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10 tips to help introverts win at work

4 min read


Today’s post is by Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of “The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength.”

Even in today’s noisy business world, introverts can still learn to build on their quiet strength and succeed. The goal is not changing your personality or natural work style, but embracing and expanding who you are. Here are 10 tips to help you make it happen:

  • Have a game plan. Rather than wing it on the people part of your job, have a game plan. Prepare for high-stakes meetings and conversations — anticipating questions and rehearsing your responses. Fact is, just as you strategize for key projects and tasks, you need to plan ahead for connecting with people—and taking regular timeouts to recharge your batteries.
  • Communicate early and often. It’s easy for introverts to be out of sight — and out of mind. So, take the initiative in sharing information — communicating early and often with higher-ups, team members, and project stakeholders. Don’t wait to be asked for updates or news about your accomplishments. Find out what people need to feel confident in you and provide it to them — ahead of time.
  • Match the medium to the message. Resist the temptation to hide behind e-mail. It may appear to be the easiest or safest channel, but it’s not always the right one. For every exchange, match the medium to the message—determining if texting, e-mail, phone, or face-to-face is best. Texting and e-mail may be great for quick exchanges, but they miss the mark in critical high-touch areas, including developing relationships and delivering difficult news.
  • Use social networking to set the stage. Technology is a great tool for preparing to meet people. Use social networking Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter to set the stage for connecting with others in person at meetings and events. You can introduce yourself, find common ground, and send helpful “news you can use” items—all in a low-key yet friendly way.
  • Assert yourself. Assertiveness gets a bum rap. Often confused with aggressiveness, it is simply being open, honest, and direct—asking for what you need and want. If you fail to assert yourself at work, you risk losing career-making opportunities and suffering the side effects of pent-up anger, resentment, and disappointment. Four out of five introverts say extroverts are more likely to get ahead where they work.
  • Get your voice in the room. Without delay, speak up in meetings and conference calls. Try to make your first comment no more than five minutes into the session. Even a quick question, remark, or paraphrase will do. You need to be seen as a contributor, but the longer you wait, the harder it becomes.
  • Stand up to “talkers.” Don’t be afraid to take on the talkers in group or one-on-one settings. There are several ways to stand up and get a word in edgewise. One simple, sure-fire strategy: hold up your hand, give the stop or timeout signal, and calmly announce, “I’d like to say something.”
  • Ask great questions. There is power in the questions you ask. At work, asking great questions can mean figuring out what’s really important to organizational and individual success—including yours. Two invaluable questions for your boss: “What keeps you up at night?” and “How will you measure success?”
  • Value humor. “A smile is the shortest distance between two people,” mused entertainer Victor Borge. As a reserved, inner-focused contributor, you can overcome perceptions of being standoffish or too serious by smiling, laughing, and having fun now and then. You need not “yuk it up”—just be goodhumored.
  • Be a storyteller. Stories put oomph into ideas and help engage and connect people. Make storytelling a part of your own style—weaving real-life anecdotes and examples into talks and presentations. You may not be a natural-born storyteller, but you can learn to spot great stories—and spin a good yarn. Finally, practice, practice, practice. Learning new skills and behaviors may be uncomfortable at first, but with conscious repetition and refinement, you can manage your introversion—and rise and shine!

Image credit, SteveLuker, via iStock