“All of my coworkers are loud and outgoing. I’m pretty shy and feel overshadowed by them. I like my job and I’m good at it, but feel like my team values these kinds of people more than they do how I am. What should I do?” – Andy from Columbia, MO
Hi, Andy. As an introvert myself, I understand the feelings you’re experiencing. It’s very easy to fall victim to the “extrovert ideal” – the idea that people who are more outgoing, decisive and social, are more valued and likely to succeed.
The good news is that our workplaces need a balance of both introverted and extroverted people in order to be successful. Below are some tips for recognizing your strengths and using your personality style to your advantage among your colleagues.
Celebrate Your Strengths
When you start to feel like you’re valued less than the extroverts you work with, remind yourself about the unique skills and abilities you bring to the table as an introvert. A great starting place for discovering these talents is Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
Strengths many introverts bring to the table are good listening and observation skills, the ability to think ahead before speaking or acting, helping others remain calm in stressful situations, and making the kinds of deep connections with people that can be missed in fly-by networking opportunities.
Prepare in Advance
If you feel yourself clamming up in meetings or not knowing what to say to other people at events, preparation can help. Introverts characteristically like to work things out in private and conduct research before presenting their ideas to others. Before each meeting, take 10-15 minutes to consider what you can contribute to the conversation and bring in a few notes to use as a reference.
For networking events, use your tendencies to your advantage – if you have the attendee list, do some research about the individuals who will be in the room and use it to inform your conversations with them. If all else fails, keep a supply of networking questions at hand – people like to talk about themselves, so asking questions is an easy way to keep the conversation going.
Just Do It
One of my fellow introverted colleagues likes to say, “I’m not an extrovert, but I play one on TV.” Even though you should embrace your introverted tendencies, you should also push yourself to do things outside of your comfort zone and don your extroverted hat from time to time around the office.
Start small by greeting people in the hallways and making more conversation with the people you work with. Then, try taking on a role that requires more interaction and exposure, such as joining the employee events team or going green committee. If you lead a project, look for opportunities to speak about it at meetings or all-staff meetings.
…But Take Time to Recharge
When I first started attending conferences and company events, I made the mistake of thinking I had to attend every session, meal, networking break and post-event gathering. I’d finish each day feeling like I had just run a marathon – and that I had another one awaiting me the next day.
I realize now that I need to build in breaks to recharge my batteries. Whether it’s skipping out on a session, taking lunch by yourself or opting out of the post-event gatherings, making some time for yourself in busy social days is essential to keeping your energy and creativity levels high.
Best of luck to you Andy!