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What is an introvert?There are many different definitions of an introvert: people who are drained by social interactions, people who prefer to keep to themselves, employees who work in silence. However, I prefer a different approach. Introverts believe that their inner world is the “true north” and that everybody is roughly similar to them. Also, they often expect others to function like themselves. Extroverts, on the other hand, believe in the external world and that everybody is different. This means that they can be influenced easier than introverts. I believe that people can be different in different situations and that almost everybody is ambi-vert – a mixture of both. Typical introverts (the geeky IT guy who does not have many friends) and typical extroverts (the flamboyant sales rep whose calling card deck is thicker than an encyclopaedia) are almost always just a stereotype and so very rare that could almost be considered exceptions.
How can you identify an introvert?Having said all that, there are a few characteristics that will help you identify an introvert:
- Needs alone time to recharge, especially after meetings.
- Produces best results when working alone.
- Does not always find the right words or even anything to say.
- Prefers communication channels other than talking and live interaction.
- Has a rich, colorful inner world, imagination, and creativity.
- Prefers the company of close friends, well-known colleagues.
- Dives deep (into tasks, relationships, problems, feelings, emotions).
- Constantly searches for meaning.
Is it bad to be an introvert?No! It is only bad if you do not acknowledge and accept who you are. Studies show that introverts can be more successful than extroverts in general. There are so many famous introverts who are very successful at roles which are typically associated with extrovert qualities. For example, Bull Gates – the former CEO of Microsoft, Steven Spielberg – director and producer, Michael Jordan – basketball player, Albert Einstein – scientist, JK Rowling – writer, Maryl Streep – actress.
Why are introverts successful?Introverts, if they use their skills right, can be successful because they:
- Listen carefully.
- Take time to think about their response.
- Are creative and independent.
- Are self-aware and observant.
- Usually communicate well.
There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. Susan Cain
How to work with an introvert?In order to work well with introverts, you need to be aware of their strengths, encourage, and use them. Below is a list of tips for dealing with introvert colleagues.
Space and timeMake sure you give them the space and time they need. First of all, arrange a meeting instead of just dropping in their room. Send them an agenda beforehand. Give them the time to process. Finally, meet in an environment well-known to them.
Communicate in privatePrefer one-on-one-s over meetings with more people. They will be able to express their thoughts better without other people. Introverts always listen carefully, so make sure you have prepared and rehearsed what you want to say.
Be mindfulLearn to recognize their phases and be mindful of them. Do not assume that an introvert is in a bad mood just because they are quiet. They may be thinking or processing something (from today, yesterday, or even the previous week). Learn what is the best time to approach them.
Processing timeGive them time to process new information. For example, when you call a meeting to discuss something important, ask them about their opinion on the next day. An introvert will usually not speak up but it does not mean that they have nothing to say.
Don’t ignoreDo not ignore them because they don’t speak up. They can usually come up with wonderful proposals if they have the time to process the difficult questions. Make sure you learn how to encourage them to speak to you.
How to work with an introvert manager?What if that introvert is a manager or even your own manager? What if you cannot control the setting? The next section of the article lists a few general tips that you can follow in order to work better with your introvert manager.
Give yourself directionsYou are in a new role and your new manager is an introvert. They will not give you directions and they will not clearly say what they expect from you. An extrovert manager would have probably told you exactly what they would have expected from you. And now you are cursing your luck. But let’s pause for a moment and think? You can see the first case as being empowered to define the expectations and your actions. And in the second you are just a follower. Which one is better? When you need directions come up with a plan and tell your manager what you intend to do. You do not ask but create your own vision. Discuss it with them, then wait for a day. And finally, send out an email with your version of the agreement. Silence is a good thing. If they do not agree, they will reply back.
Listen carefully and read between the linesIntroverts are great communicators, so make sure you listen carefully when they say something. Re-read emails again to make sure you’ve captured all nuances. Ask them for permission to record discussions and replay them later to capture everything. You need to almost learn to read their mind. Remember that only about 7% of the communication is transferred verbally. Pay attention to the body language, tone, and poise. If you want to learn more about Communications Theory – click on the following link: Communication Skills – How to Avoid Miscommunication in the Workplace.
Say the right wordsWhen you have to communicate something verbally, make sure that you choose the right words. Also, rehearse what you want to say and make sure that you will be well understood. Do not chatter or repeat the same things again. Remember, they are very good listeners. Be assertive and convincing. Do not let arguments that are not true or cannot be proven. Don’t contradict yourself. An introvert will catch that most probably unconsciously.
Choose your words consciouslyTry to use words and phrases that they themselves would use. At first, listen carefully when they speak and mentally notate the expressions they use for certain situations. For example, “I see.” means a visual person who wants to see pictures. And “I hear you.” means an audio person who wants to hear the description of the picture. And finally, “It feels right.” means a sensing person who wants to experience the result of the picture. Then, be mindful of the phrases that you are using while speaking with them. Make sure that you paint a picture, describe it, or describe the experience based on their type.
Silence is goodAs weird as it sounds, remember that silence is agreement and silence is good. Do not expect vocal appraisal or “Good job!” expressions. As long as there are no questions and challenges – all is good. Also, give them a day to come up with counter arguments. They need processing time and even if they keep silent during the discussion, this does not mean that they will not challenge you over email the next day.
Seek help and experimentAsk around and find allies with more experience. The person who previously held your position can be of great help. Other people who work successfully with your introvert manager probably know a few tricks. Women are generally better at this than men. Try to find and win them over.
Test and learnTry different types of communication and different channels. Make sure you remember (or write down) what works and what doesn’t. Also, note the different situation when something worked and when something did not work.
Be proactiveShare your ideas, seek approval and information. With an introvert boss you cannot expect them to interfere before the house is burning. Make sure you are proactive. Share in advance what you intend to do and the directions you have given yourself. If the direction is wrong, your manager will speak up. If your manager remains silent, this is a good sign.
Earn trust and deliver resultsThere is no greater gain than earning their trust and delivering results. I covered this topic in my previous article, click on the following link if you want to learn more: How to Approach a New Direct Manager.
Send you weekly reportMake sure they have a way to review what you are doing without talking to you. I always advocate sending out weekly reports to your manager. They have a number of direct reports and they cannot connect with you on a daily basis. If you make the habit of sending them weekly reports, you will achieve exposure, you will have an archive of your achievements, but also, if you are doing something wrong, your manager will see it at most a few days later and will advise you to correct your path.
SummaryIntroverts and wonderful people, worthy of admiration, who are more likely to be successful than extroverts. Different people, can be different types in different situations. Working well with introverts in only a matter of knowledge, preparation, and execution. Typical introverts live in their own world, seldom come out, and do not trust others easily. The key to cracking their shell is to be mindful and observant, to prepare well before your interactions with them, and to make sure you give them the time and space to come up with answers and reactions. Be patient and be consistent!
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