If you are an introvert in the workplace, it can feel like a daily, energy draining struggle to compete with your more extroverted peers. It's not your imagination, sometimes the struggle is real! According to a study from Truity Psychometrics, extroverts not only have greater job satisfaction - they are also more likely to be promoted to leadership positions and, consequently, earn more money. But, that doesn't mean you have to be an extrovert to enjoy success and workplace satisfaction. In fact, as an introvert, you have some awesome qualities and natural abilities that your extroverted peers wish they had.
We're going to look at the difficulties often faced introverts and the ways those hurdles can be overcome.
COMMON HURDLES FACED BY INTROVERTS
- You feel as if your progress is limited because you don’t stand out - or stand out for the wrong reasons.
- You enjoy your work, but that satisfaction is dimmed because it feels as if your contributions are often be overlooked.
- You feel as if your stellar work should speak for itself, but your more extroverted co-workers, who seem to spend more time talking and less time working, seem to be succeeding by socializing.
- You know you are a hard worker with above average skills and performance but it doesn't seem to be paying off with promotions to leadership positions
Do these sound familiar? The key to overcoming these hurdles, increasing your job satisfaction and getting the positive recognition you deserve is:
- identifying the unique and awesome skills that come with being an introvert
- knowing how to use those innate skills to your advantage
- adapting your communication style to showcase your awesomeness
First, let's look at what unique skills you bring to the table as an introvert.
- INTROVERTS ARE LIKELY TO BECOME EXPERTS IN THEIR SUBJECT MATTER
- INTROVERTS ARE EXTREMELY OBSERVANT ABOUT THEIR SURROUNDINGS
- INTROVERTS QUICKLY MASTER NEW SKILLSINTROVERTS FOCUS ON THE DETAILS IN THE LEARNING PROCESS
- INTROVERTS HAVE A STRONG ABILITY TO WORK INDEPENDENTLY
Pretty amazing list of skills right? Well, here's the secret science behind that awesomeness:
Introverts have different brains
That's right. Being an introvert, like being tall or having brown eyes, is controlled by biology.
“There have been tons of neuroscience studies conducted on E/I over the years, many of which show that the brains of introverts and extroverts really are different”- Joseph Bennington-Castro
Some physical differences between the brains of introverts and extroverts:
Introverts have larger, thicker gray matter in the prefrontal cortex.
That increased gray matter in the prefrontal cortex means you also have an increased ability to accurately weigh rewards and consequences in high-risk situations and to control your behavior.
Introverts have increased blood flow in the frontal lobes.
An increased blood flow to the brain means you not only may have a superior memory but also have an increased ability to concentrate and retain your focus without becoming bored or easily distracted.
Extroverts tend to “favor the sympathetic side” of the nervous system.
This means that, as an introvert, you are less likely to be triggered and are better able to control your behavior when faced with stressful events.
How can you use these skills to your best advantage in the workplace?
The first step is to make sure that you are the right fit for your career of choice. That might seem like a no-brainer but take a step back for a moment and REALLY look at your job description. Are you in the right field or are you banging your head against the wall because you are trying to fit a square peg in a round hole?
Stop and think about that for a moment.
Just having the right education, experience, and even desire does not mean that you are in the career field or job that best suits you as an introvert. Think about your daily responsibilities and how well they correspond to your introverted skillset.
In other words, seek out the type of jobs or responsibilities where your innate abilities will allow you to shine - naturally.
Communication and Being Introverted
If you’re an introvert in a work environment of extroverts you’ve probably experienced being labeled as “the quiet one”. You may have been on the uncomfortable receiving end of well-meaning attempts to “draw you out”. Worst of all, you may have even been unfairly labeled as having a “poor attitude” and harshly judged for lack of participation in work-related social events.
The non-gregarious communication style of introverts is misunderstood. The fact is, effective communication requires great listening skills and this is an area where introverts excel.
POSITIVE COMMUNICATION TRAITS OF INTROVERTS
- INTROVERTS ARE ADEPT AT DETECTING/UNDERSTAND CONVERSATIONAL NUANCES THAT OTHER MAY MISS
- INTROVERTS ARE HIGHLY SELF REFLECTIVE
- INTROVERTS ARE ATTENTIVE LISTENERS
- INTROVERTS ARE GOOD AT MAINTAINING CONFIDENCES
These great communication traits are often overshadowed because there are some crucial areas where introverts struggle.
NEGATIVE COMMUNICATION TRAITS OF INTROVERTS
- INTROVERTS ARE NOT COMFORTABLE WITH SMALL TALK
- INTROVERTS ARE NOT GOOD AT CREATIVE THINKING IN GROUP SETTINGS
- INTROVERTS ARE UNCOMFORTABLE IN SITUATIONS WITH POTENTIAL FOR CONFLICT
- INTROVERTS ARE NOT GOOD AT PROVIDING GROUP MOTIVATION
Your job may not require you to possess the communicative skills to brainstorm creative ideas in a group, motivate a team to action or resolve employee conflicts - but there is one form of communication that is important in nearly every work setting. And, unfortunately, it's the one communication skill most introverts hate:
- "I come to work to make money not friends"
- "I'm being paid to work not socialize"
- "Just because we work at the same place does not mean we have to be friends"
- "I don’t get paid to make small talk"
- "What is wrong with coming to work to WORK?"
As an introvert, you’ve probably made one (or all) of these statements.
For an introvert, it can be annoying and even exhausting to engage in frequent conversations about trivial subjects such as traffic on the way to work or speculating on whether it will rain.
And, because introverts place a high value on privacy, it can feel intrusive being expected to share personal details such as your vacation plans or how you spent your weekend.
But, here’s an uncomfortable truth - the ability to master small talk can be as important as your ability to produce quality work.
On the surface, small talk might feel like a waste of time. But, as counter-intuitive as it may feel, that “meaningless” small talk among colleagues serves several important purposes.
- Small talk is the first, crucial step in building professional relationships
- Small talk helps foster a positive atmosphere
- Small talk helps others to see you as part of the group
- Small talk makes you appear approachable and likable
In short, small talk is the way you make connections and build bonds.
So how do you add small talk to your arsenal of skills - especially when you are uncomfortable with it? The answer is three simple strategies:
- Taking advantage of the "Silent Messages" rule
- Utilizing your superior listening skills
- Being mindful when planning your day
The Silent Messages Rule
Small talk is not a formal presentation or dissertation.
You don’t have to rack your brain for the “perfect” opening line or response when engaging in small talk.
You don’t have to divulge the details of the fight with your partner or how much spent on decorating your new townhouse.
Successfully engaging in small talk is simply a matter of appearing receptive to, and occasionally initiating brief chats about - well, practically anything. That makes small talk the perfect environment to use the "silent messages" rule.
55% of our communications are through body language, 38% through vocal tone and 7% through the actual verbal content
Smiling, nodding, eye contact, leaning slightly forward, an open body posture and friendly tone of voice all say "hey, I'm a likable, approachable member of the team!"
Use Active Listening
As an introvert, you have great listening skills. That's your secret weapon when you remember that most people LOVE to talk about themselves - and they feel good about YOU when you give them a chance to do so. Use your ability to detect conversational nuances to ask pertinent open-ended questions and, by adding positive body language, you can convey the impression of being a "good conversationalist" - without actually saying much.
Be Mindful of Your Energy
Being an introvert means that you can find personal interaction to be mentally, emotionally and even physically draining. While your extroverted co-worker may be energized after a 10 min. bout of small talk about the weekend, you find it exhausting and need time to mentally re-center yourself.
Don't hesitate to schedule yourself a little time to recharge your batteries when needed.
What's the bottom line to increase your satisfaction and success as an introvert in the workplace?
- Know your unique skills `
- Explore career choices that will best match these innate skills
- Seek responsibilities and opportunities in your workplace where your skills will stand out
- Understand the principles behind the effective use of small talk and practice it with the awesome focus you bring to everything you do
Being an introvert can be a challenge. But, it can also come with great rewards when you make it work for you.
You've got this!