3 Ways Introversion Can Be Used To Your Advantage in the WorkplaceBy Nivruthi Prasad • 5 min read
Speak up! Be heard! Network, network, network. Let’s do lunch?
Welcome to the extrovert’s world. The introverts reading these must be panicking.
Need some great ideas? Call for a group brainstorming session. At a meeting? Speak up as much as you can – or melt into oblivion. From school social status hierarchies to workplace recognition, the more gregarious personalities in our midst have often bagged them all. Sometimes to the dejection of equally-able, introverted peers who longingly eye their accolades from a periphery.
Doing well at work as introverts?
Yes, we have heard it before. That some of the world’s greatest minds, movements, ideas and inventions have belonged to introverts (think Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi, J.K. Rowling and Bill Gates).
Yet, it is often hard for introverts to fathom how those famous personalities succeeded in spite of their introversion. How can we introverts do the same at work?
The question itself reflects the crippling mindset that stands between introverts and their success: These personalities made it big in spite of their introversion, not because of it.
Until introverts view our innate traits as strengths rather than handicaps, success will continue to elude us. Remind yourself that you don’t have to mimic extrovert traits to get to where extroverts are. Instead, show your value in the workplace by playing to your strengths. Here’s how!
Your colleague is: Spontaneous
You can be: Analytical
Ever been in a meeting where your colleagues quickly unleash torrents of ideas one after the other, while you just sit there going “Woah hang on!”? Not offering ideas with the speed and spontaneity of extroverts could be criticised as “slow” or “unresponsive”.
And the problem is, some introverts buy that. Don’t. Instead, recognise it as being analytical. Introverts appear to be less spontaneous or active in group discussions only because they are often considering different perspectives before synthesising their own opinion. The result of this is usually input that is insightful and balanced.
How to tap into your analytical nature:
Think about the meeting, before the meeting
Familiarise yourself with the meeting’s agenda, ask questions about it in advance, and brainstorm ideas for it on your own. Once you have sorted your thoughts privately, you will be better able to synthesise and offer some great input during the meeting itself. In fact, decades of research have shown that the bigger the group, the poorer the ideas. Solitude can indeed be fertile ground for the best ideas, especially for introverts.
Question rather than suggest
If you can’t prepare in advance for meetings, you can still put your analytical mind to work by asking questions about what others have proposed. Voice out your thinking process. Critical questions are just as valuable as concrete suggestions. It will also show others that you are actively thinking about the meeting.
Preparation is key to showing how your deeply-inquiring mind is valuable to the discussion. Also, let people know you are thinking, so that you don’t seem aloof or slow.
Your colleague is: Gregarious
You can be: Passionate
Meet that gregarious colleague, who networks so effortlessly and gregariously that his/her social connections seem to multiply like an amoeba. This could be daunting to introverts, who usually dread small talk. What on earth to talk about then? Contrary to common belief, introverts CAN shine at conversations – if these concern something they are truly passionate about.
How to let your passion shine through while networking:
Identify mutual work-related interests with those you meet
Leverage on those to connect with them. These could be related to trends in the industry or breaking news concerning your line of work. Because you tend to be knowledgeable and inquisitive on things that interest you, people will notice both your passion and knowledge on the topic.
Even if you don’t encounter many people with similar interests, you will be able to make a deep impression on the ones you do meet. Remember this: A few, deep impressions matter as much as many, fleeting ones.
Your colleague is: Charismatic
You can be: Perceptive
Who doesn’t love a charismatic leader? The natural charm and outgoing nature of extroverts make them people-magnets, and obvious candidates for leadership positions. While natural charisma is a great way to get noticed (and popular), it is not the only way to do so. Introverts can make for very perceptive, people-oriented leaders due to their ability to listen carefully and be sensitive to others.
How to use your perceptiveness at work:
Listen, listen, listen
Introverts are more likely than extroverts to be receptive to ideas from others, appreciate them and implement them. You can harness this trait during teamwork to solve conflicts, appreciate great ideas and give feedback on not-so-great ideas without being condescending.
Thanks to their sharp observation skills, introverts can be very perceptive to the strengths and weaknesses of people. Use this to your advantage by delegating work accordingly. With each person doing what they are best at, work not only gets done, but it gets done well. A Wharton study backs this up – introverted leaders can produce better outcomes, especially when leading a very vocal team.
The next time you find yourself working in a team, try to tap into your perceptiveness. Your teammates will respect and admire you for it.
Improve on your weaknesses, but more importantly, play to your strengths. It’s time for introverts to see their innate qualities in a new light. There’s no stopping an introvert who is comfortable in his/her skin!