The main difference between introverts and extroverts has to do with the way they replenish their energy. Introverts need time alone in order to recharge, but extroverts regain energy from being around others.
Sometimes, the demands of a job can conflict with an individual’s needs or preferences. Introverts are especially vulnerable to this. Things like business travel, salary negotiation meetings, or team-building exercises can feel more than a little uncomfortable for some. But, introverts can learn to cope with these challenges and thrive despite them.
Here are a few tips for introverts facing a workplace that definitely was not made with them in mind:
1. Use your magic power — self-awareness.
It’s important to develop self-awareness in order to build a successful career, no matter who you are. Introverts are particularly good at introspection, so the process should come a little more naturally to them.
Everyone faces challenges at work. Learning to anticipate them could make a world of difference. If you’re an introvert, spend some time learning about what that means. The book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, is an excellent resource.
In a TED talk on introverts, the author, Susan Cain, explains the importance of knowing yourself in order to reach your full potential:
It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So, extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation. Whereas introverts feel at their most alive, and their most switched-on, and their most capable, when they’re in quieter more low-key environments. Not all the time, you know, these things aren’t absolute. But, a lot of the time. So, the key then, to maximizing our talents, is for us all to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.
2. Preserve your personal space and time as much as you can.
As an introvert, you need time alone to think and process the world in order to do your best work. So, when your work life challenges that, you’ll have to work a little extra hard to get what you need. Simply prioritizing the need to create time and space for yourself will help you get there.
Give yourself permission to leave a large gathering a little early, if it won’t hurt you professionally, for example. Most importantly, allow yourself to be yourself. Don’t feel a need to be a social butterfly if you’re not one. It’s perfectly all right to be a little more quiet and reserved than the extroverts you see around you.
3. Bring a book, or something else that gives you a break.
Introverts benefit from having some time away from others to restore their energy. But, this can be hard to do if you’re traveling, for example. One simple strategy is to carry something with you that you can use to separate yourself a little, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes. Rather than spending the 20 minutes between meetings chatting in a lobby, find a quiet corner and remove yourself for a few. Diving into a video game or other application on your phone could also do the trick, as an alternative to reading.
Don’t worry what other people will think. You’ll improve their impression of you when you come back into the fold feeling refreshed and strong. Plus, everyone needs a break once in a while. People can understand this instinct even if they don’t act on it as often themselves.
4. Lean on your unique strengths.
Many people find it easy to identify their weaknesses, but they struggle to identify or really embrace their strengths. But, when introverts acknowledge and understand their unique and powerful strengths, they are in a much better position to thrive professionally.
Take the time to learn about the benefits of being an introvert. There are many powerful strengths connected with this trait including creativity, thoughtfulness and being especially self-motivated. Think about how being an introvert helps you succeed at your job rather than just focusing on how it holds you back.
5. Commiserate with other introverts.
Be sure to discuss your experiences with other introverts. At least 26 percent of the population are introverts, so chances are you know a bunch of them. Having a chat with someone you trust about the ups and downs you face could be really helpful. It will help remind you that you aren’t alone. You’ll probably end up having some laughs about all of the things you have in common.
These conversations could help you embrace your nature, which should help you thrive. Also, you might learn some other tips you can apply the next time work challenges pose a conflict. The more tools you have, the better off you’ll be.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you consider yourself to be an introvert? How do you cope with professional situations that challenge that part of your nature? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.