I am an introvert, an INTJ in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator world and basically off the dial on introversion. Yet I have balanced this with a job that involves a huge amount of people interaction, talking in front of groups, leading and participating in many meetings with complex interactions. As a result, it’s not easy to make time to charge my batteries through time alone, even though it’s something I desperately need.
Learning to successfully negotiate this balance is an ongoing journey and finding the time for recharge is a challenge. I’m interested in working my introvert side, understanding its strengths and weaknesses, capitalising on it, identifying what I can bring to a situation. I want to make the best of my introvert abilities and work them rather than have them working, and sometimes exhausting, me.
Here are some key inspirations and influences on understanding your introvert strengths in the work sphere for greater impact and positive outcomes.
Leveraging the advantages of being an introvert at work – Penelope Trunk
This article from Penelope Trunk discusses how the world of work rewards and is basically set up around the needs of extraverts. Her article provides a balance to this by offering some tips for leveraging the advantages of introverts. These tips include:
- working from the world of ideas
- giving full attentiveness for a short, concentrated time
- improving your self-knowledge of your type
- teaching other people how best to interact with you as an introvert, and
- learning about the job roles that would best suit you.
There are also some excellent references for further reading embedded in this insightful article.
Caring for your introvert – Jonathan Rauch
This classic 2003 article from The Atlantic is about understanding the orientations and needs of introverts. It looks at some common myths or assumptions about introverts and provides a balanced point of view. The article takes the perspective that introverts are misunderstood and dogged by stereotypes such as being shy. Rauch corrects this one by saying that “introverts are people who find other people tiring.”
Rauch has some good pointers for balancing time with people and finding time to charge again. His answers to a scan of issues about introverts (are they misunderstood? are they oppressed? what are the implications of extraverts dominating public life?) provide useful perspectives for introverts seeking to find points of strength and balance. I especially love the distinction between introverts who typically ‘think before talking’ vs extraverts who typically ‘think by talking’.
Top ten myths about introverts – Carl King
This article lists Carl’s top ten myths about introverts, in a similar vein and drawing on the book ‘The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World’ by Marti Olsen-Laney. It captures these myths in a pithy way I could instantly recognise. The article concludes:
‘It can be terribly destructive for an Introvert to deny themselves in order to get along in an Extrovert-Dominant World.’
Suggestions for managing this include: understanding the myths, linking in with other introverts for support and the need for extroverts to respect the ways of introverts.
Extroverts, introverts, aspies and codies – Venkatesh (Venkat) Rao
This article is a fascinating summary of introvert and extravert issues but takes a step further into the realm of microeconomicss, transactions and social psychology. The article explores energy in the exchange from the introvert and extravert point of view. It also reviews:
- how introverts and extraverts manage isolation vs physical contact
- 1:1 encounters and their depth
- weak-link social fields such as coffee shops
- strong-link social fields such as family gatherings
- relationships over time and relationships with strangers.
Venkat also looks at how the tension between extraverts and introverts plays out in the slang terms they use or might use for each other. For example, ‘aspies’ (a term used by extraverts for introverts and linked to Asberger’s Syndrome) and ‘codie’s ( a possible term as none exists and linked to co-dependency). Venkat concludes by saying that introversion is becoming far more visible, resulting in shifts in the landscape of social psychology.
The publication of Quiet in 2012 was a significant milestone in the landscape of literature about introvert strengths and how to work them. This book changed my life as I read page after page of narrative that explained so clearly the way I operated in the world. Backed by extensive evidence, cutting edge research, neuroscience and stories of real people, ‘Quiet’ helped me make sense of so much. As a result, I better understood myself and especially my unique powers of negotiation and leadership. The practical strategies exemplified assisted me to work my specific strengths and also manage my energy far more effectively.
These strengths include:
- thorough and detailed preparation
- asking the right questions at the right time
- active listening
- ability to focus intensely and be in flow
- working more slowly, carefully and deliberately
- the ability to take strong positions and come across calmly and with reason
Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler
Jennifer Kahnweiler’s Quiet Influence was another game changer for me in understanding how you can have influence in quiet ways. It provides a response to the problem often experienced by introverts: “In every performance review, I’m told I need to speak up more.” I’ve experienced this and I knew it wasn’t the problem or the solution! This book helped me realise that I had strengths – quieter strengths – that I needed to recognise as such and deploy more effectively.
These influence strategies for making a quiet difference include:
- taking quiet time
- engaged listening
- focused conversations
- thoughtful use of social media
Learning how to use these strategies more effectively made an enormous difference to my impact and influence. I felt better about myself as I was more in flow with my natural energies rather than trying to be more extraverted. Quiet influence is a far more empowering and instinctive place from which to work.
Unpack your introvert strengths
I was fascinated to read in Penelope Trunk’s article above that my type, INTJ, has the longest Wikipedia page:
‘Because the combination of being an introvert and being ideas-driven makes one very interested in learning about oneself. INTJ’s are an extreme case, but all introverts have this combination to some extent, and the self-knowledge will help you put yourself in situations where you’ll have the most positive impact.’
It’s true, I am an extreme case and this summary is a piece of evidence testifying to that, an addition to the INTJ genre. True to type, I can’t tell you how energising I found the experience of researching and writing it.
But for everyone, self-knowledge helps you make the most of your natural strengths. I hope this article is useful in identifying and unpacking your strengths and working your introvert. Or that it helps in the all important perspective of better understanding the ways of those around you.
How do you work your introvert? I’d love to hear!
Note: This post was originally published on my blog Transcending in 2011 as ‘Working your Introvert’. It’s updated in July 2017 to reflect key additional influences since that time.
Feature image via pexels.com and used with permission and thanks.
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