Wait. What? Isn’t this backwards? If you did a double-take when you read this headline, you’re probably not alone. Most of us are used to hearing that Introverts need to be more extraverted to have the advantage at work. But, could the opposite sometimes be true?
With so many books and articles about the special talents of Introverts recently becoming popular, the often maligned quiet people are finally having their say. But if you ever thought, well, those are nice things if it’s all you have, you might be undervaluing what Introverts have to offer, and what you can gain by imitating them sometimes.
So, let’s explore some of the things you can do to imitate your introverted co-workers that may help you cultivate skills you never guessed might make you more successful at work.
This is not to say that Extraverts don’t think and feel as deeply as Introverts, but if you spend less time talking and clambering to be heard and stand out, you’ll be better able to go deep – in your knowledge and your understanding of both the people around you and the topic at hand.
Depth obviously can give you an advantage in your professional life. If you know a little more, take your analysis a bit farther, and generally go beyond what’s on the surface, it’s bound to earn you respect in your field. And to go that deep, it helps to slow down, quiet down, stop and think – in short, pull out your Introvert skills.
Going for depth in relationships at work can also give you an advantage. As an Extravert, you're probably friendly to everyone. But do you know what your co-workers are really like?
Introverts tend to prefer one-on-one conversations that allow them to go beyond small talk. If you dig deeper in your interactions with others, you’ll learn valuable things about them, and they’ll likely trust you more and open up about what they really think.
Not only will this help in building rapport, but you may discover that the co-workers you didn’t know as well have skills, talents, and insights that can be put to good use as you work together.
Give others a chance
If you feel you always need to be the first to speak at a meeting, or be the loudest voice, or the one who gets heard from the most often, maybe it’s time to step back and give someone else a chance to be heard.
That’s a nice way to treat others, but how does that benefit you? First, when you hear from other people, you gain valuable knowledge and perspective you’d miss if you were doing all the talking. Second, you win yourself some good will from your quieter co-workers, showing that you’re part of the team rather than competing with them.
It may seem counterintuitive, but if you don’t always rush to be the first to be heard, you’ll likely be respected more.
Conserve your energy
By not trying to always be the life of the meeting, you save energy and let others contribute.
As an Extravert, you may get more of your energy from interacting with others, but that doesn’t mean you have to do all the talking, or that it doesn’t use up energy to do so.
By letting others have their say, do their part, and get their share of the credit, you’re less likely to burn out, and more likely to shine when the time is right.
Take a hike (or a jog or a stroll)
Being alone in nature and moving your body gives you a chance to think deeply and creatively. Leave your earbuds (and friends) at home, and let your mind roam while you take in your surroundings.
Letting yourself be quiet helps you experience the perks of being an Introvert. Whether you think of a great idea or just return to work refreshed, you’ll be better prepared to do your best work.
Read a book
If you want to think like an Introvert, walk in their shoes for a while. Along with that solitary stroll, reading is another favorite Introvert activity.
Reading can not only entertain or educate you, but it can give you new perspectives. Reading, especially fiction, is said to help develop empathy and understanding of others’ viewpoints. It may even help you better understand your introverted co-workers and think a bit more like them.
If you spend more time reading, and diversify the type of material you read, it will expand your thinking ability and you’ll be able to talk on a wider range of subjects when you do join the conversation.
Think before you speak
While there’s definitely a time for blurting out whatever you’re thinking, such as when you’re in the early stages of brainstorming, that isn’t always the best policy.
If you spend more time thinking things through and less time competing to be the first to speak, you’re less likely to say things you regret. Unconsidered words can make you look foolish or insensitive, offend others (including your boss), and make you seem less knowledgeable than you really are.
On the other hand, if you think it through first, your words will likely have more meaning and be met with more respect.
Put it in writing
If you’re concerned that experimenting with speaking less will mean more of the credit will go to others, make a record of your ideas that you can show if necessary. Also, more memorable, more thought out words and concepts come with more time to think them through.
Introverts often like to put their thoughts into writing because they have time to get them just right, without feeling pressured to just say anything. By taking time to write your thoughts out, you’ll have an outline for a better spoken interaction when the time comes.
You may also find that writing helps you think more clearly and have something better to contribute than if you just gave voice to whatever came into your mind in the moment.
Listen and learn
Have you ever really observed the quiet person at the back of the room? Do you see how their eyes register understanding as they take everything in, then process it? Have you noticed how they rarely speak, but when they do, what they say is often profound?
Introverts tend to be good listeners. That doesn’t mean they just talk less. Really listening is a valuable skill that allows the listener to make a real contribution..
Speaking less gives you the chance to listen more, and you’re likely to learn things you’ve missed when behaving more like an Extravert. Not only will you learn the knowledge and perspective others have to share, but you’ll gain insight into the personalities and communication styles of your co-workers.
When you do speak, you’ll have something more meaningful to say. And by putting yourself in an Introvert’s shoes in this way, you’ll likely value them more, and they’ll appreciate you for stopping to listen to them.
Introverts have some real advantages because they may listen and think more and talk less, so when they do speak, people are more likely to listen, knowing they truly have something to say.
And by experimenting with some of the mindsets and activities Introverts tend to prefer, you can learn to tap into their strengths without losing your own. It’s the best of both worlds.
Ironically, if you learn to approach things more quietly, you’re more likely to be heard and valued, and that might make for an advantage in your career you’d never thought of. You’ll also likely be better able to understand, work with, and learn from the Introverts in your life and work.