Introverts are often misunderstood. Although introversion is often confused with shyness or disliking being around people, it actually has more to do with how an individual derives his or her energy. Whereas extraverts tend to draw energy from other people, and from being where the action is, introverts tend to get theirs from alone time and quiet reflection.
Given that a lot of social demands can be taxing, many introverts will relish work that gives them the opportunity to work independently, or to have some solo time. Although this can give the impression that an introvert is not a team player to those who are more outgoing, once one understands their motivation can help to avoid such misinterpretations of their behavior.
It is also important to note that putting people firmly in the extrovert or introvert box can be problematic, as humans are very rarely so clear cut. Some people may have introvert traits but also have really broad networks, for example, whereas others might take some time to warm up to new people, but might still really enjoy being in the spotlight. As a result, many people might be more prone to describe themselves as “ambiverts,” or having a balance of both introvert and extravert qualities.
Still, for many introverts, problems communicating with others, either at work or in social settings, can sometimes be a source of frustration. If that is the case, these communication tips will help you get your voice heard and your message across without having anxiety.
1. Use your observing listening skills to your advantage
Although many might perceive you to be shy or even aloof, introverts actually have a unique set of personality traits which can help them to be excellent communicators. For example, because many introverts tend to be comfortable sitting back and observing others, they can pick up details that are occurring within their team. In fact, one study out of Yale found that introverts were better than extroverts at understanding the behavior of people in group settings. By leveraging this strength, you might find that you are able to enhance your ability to persuade, as you will be more attuned to group dynamics.
2. Selective speaking
Another skill of the introvert is their ability to choose words carefully and only speak when they have something of value to add to the conversation. Given that introverts tend to reflect and think carefully before speaking, this can reduce the odds of making rash statements and give you the ability to make an informed response – a pretty good trait to have as an employee or leader no matter your profession!
Unlike your extroverted counterparts who are often freer with their words introverts are far more selective. This might mean that you remain silent during group discussions and meetings. While this can be a strength, in that your responses will likely be well-considered, it might make you more prone to be too conservative with respect to the ideas that you choose to voice.
Therefore, phrases like ‘give me a moment to think about this’ or ‘I’ll just think this through before I respond’ are useful. Not only will they fill in awkward silences and give you a chance to muster your thoughts when questioned directly, they also signal that you are taking the time to carefully craft a meaningful response.
Even if you don’t contribute throughout the meeting, that doesn’t mean that your opinions don’t carry any weight. If you do have a point worth making, don’t be afraid to voice your thoughts. Selective speaking is a key factor in influential communication and you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by how much your opinion is valued.
3. Show an interest in others
Introverts can be prone to keep their social circles small – and that’s exactly how they like it! However, when you are thrust into a work environment, you’ll often be expected to join in with the water cooler gossip and social events.
Even though you might politely decline invites to visit a bar after work or weekend social events, you can still find common ground with your coworkers. Doing so will aid communication in the future and make it easier for you to approach them when needed.
Therefore, if you are approached by a coworker who strikes up a conversation, take an interest in what they have to say. Also, try to be proactive about reaching out to others, and challenge yourself to share information about yourself. This will help to enhance trust and deepen relationships.
4. Think about your environment
Many introverts are sensitive to environments that are noisy or overcrowded, so if you want to speak with a manager or colleague, seek out a place that is quiet and free from the distraction of other people.
Plus, as noisy environments disrupt your usual thoughtful reflection process, you might find that you leave the situation unsatisfied with your contribution to the conversation. If you are privy to an agenda before meetings, take some time to consider it, so that you can consider some points you might bring up in the discussion ahead of time. This can help you to instill a sense of confidence and dampen any feelings of anxiety or nerves. And, while making notes beforehand is a good way of guiding your discussion, you may still find that there are areas that you were unable to cover or thoughts that came to you after the fact. In that case, you might consider following up the discussion with an email after the fact.
As an introvert, you’ll also want to be mindful of how you are managing your calendar. To the extent that you have control over it, try to ensure that you have opportunities to recharge during the day. For example, as an introvert who has a job in which I deal with a lot of people, I can attest to the fact that although I love working with others, if I have a series of back-to-back meetings, I can find myself feeling pretty exhausted by the end of the day. Therefore, if I have too many meetings in a row, I try to schedule in a bit of a break so that I can recharge.
5. Give yourself a break
Introverts may sometimes feel overwhelmed during group discussions, so if you feel like your emotional response is sending you into a place of anxiety, don’t be afraid to give yourself a break. Excusing yourself to grab a glass of water or visit the restroom can afford you a few moments to gather your thoughts and subdue any emotional response.
This doesn’t just give you a precious few minutes to compose yourself, it also avoids feeling so much discomfort that your peers mistakenly get the impression you aren’t focusing on the task at hand or interested in what others have to say. Walk calmly and confidently back into the room with a smile to slot seamlessly back into the meeting.
Even if you don’t require a physical break, give yourself an emotional one as well. While it will be beneficial for your development to stretch yourself to enhance your communication, remind yourself that meetings often aren’t designed with introverts in mind. Therefore, do your best, and continue to work on these communication skills across time.