrued as passive-aggressive or resistant. Also, because you don’t interrupt co-workers at the big meetings, yell your personal plans across the office, or talk so loudly on the phone that even people in other departments can hear everything you say, colleagues find you more professional; something that will play in your favour when being considered for a promotion.
A final word. Foster your belief in yourself and the unique strengths that you bring to the table. If you believe in yourself, then it’s only a matter of time before others believe in you too. Rather than feeling like your introverted qualities are an obstacle to success, turn the tables and use your natural gifts to your advantage. By contributing to the workplace in authentic and meaningful ways, you can do your best work and make a lasting impression.