advertisement
advertisement

How to be an introvert at work when you’re surrounded by extroverts

It can be hard when everyone else on your team is more outgoing. Here’s how to stay comfortable without missing out on chances for career advancement.

How to be an introvert at work when you’re surrounded by extroverts
[Photo: Lucas Marconnet/Unsplash]

It can be hard to be an introvert at work. You may struggle with the need to speak up in meetings, networking at events, or calling out the accomplishments of your team. You may feel shy and want to avoid lots of social attention.

advertisement
advertisement

The difficulty being an introvert can be compounded when you’re surrounded by extroverts who relish the attention and opportunity to speak out. You may feel like you’re not going to get noticed or get the same opportunities to take on new challenges and advance as your more gregarious colleagues.

Ways to get noticed

Often, when leaders are trying to figure out the right people to include in a project, they draw up a list based on the names that spring to mind. What determines whether memories of you are going to be available (or what psychologists call “accessible”) when these lists are being drawn up?

It would be great if people popped into mind mostly because of the quality of the work they have done. But that’s not always the case. In particular, leaders need to develop a strong association between you as a person and the quality of your work and your ideas.

advertisement
advertisement

Extroverts have an advantage here, because they speak up in meetings (which gets them associated with their engagement with work) and they’re likely to mention projects that have gone well (which increases the association between them and successful projects).

Introverts need to go out of their way to talk with key leaders in the organization in smaller settings to develop a rapport and to provide opportunities to talk about successes. This may include approaching leaders before or after a meeting for a word or scheduling time for conversations to discuss progress and to ask for help on challenging tasks. The key is to find comfortable ways to engage with leaders to make up for the chances to impress others that may be missed in larger social situations.

Dealing with meetings

Of course, just because you’re uncomfortable with meetings doesn’t mean that you can check out of them altogether. Because you’re surrounded by extroverts, the meeting will carry on without you if you let it. But many critical decisions are made in meetings (and being extroverted is uncorrelated with having good ideas), so your feedback and expertise are likely to be critical in helping your organization evaluate options. If you do not share your thoughts, you are depriving the group of important information.

advertisement

You’re going to need to get comfortable expressing opinions—even ones that fly in the face of the prevailing opinion. That will take some work. Take a few notes on what you want to say. If you know the issues before the meeting, all the better: Give yourself a few bullet points and practice talking about them. If not, you can still scribble some notes to work from.

After you know what you’re going to say, don’t overthink the next step. Raise your hand or get yourself on the meeting agenda right away. The more anxious you are about speaking to the group, the less likely you are to do it if you delay.

Finally, say what you’re going to say forcefully and without hedges or apologies. When you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, you will often use hedges like “I think maybe . . .” or apologies “I’m hate to derail the discussion, but . . .” While those hedges may make you feel better about speaking up, they will diminish the impact of what you’re saying on other people.

advertisement

The beauty of speaking up in meetings is that the more you do it, the easier it gets to do it the next time.

Getting attention for your team

As you get more responsibility in an organization, you’re often called on to lead a team. That might be just for a particular project, or it might be baked into your role as people start to report to you. Once you have other people following your lead, you have some responsibility for them and their advancement as well as your own. Extroverts naturally talk about the things they are working on, so key group projects are likely to get discussed as part of team meetings and organizational social events.

Even if you don’t like having attention called to yourself, you have to bring attention to other team members so that other leaders in the organization also know about their great contributions.

advertisement

This is a place where you may be able to shine as an introvert. Because that spotlight glow of attention is painful for introverts, focusing on the contributions of team members gets them attention. At the same time, whenever you play a leadership role, you get more of the credit for successful projects than you deserve. That means talking about the strengths of your team also reflects well on you. It gives you a chance to highlight yourself indirectly. So, talking about the team may be a way to get a few words in at organizational functions and do a service for others at the same time.

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement