How to Survive the Workplace as an Introvert

shutterstock_273946274Full disclosure: I am an introvert.

How do I know? In grade school, my participation grades consistently tanked, despite maintaining straight As. Small talk drains me. I thoroughly enjoy spending time by myself. Oh, and a stack of personality tests tells me so.

Living in a country that is obsessed with extroversion presents a few challenges, including some that arise in the workplace.

Introverts live in their heads. I spend a lot of time observing, thinking and analyzing, and not a whole lot of time talking. Of course I want to contribute, but my silence is often interpreted as indifference. So how can an introvert thrive in the office? Well, being self-aware about it is a good start (case in point: this blog).

Tip #1: Develop relevant questions and ideas before a meeting. I’m the all-time worst respondent when it comes to spontaneous questions that require thoughtful answers. Anyone who has ever been in a marketing class with me can vouch for that. I need time to analyze situations in my head before speaking. Anticipating discussion points and writing down ideas or questions before a meeting is incredibly helpful.

Tip #2: Make your workspace work for you. I understand that open office spaces are all the rage right now, but they’re cramping introverts’ style. Look for areas in or around your office where you can spend some time working quietly and without distractions.

Tip #3: Network in small group settings. I recently attended a PR awards show with fellow HBers. Before I left for the event, my intention was to network and meet a few new people during the reception before the show. And then I got there and my mature, pre-professional intentions went right out the window. There were 200 PR professionals chit-chatting away over cocktails and appetizers. For an introvert, it was a standard case of what psychologists like to refer to as overstimulation. Find smaller events that aren’t so overwhelming and are focused on networking rather than small talk. Big award ceremony? Maybe not. Connecting over coffee? More like it.

Tip #4: Set an intention to have several social interactions with coworkers or industry professionals every work day. Building up your relationships is important in the workplace, especially when the time comes for you to work on a team with your peers. Show them that you’re interested in more than just climbing the career ladder by engaging them in conversations that go beyond shop talk.

Tip #5: Set aside time after work or on weekends to recharge. Don’t wait until you’re burned out to find time for yourself. By scheduling in weekly time to yourself, you’ll remember to do it, feel less stressed and be more productive at work.

Tip #6: Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Avoiding every situation that might push you out of your introverted limits would make for a rather uneventful and unprogressive career path. Catering to an introverted personality doesn’t mean letting yourself off the hook every time you’re faced with a situation you’d rather avoid. Be ok with failure and never stop pushing yourself.

Tip #6: Read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” Or at the very least, watch her TED talk. I always felt quite inadequate compared to my extroverted counterparts until I read her book. She points out introverts’ skills that are often overlooked or underutilized and this made me realize that what I thought were some of my flaws were actually some of my strengths. Cain ultimately makes a case for why introverts are just important as extroverts to society. It’s worth the read.

Mower

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Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

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