Introversion is often mischaracterized as being shy or intimidated by others. In reality, introverts are people who tend toward their thoughts or feelings, as opposed to preferring to engage with the outer world and other people. That doesn’t mean they can’t have great discussions, be engaged with colleagues at work or even be the life of the party — it just means that sometimes, in contrast to most extroverts, they become exhausted by being surrounded by others and need their alone time.
Because of this, introverts sometimes have trouble finding ways to chime in at work, especially when others are louder or more talkative. This is especially true now that many employees are working remotely or in hybrid settings. It can be difficult to get a word in edgewise when you’re largely communicating over Zoom. So, how do you make your voice heard?
1. Come prepared with an agenda.
Have an agenda prepared, or contribute to the larger agenda ahead of time, so you’re ready with the points you want to cover before the meeting. This
2. Speak up as soon as possible.
If you keep waiting for the perfect moment to speak, then you’ll only get increasingly anxious about saying the right thing — or having the opportunity to speak at all. The fact is, there won’t be a perfect time. So, try to get your two cents in as early as possible to avoid getting more and more concerned about finding that right moment. Perhaps you could even ask to lead or open the meeting.
3. Write down what you want to say.
“Writing it out helps you work from the inside out….We have this misconception that we live in an extroverted culture where we need to think out loud,” says Michael Alcée, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist. “Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to respond to the quick tempo of that meeting.”
This is true both before and during a meeting. When you’re able to process your thoughts on paper, saying them out loud becomes less intimidating.
4. Come to meetings and work events early.
This is a little more difficult on Zoom, but if possible, try to get to work events on the earlier side. That way, you’ll be able to adjust to the setting and potentially facilitate some one-on-one conversations, which tend to be easier to manage than larger chats. You’ll also have a chance to establish connections and rapport, which will make the experience — whether a meeting or networking event — feel more casual and lower stakes.
5. Take a breather.
Something that separates introverts from extroverts is that introverts tend to get exhausted by too much time spent in large groups, while extroverts thrive from it. That means that you need some alone time to decompress and recharge. Try to find moments, however small, during the day to spend some time alone. Perhaps that means taking a walk around the block during your lunch break, for example.
6. Be transparent about your work and communication style.
Some people are simply more introverted or extroverted than others. If you’re on the more introverted side, that’s fine! You are who are. But some of the tension that you might perceive in the workplace arises when people don’t understand each other’s qualities, especially when they’re different from their own.
Tell others, such as your manager, that you’re simply an introvert. This is not a reflection on your work, and it could help others understand where you’re coming from.
7. Give yourself grace.
It’s easier said than done, of course, but do your best to take the pressure off yourself to always be “on.” Speaking up is probably difficult and anxiety-provoking for you. Let yourself relax and understand that this is a process — you’ll need time to change your mindset, such that you become more accustomed to voicing your opinions and what’s on your mind at work. Give yourself that grace.
About the Career Expert:
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.