In many work environments, being an introvert is similar to being left-handed: Though we represent a sizable portion of the population, the world simply wasn’t built for us. However, thanks to speakers like Susan Cain and her Quiet Revolution, our society is beginning to realize its bias toward extroverts — and its desperate need for the gifts that introverts can bring to the table.
When you listen more than you speak, you take in so much more data about other people — information that gets drowned out when you’re constantly figuring out what to say next. We pick up the subtle hints that others give us about who they are and what they care about. Other people are surprised and touched by how well we understand them, seemingly without even trying — but it’s because we’re actually paying attention to the details that most people miss. People begin to associate us with the feeling of being listened to and cared about — and that will always pay off in the long run.
We love the feeling of being completely immersed in work that we enjoy. We still crave downtime to relax and chat with coworkers; but we don’t require as much external stimulation as others do. We’re happiest when we’re able to work autonomously at our own pace, without constant interruptions or unnecessary supervision. This makes us incredibly easy to manage, because we’ll basically do it for you!
We can be fantastic leaders when given the chance. We won’t seize power — we’ll start quietly leading those around us through mentorship, encouragement, wisdom, and inspiration. We value others’ perspectives and respect their autonomy. We keep our egos in check, and we don’t take risks without thinking them through. The world needs introverted leaders now more than ever.
We’re some of the best coworkers you could ever ask for. Rather than vying for the spotlight or to make our voices heard, we’re supportive, collaborative, and focused on those around us. We still need to feel appreciated and enjoy having our efforts recognized; but it’s a bonus, not our primary goal.
Speaking without thinking will never be an issue for us. We speak with intention, and because of this, our words carry more weight. We’re known for our wisdom and poise because we always take the time to think things through and word our thoughts carefully. Contrary to the stereotype, we can be incredibly charismatic public speakers — as long as we’re given ample opportunity to gather our thoughts first.
We know ourselves on a level that others can’t even comprehend. We reconsider our strengths, weaknesses, past experiences, and future goals on a daily (if not hourly) basis. We’re equally in touch with our shadow selves and our aspirations, keeping us oriented and grounded in reality.
It’s easier for us to communicate from a distance, where we can weigh an issue carefully before crafting a response. Where others struggle to translate their thoughts into writing, we truly shine.
We care about expressing ourselves well and incorporating others’ feedback. We’re rarely careless or callous. We’re so tuned in to others’ experiences and perceptions of us that we simply can’t help it! For our coworkers and our managers, this is a huge plus. However, we can put our desire for others’ approval ahead of our own priorities; if left unchecked, this can spiral out of control.
Even if we know you’re giving us constructive feedback for our own benefit, we may still need a little time to process and accept what we’ve heard. Our characteristic sensitivity makes it almost impossible for us to not take criticism personally. The upside (and downside) of this is that we will never forget what you tell us — we internalize your feedback and take it very seriously.
We sometimes find situations challenging that others might find completely normal. We secretly despise open office layouts — we feel so exposed and unable to focus. We dread making small talk, whether in the elevator or at networking events, because it feels awkward and forced. However, we love connecting with people through deeper conversations about things we both care about — and we can often be mistaken for extroverts in these moments!
We’re easily distracted by external stimuli; and while we might be too nice to say anything, we get very frustrated with constant interruptions when we’re trying to concentrate. Workplaces where people are constantly striking up conversations or breaking up the day with unnecessary meetings make it almost impossible for us to engage in deep thought. (But when we’re in the mood to chat, we just might talk your ear off!)
We’re sometimes drowned out by louder or more persistent voices. Sometimes, when we’re quiet in meetings, it’s because we think through our responses so carefully that we decide they’re not worth stating out loud. Other times, we know that we have the best idea in the room, but we’d rather not have to vie for attention in order to speak our minds. When we’re in an environment where we know we’re respected and our ideas can make a difference, however, we’ll speak up just as often as our extroverted counterparts.
Don’t ask us to come up with brilliant ideas on a moment’s notice. When we’re surrounded by people, all waiting for us to come up with an answer out of thin air, our brains literally fill up with white noise. The work-around is so easy — just send out the prompt ahead of time and ask everyone to bring their ideas to the meeting. We’ll blow your minds with our well-thought-out suggestions every time — just give us that chance!
We know that we can be difficult to get to know, but we don’t mean to be. We’re just as gregarious as extroverts — we just need more time to warm up before we’re ready to put ourselves out there. When we start a new job, breaking into an existing group feels like an insurmountable challenge; we want you to like us so much that we sometimes stay quiet rather than risk saying the wrong thing. Just wait — once we feel comfortable, we just might be the best coworker you’ve ever had.
Whereas extroverts feel energized after social interactions, we need some time to regain our energy. It’s not that we don’t enjoy socializing just as much as extroverts do — we truly come to life when we’re engaged in passionate conversations with like minds. However, we purposely leave space in our schedules to recharge after social occasions; if we’re forced to sacrifice this, we won’t be operating at full capacity until we’ve had a break.
Are you an introvert? What are your biggest strengths & struggles, and what have your experiences been as introverts at work? Tell your stories in the comments!