You would have definitely heard the words “introvert” and “extrovert” either in the workplace or on the television. These words have become common nowadays. If you don’t know what they mean, here’s a simple definition:
Introvert: A shy person who prefers to talk in small groups (1-3 other people) and is overwhelmed when being a part of a larger group of people.
Extrovert: An outgoing and highly sociable person who is prefers to be a part of a larger group of people.
Having an extroverted colleague in the office is great. They are easy to talk to and they get along with almost everyone. Introverts on the other hand, are tougher to handle. We don’t speak open to everyone and are often seen with the same set of people. We are glued to their screens and don’t often move away from their desks. When it comes to personality traits, extroverts often gain the upper hand because of their general likeability.
Introverts are often seen as antisocial and lonely people and even history hasn’t been kind to us. We’ve been labelled slow, unproductive and even unenthusiastic. It wasn’t until 15-20 years ago when psychological research and office surveys found that introverts – more than extroverts – are a better fit to the workplace.
That’s right, extroverts. We are better. Suck it! (#sorrynotsorry)
In this article, I will outline some ways and means of working with us.
We are thinkers and planners.
Introverts are the brains behind the action. We brainstorm, ideate, experiment, and if it doesn’t work, we do it all over again (seriously, we love doing this). So, if your company does a lot of creative work, strategising and planning, allow the introverts to work on their own.
We don’t talk much. So, listen carefully.
Our minds are battlefields. We often have various words and sentences battling each other as we decide on what to say when we open our mouths. In most cases, we don’t say anything, unless something really important. So, pay close attention to what the introvert say. If we remain silent, don’t take it as a sign of rudeness or hostility. We just prefer the sound of silence (Hello darkness, my old friend).
We don’t like meetings. So, write to us.
My colleague found it better to deal with me over emails and text messages. Believe me, it made things better for the both of us. I’ve been able to handle tricky situations via a simple email and my colleagues have appreciate me for it.
We prefer small, confined spaces.
Introverts aren’t really made for open offices. We prefer the privacy and comfort of the small, walled cubicles and rooms. If your company doesn’t have a fixed workspace setting, introverts may not be happy about it. We are also the best candidates if your company offers work-from-home positions.
Respect our space, whatever it may be.
As I said before, introverts aren’t made for open offices. So, there are times when you’ll find your introverted colleague drifting towards a secluded corner or even to an empty conference room. It’s important that you don’t intrude upon their personal space. By giving us some privacy, you are in fact helping us recharge our own personal batteries.
What you know about us is very little. So, invest quality time.
In my previous company, there was this girl who was a text book introvert. Even I had a tough time getting through to her. It wasn’t until someone discovered a Facebook post that we realised that she was in fact an award-winning playback singer. What you know about your introverted colleagues is often very little. So, invest quality time in them and you’ll learn about our fascinating interests and ambitions. We are very much like the iceberg theory.
Don’t make us the centre of attention.
As an introvert, I’ve often dreamt of being popular. But, I know for a fact that I can’t handle being popular. Making introverts, the centre of attention in any scenario or event is a bad idea. We often try to find ways to evade it. I remember a few years ago when an introverted colleague faked a bike accident to get out of speaking at an high-profile event. Becoming the centre of attention is a nightmare for us introverts. What’s more? We also hate these big events. So, don’t force us to show up.
If you appreciate what we did, don’t make a big deal out of it.
My current company has this monthly employee recognition program where they recognise the best-working employees of every month, talk about their accomplishments and have them say a few words. Believe me, most of these employees turn out to be introverts and it can be really tough for them to say something. So, if you want to appreciate our work, just give us something nice instead. It could be anything. I remember that one of my old bosses used to send around handwritten notes to people who did stellar work. If you want to go one step further, give us a fancy chocolate bar or some thing that makes us feel welcome.
We can lead too.
I had mentioned earlier that introverts are often seen as “antisocial loners”. There is some fact to that last part though. We prefer to work as lone wolves rather than be a part of the pack. But, that being said, we are really good at planning and working things out. So, if you want an introvert to lead, you can try asking them if they are interested. While most introverts (including me) are initially afraid of leading teams, we tend to rise to the occasion and deliver quality leadership.
Don’t look at introverts as wallflowers. We may be quiet and isolated, but we do greater things than you would imagine. Some of the famous introverts include Albert Einstein, Hillary Clinton, Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi.