When you think of diversity and inclusion, accepting people of different races, religions, cultures, and gender orientations might come to mind. However, another important aspect of diversity is also accepting people of different personality types—and learning to work well with and manage people whose styles are different from your own.
If you’re an introvert, or someone who refuels during your quiet time, you spend more time "doing" than talking about what you're doing. As a result, you’re often overlooked for opportunities for yourself, your team, and even your organization. It should come as no surprise that while introverts are stigmatized in our society, we have a lot to contribute. By embracing our quiet characteristics, they become strengths in our lives, and in the workplace.
I’m about to share three tips for thriving in your career as an introvert. We'll first look at how your introvert characteristics can serve as strengths, and ultimately how to use those strengths to your advantage. Extroverts can also benefit from this information to help them understand how introverts move about in the world.
1. Characteristic common to introverts: Introverts are more detail oriented – we cross the t’s and dot the i’s. As a result, many of us gravitate to becoming accountants, actuaries, IT professionals, scientists, librarians, and editors—as opposed to extroverts who get bored by too much detail.
Strength common to introverts: So if you’re an introvert, you’re more patient with the nitty gritty, and as a result, are better equipped to keep track of the particulars that matter to your customers and other stakeholders. For example, a colleague of mine is an introvert we’ll call Maria who’s successful at her sales job. She succeeds in a different way from many extroverts she works with. She keeps detailed records about the needs and wants of each of her clients and prospects. This way when she speaks with them, she can cut to the chase and make her clients feel important, all the while making the sale.
Tip for introverts: Delight in the details. Don’t minimize the value of being detail oriented— even if others don’t always appreciate it. An eye to details might not make you the life of the party, but without those details, everyone would be in the dark. You think things through to ensure the best outcome for meetings, presentations, and proposals, to name a few business applications. It’s been said that the devil is in the details. But really, it’s hell without them.
2. Characteristic common to introverts: Introverts think before speaking—as opposed to extroverts, who think out loud.
Strength common to introverts: So if you’re an introvert, you’re more likely to say exactly what you mean the first time, which can be impactful. This brings to mind frequent meetings I used to attend during my days on Wall Street. The meetings were often boisterous, with many strong personalities vying for the spotlight. Meanwhile, one colleague we’ll call Lee wielded a quiet authority. He would say almost nothing for most of the time, and then when he piped up, he immediately cut to the chase and commanded the room with few words. He was always prepared with the facts. So when Lee spoke, everyone listened.
Tip for introverts: Speak up. What I mean by that is, sure, think about what you want to say in advance, and even practice delivering your key points. Be mindful of the value of your message, and when you’re ready to speak, do so in your best voice—meaning, take your time, and vary your volume, pace, and intonations. And if you have a hard time getting a word in edgewise at meetings, don’t hesitate to jump in to make your point. You might think of interrupting as rude because you don’t like to be interrupted. However, reframe it as interjecting so you can be heard. You can do so by leaning in, raising a finger, and stating the name of someone at the meeting to get their attention. Whatever you do, remember to speak up.
3. Characteristic common to introverts: Introverts are more reflective and appear more calm—as opposed to extroverts, who are more effusive and outwardly enthusiastic.
Strength common to introverts: So if you’re an introvert, you are more even keeled and spend more time listening which is a powerful skill for building relationships, excelling at sales, and managing crises. As an example of the latter, imagine a man named Xavier has stomach pain in the middle of the night and calls his doctor in a panic. The doctor calmly listens and asks vital questions. Instead of jumping to conclusions, she is able to make an accurate assessment of Xavier’s condition, and recommend a course of action which resolves his pain and enables him to get back to sleep.
Tip for introverts: Listen attentively to your conversation partners. You’ll pick up a goldmine of information that will benefit you in everything from job interviews (on either side of the table) to negotiations to important interactions with clients.
These are just a few tips to get you thinking about how you can use your introvert characteristics—as someone who is more detail oriented, who thinks before speaking, and is more reflective and calm—to your advantage.
For information about how introverts and extroverts can work better with one other, check out "Conquering the Introvert-Extrovert Communication Gap” - Parts 1 and 2”, "5 Things Every Introvert Should Know about Extroverts (and Vice Versa)," and "Screeches to Introverts' Ears." Also see “Introvert- and Extrovert- Friendly Workspaces” to heighten your awareness of your own and your colleagues’ diverse needs.
Adapted from Nancy Ancowitz’s virtual presentation on diversity, inclusion, and introverts to the Atlanta Diversity Management Advocacy Group (ADMAG) on April 18, 2013.
Copyright 2013 © Nancy Ancowitz