Sharing time and responsibilities with other Introverts at work can be comforting. It can increase your sense of belonging, letting you know that you’re not alone and that at least some of your co-workers can empathize with the challenges you face on a daily basis.
But it takes effort to build a mutual support network with your fellow Introverts. Often, you’ll have to take the initiative when you’re not used to doing that. You may have to reach out to your introverted co-workers in ways you never did before, or take bold actions to show them they can count on your support.
So, what is the magic formula for Introverts who want to better support each other at work?
There really is no magic at all. You just have to reach out and take responsibility for the welfare of your fellow Introverts and have faith that they will notice what you’re doing and reciprocate. Once you’ve started becoming more aware of each other’s needs and begun acting on that awareness, you’ll be stunned to discover how much power you have to shape a workplace environment that is uplifting for all.
To get you up and moving, here are seven strategies that can help you and your co-workers build a supportive Introvert network.
#1 Make the workplace dynamic as positive and constructive as possible
Introverts need honest feedback about their failures as well as their successes, just like everyone else. But when that feedback is overly harsh or blunt, it can leave them ruminating about it for hours or even days, causing them ongoing anxiety that can affect their work performance.
If you occupy a position of some authority, you can help the other Introverts in your workplace by sticking to a positive and constructive approach when critiquing their work. Instead of recriminations, you can offer them suggestions on how to improve their performance during mature discussions motivated by a sense of mutual respect. When co-workers or other managers see you acting this way, it will encourage them to do the same. Hopefully, as more and more people choose the positive approach, it will gradually become the default style for offering feedback in your workplace.
#2 Play the peacemaker when other Introverts at work are involved in conflict
Most Introverts dislike conflict and will try to avoid it at all costs. But contentious issues do come up at work on occasion, and Introverts inevitably will get caught up in some of these disagreements.
When you see one of your fellow Introverts involved in some type of workplace dispute, you can help them by stepping in and playing the role of peacemaker. Try to defuse the tension so your introverted coworker can escape with their sense of dignity intact. If your efforts don’t work, and the person arguing with your fellow Introvert won’t tone it down, you may have to switch from “peacemaker” to “defender” mode. As respectfully yet firmly as you can, make it clear that you don’t approve of the other person’s approach and that you believe your introverted co-worker deserves more kindness and consideration.
#3 Involve other Introverts in work conversations whenever you can
Introverts often have a lot to say but may be reluctant to say it. This is especially true of Introverts who are more on the shy side. This is unfortunate since it means that many interesting ideas go unheard.
One way you can help is by taking on the role of facilitator. In meetings, ask the Introverts in the room open-ended questions about the topics being debated in a way that invites discussions and multilayered responses. You can broaden any discussion by eliciting the viewpoints of Introverts who wouldn’t have volunteered to speak on their own, and then by giving them all the time they need to explain their insights in detail.
#4 Regulate the social environment to make sure it’s not too social
Introverts expend energy during social interactions, and when they lose too much energy they need quiet time away to refresh and replenish. But if workplace socializing is managed carefully (e.g., if certain parts of the workplace are preserved as quiet zones), Introverts may be able to manage their energy levels better and socialize without becoming anxious and jittery.
If you’re in management, you can use your influence to make sure that Introvert-friendly policies are adopted and enforced. If you don’t have any authority, you can still help your fellow Introverts maintain their equilibrium by keeping the conversation and the noise to a minimum when you’re involved in work projects together. While your extraverted co-workers might chafe at this businesslike approach, they will likely go along with it if it’s interspersed with social time and they know it’s what their introverted co-workers prefer. As always, balance is key.
#5 Get to know your fellow Introverts inside and out
In order to act as a facilitator and protector for other Introverts in your workplace, you’ll have to know exactly what their needs, intentions and goals are and also what they dread the most. While Introverts share some characteristics, there will be differences between them as well— shy Introverts are not the same as extraverted Introverts, for example.
Since everyone is different, it may require some finesse on your part to manage those differences and ensure they are taken into account by your co-workers and managers. So if you notice, for example, that some Introverts in your workplace love being praised while others prefer to avoid being the center of attention, you can customize your responses to their successes accordingly and hope that others will follow your lead.
#6 Support each other when difficult issues need to be addressed head on
Introverts may be reluctant to air their grievances or ask management to address their concerns. Often, they will let problems slide until those issues become a source of constant discomfort or anxiety.
This is a habit you should break. The best way to change this pattern is to take another Introvert with you when it’s time to take your complaints to management or to your co-workers. You’ll find it’s much easier to handle stressful tasks like this when you have a sympathetic supporter standing beside you.
#7 Form your own Introverts’ club
If you’re serious about supporting your fellow introverted co-workers, you shouldn’t limit your interactions to the workplace. Why not get together outside the office to create deeper connections and strengthen your feelings of fellowship?
Once you’ve formed your Introverts’ club, you can schedule group recreational outings, informal business discussions, meetings to discuss work-related problems, or fun activities that promote stronger friendships. These interactions will inspire a cohesive group dynamic and promote a sense of belonging that will carry over into the workplace, making it a friendlier and more accommodating space to occupy.
United You Stand, Divided You Fall
You don’t necessarily have to become friends with all the Introverts you meet on the job. Some may not welcome this level of closeness, preferring to keep your relationship focused on common work-related interests exclusively.
But there is strength in numbers, and that is a reality you shouldn’t overlook – especially if you’ve been experiencing frustration at work over troubles relating to your introverted nature. Your introverted colleagues can and should be your allies as you all seek greater collective empowerment. When you collaborate with unselfish intentions, you’ll be co-creating a workplace environment that is safer, more receptive and more inclusive than ever before.