Do you feel drained after large office parties? Tend to think before you speak in meetings? Prefer deeper connections to water cooler chitchat? If so, there is a good chance that you are an introvert. And you’re in good company: up to half of the population identifies as an introvert. So even if you aren’t one, we can guarantee you know one.
Understanding your own personal strengths and tendencies lends itself to self-awareness, which allows us to build on those strengths while addressing our weaker spots. Introverts run a high risk of feeling overextended and stressed in our extroverted-focused world. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to countering that stress and harnessing your introvert superpowers. We also included how extrovert friends, coworkers, and colleagues can help.
1. Recognize what you need
For introverts: Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, and leader of the Quiet Revolution, suggests finding roles that fit your needs. Once you know what you need, you can create strategies to honor it, such as carving out quiet spaces within your office. Or do as LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner does, and make it a point to leave meeting-free slots open in your schedule everyday so you have time and space to reflect and think.
For extroverts: Once you know the conditions in which your introverted colleagues thrive, set them up for success by letting them take over written tasks, or allow them to respond to you by e-mail after they’ve had some time to think and re-group.
2. Learn from the other half
For introverts: While there’s value in taking measures to recharge, it’s important to recognize when those strategies are serving you and when they’re causing you to miss out on potential opportunities for growth.
Take a cue from your extroverted counterparts and come up with a game plan to flex your social muscle. Use personalized coping strategies for dealing with social interactions, such as visiting the venue of a social event beforehand or setting incremental social goals for yourself at your own pace (like talking to one new person per day). Lifehack.org suggests listening to a funny podcast or watching a funny movie or TV show before entering a stressful social situation to lighten your mood. Whatever strategies you employ, realize that just like any skill, stretching your social boundaries takes practice, and is often uncomfortable.
For extroverts: Step out of your comfort zone by taking some lessons from your introverted colleagues. Take a full minute to think before you speak (or act) and thoughtfully weigh your options before making a decision. Sincerely make an effort to hear out everyone’s opinion before drawing a conclusion.
3. Let your strengths shine
For introverts: Trying to match or compete with the volume of extroverted expression is a waste of your uniquely introverted strengths. In fact, it is a misconception that you need to speak up to have an impactful presence. A recent study by the Harvard Business School found that introverts tend to make excellent team members and leaders, due to their shrewd ability to hear and synthesize the various points of views of others before voicing their own.
The key is learning to harness those tendencies as strengths. For example, if your natural tendency is to listen, use this to your advantage by honoring it in social situations—be an active listener and insightful question-asker, rather than forcing yourself to talk more.
For extroverts: Know what makes your introverted colleagues tick. Rather than immediately writing them off as quiet, antisocial, or aloof, take the time to understand what helps them thrive. Make sure to give them the space they need, but most importantly, communicate with them and tune into their needs. If you’re unsure how they’re doing, always ask for input and feedback, since they tend to reflect inwardly.
4. Develop a growth mindset
For introverts: It’s psychologically proven that when you interpret difficult or uncomfortable situations as “challenges” and “adventures,” you feel better-equipped to cope with stress and anxiety. It’s important to be kind to yourself as you step beyond your comfort zone. Rather than comparing yourself to your extroverted counterparts, see them as useful tools in your growth process.
For extroverts: While there may be a ton you can learn from your introverted colleagues, there’s also a ton they can learn from you! Don’t feel that you have to compromise your strengths as you step aside to make room for them to shine. Instead, focus on sharpening those communication techniques and use those extroverted strengths of yours to bolster your colleagues so that everyone can reach their greatest potential.
Elior Moskowitz is an intern at meQuilibrium in the Content department. She’s a recent college grad with a dual major in Psychology and English.