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Introverts to the Front: 4 Tips to be a Superstar without Taking Center Stage

by Monette Anderson | Apr 11, 2017
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Introverts are enjoying a public relations upswing. Susan Cain’s book on introverts, Quiet, has become a New York Times Bestseller, and her Ted Talk, “The Power of Introverts,” boasts over 6 million YouTube views. Together with her friend Paul Scibetta, Cain co-founded Quiet Revolution, an interactive website and blog for introverts.

However, even with this growing appreciation for the unique abilities of introverts, if you are one you likely find that vocalizing your accomplishments and connecting with your peers at work is more difficult for you than your more extroverted counterparts. Here are four tips to thrive in the office without battling your natural disposition.

Build Boundaries, while Staying Friendly

Many introverts find that they need to control their environment to be productive and limit distractions. Do what you can to make your workspace one that suits you. This may include asking coworkers to avoid interruptions during your peak productivity time, wearing headphones to signal that you are unavailable, or putting a sign on an office or cubicle door to communicate availability. Communicate these guidelines and expectations early to help ease friction among your coworkers—especially the more extroverted ones. Make sure you make time for socializing with coworkers, as it is an important part of melding with the corporate culture, building trust within your team, and keeping communication lines open for knowledge sharing. Employees who have positive workplace relationships are happier at work, which leads to more productivity, creativity, and overall success.

Rock Your Preferred Mode of Communication

If speaking up in meetings and putting yourself in the spotlight causes the hair on your arms to prickle, take charge of how you communicate. Many introverts say that written communication is their preferred mode of collaborating. If that’s true for you, learn to use it to your advantage. Before a meeting or phone call, request that your collaborators email any questions or discussion points in advance, so you can prepare. Try writing out your thoughts beforehand to organize what you want to say. Reduce the pressure to speak a lot during a meeting by emailing your thoughts and ideas to key team members afterwards, or by helping to create a written summary and action plan on behalf of the team to keep things moving.

Reject the idea that if you do not excel at small talk you should just give up on networking. Writing down some conversation topics before a networking event can help give you the confidence to break the ice. Remember that networking is about creating quality business relationships, and being a good listener sets you up to do just that.

Keep a Portfolio

If verbalizing your success is difficult for you, try keeping a portfolio of your work instead. This can help you highlight your accomplishments in meetings, reviews, or even a job interview. Being able to show evidence of your key skills and achievements will take the burden off the draining process of talking about yourself. It will also set you apart from the pack. 

Don’t Be a Shrinking Violet

Don’t pass up opportunities to speak your mind! When the louder or bolder members of your team start to take over in a meeting, keep your place in the conversation by raising your hand and saying, “I’d like to say something.” Utilize casual, one-on-one interactions to mention the great work you’re doing. The next time your boss casually asks how you are, try replacing a stock response like “fine” with a more detailed one like “I’m doing great! That project I was assigned to just wrapped up and you’ll be excited about the results.”

No one wants to spend 8+ hours a day in a work environment pretending to be someone they’re not. Claim your introvert title proudly. Nurture the activities and space you need to recharge and thrive at work.

Could you use more tips like these? Register for one of the WSCPA’s upcoming Leadership Lens events (in Bellevue or Spokane), where Beth Buelow will share business development strategies for introverts who have to sell, and provide tips for extroverts to channel introvert energy in their own sales approaches. Plus, WSCPA student members enjoy special pricing.

Monette-Anderson-HeadshotMonette Anderson is the WSCPA Academic Relations Coordinator. You can reach her at manderson@wscpa.org.

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