Many people who don’t know me (Blaz Kos) that well or who only know my work from the media and speaking on a stage think that I’m a natural born extrovert – outgoing, optimistic, talkative, adventurous and always in action. The reality is much different, with me being an extreme introvert. Over the years, I’ve acquired some traits that extroverts possess and somehow developed my social skills, but deep down I can’t survive without regularly having time away from the world.
Being an introvert isn’t always easy, especially in a (western) society where extroverted people are more appreciated or, to be more accurate, are in a much better position since their personality enables them to achieve their goals by leveraging many different social connections and being more assertive among people and organizational hierarchies. I’ve seen many introverts who could achieve much more if they’d develop a few social skills or invest in a competence or two usually assigned to extroverts as a natural strength.
On the other hand, there are also several strengths arising from being an introvert that even introverts themselves are often not aware of, consequently not exploiting them. It’s time to put an end to that. As an introvert who’d never let introversion stop me in any way, I decided to share a few secrets for being a successful introvert in a society where extroverts usually shine much more easily.
In this article you’ll learn:
- Why you’re an introvert
- Introverts’ strengths and how to exploit them
- Introverts’ weaknesses and how to abolish them
- A few other tricks to being a successful introvert, like having a switch for becoming an extrovert for a short period of time, and focusing more on prestige than dominance
Introverted versus extroverted people
In order to manage, you must first understand. Therefore let’s first look at some basics and the key differences between introverted people and extroverts.
Introverted and extroverted personality types were introduced by the psychologist Carl G. Jung in 1920. He used the terms to describe two very different characters, where the preference of one is having a more stimulating environment and the preference of the other is having fewer impulses (stimuli) from their surroundings – be it people or any other kind of stimuli (noises, tastes etc.).
As an introvert, you maybe face similar challenges because of sensitivity to any stimuli:
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- I need complete peace, quiet and dark to fall asleep as an introvert. If someone is snoring next to me I can just go crazy.
- I don’t like roller coasters or other kind of adrenalin-inducing stuff much, because there’s just too much happening at the same time to analyze.
- I like simple meals without many different foods and tastes.
- A mosquito in a room or anything similar will annoy me to the extreme.
- I feel a little bit lost in big crowds.
Nobody is a complete introvert or extrovert, but most people can relate more to one type or the other. Some people have characteristics of both and they’re called ambivalent. Being an introverted or an extroverted person also became part of the very popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
If you don’t know whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you can figure it out very quickly, you only need to observe yourself a little bit (or you can take a test, for example, but I prefer self-reflection). If you recharge your energy batteries, especially emotional and mental ones, by social interaction, you are probably an extrovert, and if you recover your energy while alone or in quiet surroundings, you’re probably an introverted type of person.
In other words, if you feel energized and refreshed after attending a party, while in a big group of people or by being very socially active (“absorbing the good vibes), you’re probably an extrovert, and if you feel recharged after being alone or in a very limited company with deep conversation, you’re probably an introvert.
Introversion means preferring the inner world, thinking about ideas and wanting to understand, while extraversion means preferring the outer world, including people, things and a desire for action.
An introverted person wants to understand, and an extroverted person wants to act. We can look for the cause for that on the biological level. Researchers found that introverts are highly sensitive to dopamine – the neurotransmitter that helps control pleasure and reward centers – and that the part of the brain called amygdala becomes very active with interaction (introverts have an extremely sensitive amygdala), thus introverts can feel overwhelmed very quickly.
On the other hand, extroverts have relatively low sensitivity to dopamine and therefore require large amount of outer stimulation. The reason for that is that stimuli travel a longer path through the brains of introverts. Understanding that can help you to realize that intrversion is not simply a personality trait, but a nervous system setting.
Knowing that, let’s look at some of the most frequent nervous system settings of introverts. They:
- Focus on one’s inner psychic activity.
- Can’t socialize for large amounts of time. They have it, but it’s not long.
- Enjoy solitude, reading, researching, reflecting
- Need peace and quiet for good concentration.
- Work best when they’re alone.
- Prefer deep one-on-one conversations and don’t know how to do small talk.
- Are usually surrounded with close friends and family, and don’t like big groups of people.
- May seem quiet and aloof, sometimes have trouble communicating.
- Like to work on complex problems, paying attention to detail.
- Are easily distracted by the environment’s stimuli (need to make sure there are no distractions).
- Introverts are supposed to be more cat people, while extroverts dog people, but who knows.
As it will be explained later in the article, the facts stated above don’t mean that introverts can’t be social, good lecturers or performers, but definitely in a different way than extroverts. Usually the difference is that they need to recharge in solitude after being exposed to active happenings in their surroundings.
Based on Jonathan Cheek’s research, there are supposed to be four different types of introverts, each type having a slightly different flavor:
- Social: Preference to socialize with small groups instead of large ones.
- Thinking: Very introspective, thoughtful and self-reflective, without aversion to social events.
- Anxious: Not very confident in social skills, often thinking about what could go wrong.
- Reserved: Operating at a slower pace, thinking before acting, taking time to start with action.
The important thing is that one personality type is not cooler than the other type – be it extrovert, introvert or any of their subtypes. You can find very successful and happy people on both sides, although some research suggests that extroverts are happier in general. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, the key is to understand yourself better and build your life on your strengths.
There are many successful introverts, including:
- Michel Jordan
- J.K. Rowling
- Bill Gates
- Abraham Lincoln
- Christina Aguilera
- Albert Einstein
- Warren Buffet
- Clint Eastwood
- Harrison Ford
- Barack Obama
- Marrisa Mayer
- Hillary Clinton
- Mark Zukerberg
- Elon Musk
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Larry Page
- Angelina Jolie
- Steven Spielberg
- Marilyn Monroe
- Jay Z
- Al Gore
- Leonardo DiCaprio
- Emma Watston
- even Lady Gaga
Nevertheless, when being an introvert or an extrovert hinders you, you have to go out of your comfort zone and push yourself to become better. It’s the same for both types. Much like introverts sometimes have problems with speaking up or socializing when really needed, extroverts often have problems with things like thinking before acting, focusing, not losing time on too much socializing etc.
The good news is that when you push yourself to overcome weaknesses of one type or the other at key moments in your life that need characteristics of the opposite side, you may slowly become the ambient type, possessing both introvert and extrovert personality traits; then you can experience the benefits of both types and make your experience and understanding of life much richer and deeper, probably also loving and getting along with more people.
Introverted versus shy and insecure people
There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. The important thing is to be aware of it and build your life around the strengths of the introverted personality type. But in order to do that, you must be an emotionally stable introvert. If you are emotionally unstable, or an emotional midget as I like to joke, being an introvert can become an emotional jail. You hinder yourself from being assertive and action oriented. You become a prisoner of your own thoughts and emotions.
If you’re an emotionally unstable introvert, you sooner or later experience big mood swings, anxiety, pessimism and a lack of proactivity and assertiveness, especially in tougher times. You basically block yourself and become the biggest enemy of your progress in life. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, inner strength, inner sense of security and big capacity for love are mandatory for being happy in life.
Source: Image from Sami Peterson from sdsurvivalguide.com
One way for turning emotional lability around is cognitive psychology. With emotional accounting, you can identify cognitive distortions or negative thoughts that influence your dark perception of life and yourself, and correct them. Besides that, there are many other tools for building emotional stability, for example psychotherapy, meditation, transactional analysis, trauma release exercises and many other methods. You have to search and try different options and find the right tool, the right fit that can help you the most with managing your emotions.
In addition to that, as an introvert make sure you don’t do the following for your own happiness:
- Don’t isolate yourself, but have a few deep relationships. Try to build deep relationships with a few family members, your spouse and some friends.
- From time to time, add new relationships to your life, and try and do new things that will kick you out of your comfort zone.
- Take care of your health with regular exercise and a healthy diet. You should regularly go into nature. Meditation and yoga can also help you a lot in keeping a healthy mind in a healthy body.
- You should definitely do meaningful work and take credit for it. You need to see your contribution to the world and how you add value.
- Make sure that you constantly improve yourself, but are not too critical of yourself.
- Don't feel sorry for yourself because you are not extrovert, rather build your success on your strengths and strong foundations
It’s also very important that you distinguish between being an introvert, and being shy or not having the courage to face your fears. There’s a big difference between being an introvert and being afraid of public speaking, meeting people and speaking up when necessary. Social anxiety is not introversion, it’s a fear you must face and overcome.
If you have something smart to say but are afraid, that’s not you being an introvert, that’s pure fear. If you’d like to meet someone, professionally or personally, and are afraid to say hi and break the ice, it’s not introversion, but only fear stopping you from living your life to the full. If you’re afraid to take credit for your contribution, to work in teams, to speak on stage etc., those are all only fears hindering your potential. That’s called social anxiety not introversion.
Extroverts may be naturally better at these things, but being introverted isn’t a good enough excuse for castrating yourself and putting yourself in an emotional prison. Face your fears, don’t waste your life. Fear is a waste and you should remove all waste from your life. If you want to really live a rich life, full of unforgettable experiences, you have to be brave, courageous and bold. You have to face your fears. Your fears are a compass that shows you where you still need to grow and evolve; and that has nothing to do with being an introvert.
In addition to living a bold and courageous life as an introvert, make sure that you build your life strategy on the strengths of introversion, and that you know how to manage and overcome the weaknesses.
Strengths of introverted people
Being an introvert means that you have many strengths you should take advantage of. Let’s look at some of the most frequent strengths of introverts and how to make sure that these strengths work in your favor.
Thinking before speaking and acting
Many extroverts think as they speak. Doing that can lead them to saying things they don’t mean or are maybe even not that important in a certain situation. You can never take back words, and thus thinking hard before speaking can be a great advantage – a great advantage for introverted people. Nevertheless, there’s a very thin line between being completely quiet all the time (weird) and speaking up rarely but at the right moment and saying something meaningful.
If you’re always quiet and never speak up, people will just think that you’re a weirdo, a coward or simply too afraid of life. In that case, you let fear lead your introversion in a negative direction. Letting fear dictate your life is definitely not a good thing, not for your self-esteem, not for your goals and not for your social advancement.
That’s why you need to have courage and develop a positive side of being an introvert, meaning thinking hard before speaking, but still starting to move your lips when necessary. To be more precise, here’s what you should do as an introvert:
- Make sure that you speak up when you have something important to say. Don’t let your fear win. The only way you can defeat fear is to do it. When you have something to say and you’re afraid, push yourself. It only takes a second of courage to start speaking and then things will be much easier. Just do it.
- Before you speak up, take advantage of your ability to observe other people, the environment you’re in and the energy flow in the room. It will help you address the audience with the right words as well as help you to adjust your body language and account for the emotional status of every individual in the room to form the best possible overall statement and point.
- Since you don’t speak too frequently, people will pay more attention to what you say when you do speak up. That means that your words will have more value if you say something smart.
- Because you’re an introvert, you probably have the ability to study things better and faster, so when you do say something make sure that it’s an eye-opener and makes more sense than what everyone else said before you, based on putting more effort in understanding the topic and the situation, being more prepared and connecting everything that other people said.
- If you don’t speak impulsively, people will trust you more and thus you’ll have access to more privileged information. That gives you a good head start. But make sure you don’t abuse the trust, because you can only do that once.
Introverts are usually much better at written rather than oral communication. If you’re that kind of an introvert, take advantage of it. Maybe some people are great in personal communication and delivering a presentation, but they can only deliver their message to a limited number of people (one-on-one meetings, speaking on a stage etc.). On the other hand, if you deliver your message by using different media (paper and digital), it can reach a much bigger audience.
In the digital age, you have numerous options for how you can take advantage of the ability to communicate great in writing as an introvert. You can write articles on platforms like Medium, do guest blogging, start your own blog, post slides on Slideshare or answer questions on Quora. Today, you can build your own brand as an introvert by producing lots of quality content on different media platforms.
As an introvert, you can easily be good in self-advertising, only in a different kind of way; there’s no need for you to greet big crowds of people, all you have to do is open a word processor or an online publishing platform and start writing. If you have good writing skills and don’t want to take advantage of that, you’re not an introvert, but probably only lazy.
Listening to people and understanding your environment
As the famous saying goes, God or whoever gave us one mouth and two ears. It’s much easier for introverted people to follow that advice. Being a good listener is a very important skill and as an introvert, you can develop an outstanding ability to pay attention to what people are saying.
That brings you a big advantage in every relationship:
- You understand people better and can read their body language more accurately.
- People will appreciate you much more because you really listen to them.
- You learn more and quicker if the other person is talking about important things.
- A better understanding of relationships, moods and different perspectives puts you in a superior position to other people from a certain perspective.
- You’ll be able to build deeper and stronger relationships with more dimensions.
One more important thing when you communicate with people in person: if you’re an introvert, you’re much more sensible to any stimuli from the environment. Therefore make sure that you turn off your phone and all other possible distractions from the environment when you’re talking to someone, and make sure that you’re really concentrated and paying full attention to what the other person is saying.
If you aren’t present in the moment and are exposed to too many distractions, you’ll come out as a lousy, not a good listener. As an introvert, you have only two options: focusing on one thing and being really present or paying attention to several things and not really paying attention to any of them. The latter is only a big waste of time, so make sure you avoid it at all costs.
Much like you can dedicate yourself more to a single relationship as an introvert, so you can analyze the environment better. Every individual is just a wheel in a much bigger system. Understanding the whole system better can help you make better decisions and build a more adequate life strategy. As an introvert, make sure that introspection and your inner world work to your own benefit, not only to dreaming and thinking how cool it would be if you were a superhero. Use your introversion to build a superior life strategy based on a better understanding of how life works.
Creativity and having ideas
Because introverts listen more, read more and take more time for introspection, they can usually also get good ideas when being alone. Don’t get me wrong, of course extroverts can also have good ideas, but they usually develop them while interacting with other people. As an introvert, you can also start the creative process while alone.
This simply means that you have to make the most out of your alone time. After reading, thinking about life or reflecting on your inner world, take time to think of ideas. Take a writing pad and write down all the possible ideas, good or bad.
Every day, try to write down at least 20 to 50 ideas to keep your creative muscle strong. As an introvert, it’s even more important that you write down all the ideas you have, because you can forget them more easily, since you usually brainstorm ideas without interacting with other people who could help you remember or write down the ideas instead of you.
As you probably know, only having good ideas means almost nothing. As an introvert, you probably also have an incredible capacity to analyze, prioritize ideas and connect them to an environment, thinking through what it would take to realize them.
That’s very important, because all people have ideas and so ideas are a dime a dozen. Making a plan for realizing an idea is much better, but what’s even more important is communicating ideas with others and, last but not least, executing them. Don’t only have an idea, use your alone time to make a plan and then execute your ideas.
As an introvert, make sure that you put your ideas to work. Here are some ideas for how to benefit from having creative ideas as an introvert:
- Send selected ideas to your boss or supervisor (by e-mail if it’s easier for you).
- Share your good ideas with friends, family, business partners, acquaintances and other people who can benefit.
- Share your ideas on online forums, answer questions on Q&A sites, make presentations and publish them, write articles.
- Make a plan for how you could bring a selected idea to life by yourself and with help of others.
- Execute your ideas.
- Whatever you do, make sure you do something with all the brilliant ideas you get, otherwise they are nothing but a waste.
Concentrating well and processing large amounts of information
Creativity isn’t the only thing that spark in introverts when they’re alone. As an introvert, you probably also have a great ability to concentrate well, and process large amounts of information. That means that you can prepare better than others, you can be better informed and make creative connections that others don’t see. In the post-information age, that is a big advantage.
Being able to concentrate well also brings the ability to pay attention to detail. In a “fast-food” world overloaded by information, having an eye for detail is very important, because success or failure usually depend on details. Seeing details that others don’t see gives you an opportunity to really have an impact when you say something or you can mitigate risks much better.
As an introvert, make sure that you put yourself in a position where you:
- Develop extensive domain knowledge around your interests and your profession. Make sure that people know you as an expert.
- Especially work on big and complex tasks, where your concentration power blossoms.
- Look for important details that others can’t see.
- Create a superior system of gathering, processing and connecting information.
- Become really good with technology and leverage it for your success.
Working alone and building a strong intimate network
Let’s look at the next two very important strengths that can help introverts flourish in life. The first one is working alone. Working alone can be a big advantage if you’re an organized person. As an introverted person is very important to distinguish between important and urgent tasks and make sure that there are no distractions when you’re working. By doing that, you can become incomparably more productive than other people.
Nevertheless, as an introvert you can be easily distracted by any outside stimuli or your inner volition, also in times when you’re trying to work alone. Mobile phones, random thoughts, a ray of light, nearly everything can potentially throw you out of the working flow. That’s why as an introvert, you have to implement a productivity system into your life and make sure that when you’re working alone, you’re really working. If you manage to do that, you can really become extremely productive and achieve great success.
The second strength is having a strong intimate network. Extroverted people usually have many friends but more shallow relationships with fewer dimensions. Strong, deep and trustful relationships are those that bring the best experiences and solid foundations in life. They can hurt more, but they give you stronger foundations for taking risks elsewhere in life.
As an introvert:
- Make sure you know the difference between important and urgent tasks.
- Build a system that will remove all the distractions from your life, enabling you to really focus.
- Make sure that your inner impulses don’t distract you from being productive. Write down ideas, introduce a “to-do later list” into your life when you get an impulse, learn how to refocus yourself quickly and learn how to manage your daydreaming.
- As an introvert, you have a great capacity for building deep and strong relationships with family, friends and your spouse. Make sure that you do that and it’ll also give you the courage to act more extroverted in other areas of life.
Organizing things and leadership
It may not seem like it at first glance, but many introverted people can become better leaders than extroverted people, it just takes a lot more effort. Not only are introverted people usually better organized on average but, as mentioned before, they also have a greater capacity for strategizing, understanding and reading people, listening to stakeholders and assessing happenings in the environment.
Nevertheless, it takes a lot for an introvert to develop as a leader. The desire to lead must be greater than the need to stay behind the curtains or behind the book. It’s definitely not necessary for an introvert to become extroverted in order to lead people, but it’s necessary for you to gather courage, push yourself and take the initiative to become a leader.
If you want to become a leader as an introvert:
- You don’t have to talk a lot but you have to speak up when necessary. You don’t have to know all people, but you need to have deep and strong relationships with a few key people who can help you achieve your goals.
- You don’t have to be loud and in the center of attention all the time, but you have to take initiative when an opportunity pops up.
- You don’t have to be at every social gathering, but you have to shine at the key ones and push yourself through them.
- You don’t have to socialize a lot, but when you do, you mustn’t mumble, frown, cross your arms or look angry and uninterested. When you do socialize, you must show your best.
- You don’t have to be an outstanding speaker, but you have to be a good communicator, using solid one-on-one communication, the written word etc.
- You may not like changes, but that should be a motivator for preparing for inevitable change that much better and mitigate the risks more professionally.
- It’s good that you think before you talk and act, but you must act. As an introverted leader, you can work smarter instead of harder; but the key thing is to act.
- There’s no problem in taking time for yourself to recharge after executing your leadership activities. But make sure that people know you aren’t hiding or retreating.
Building your name on prestige not dominance
There are two approaches to achieving social status in life: the first one is prestige, meaning sharing expertise and knowing how to gain respect, and the second one is dominance, which encompasses using force and fear over others. Research has shown that building on dominance is a short-term strategy, because new rivals try to outtake your position all the time, while building your social position on prestige can have a long-term impact.
For extroverts, it’s much easier to undertake the dominance strategy. The dominance strategy is usually based on putting yourself in the center, showing off your muscles and superiority over others. It’s definitely not an introvert thing. Luckily, there’s an alternative for introverts and it may work even better than dominance, it just takes more time to shine.
The alternative for introverts is building social position and personal brand on prestige. That includes genuinely taking care for others, sharing information and expertise, connecting people, sharing positive values etc. It’s a path every courageous introvert can take in order to leave their mark on this world.
Weaknesses of introverted people
While being an introvert has many advantages that we mentioned and that you have to put to work for your success, there are also weaknesses of introverts that you need to minimize, abolish or turn into strengths. Thus let’s look at the most frequent disadvantages of introverted people and how to deal with them in a proactive manner.
Making connection with new people and small talk
The two big disadvantages of introverts are the desire to make connections with new people, and that often also includes proactively breaking the ice with small talk as the second weakness. For introverts, having a few close friends is enough and making new connections frequently doesn’t seem to make sense. That’s a very wrong approach to life.
Almost every single person can enrich your life, as a friend, business partner, customer, lover or whatever. If you feel attracted to someone (not necessary in a sexual way) or if any common interest exists, already having a few deep relationships with other people is not a good enough excuse for not making new connections.
There are three tricks that can help you make new connections.
The first one is understanding that you’re already connected to every single soul on this planet. You were born from the same dust (creation by God, Big Bang or whatever you want) and thus you share the same struggles, a similar body structure, emotional experiences, desires, obstacles, and joys of life. We all share Mother Nature and we’re all small parts of a much larger system. A system where you’re already connected to everybody.
You don’t see the connection? Very simply: if you litter the Earth, everybody is exposed to the damage. If you make a few people happy and they make a few people happy, you can make a whole nation happy, and several happy nations can mean a happier planet.
Making a connection with a new person doesn’t require a lot of effort if you look at it from this perspective. Everything is already in place, a connection already exists, all you have to do is turn on an already built connection. Almost zero effort. All you have to do is say hi, and everything else will start following by itself. No need for fear, no need for an enormous amount of effort.
Don't try to break the ice, assume there is no ice. All you need is a second of courage to say hi.
The second trick is dealing with small talk. The thing is that you don’t need to become good at small talk. You can simply skip the small talk and go straight to what’s really important to you. You’ll definitely leave a better first impression, you can start building a real bond much more quickly and if there are really no mutual interests, you can say goodbye fast and greet the next person.
I always start the conversation with a question like “Tell me the most interesting thing about you” or I research the person I want to meet and then immediately ask them a few hard questions about their work, perspective of the world or whatever. It always works and there’s no need for small talk at all. But you really have to be interested in someone, and keep your mind open.
The last trick is to create and do awesome things. If you do things that are just so freaking awesome that people simply know you by reputation and outstanding work, others will want to network with you. You can show how awesome you are with your work.
In that case, you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to meet other people or to engage in conversation. If you do awesome stuff, other people will do all the hard work [for introverts] instead of you. Most artists are introverts and everyone would kill for a few minutes of conversation with the most famous ones.
Summary of guidelines for making new connections as an introvert:
- You don’t have to break the ice, because there is no ice. A connection with everyone already exists, all you have to do is tap into the connection that’s already in place.
- There’s no need to break the ice, go straight to deep and meaningful questions, but make sure you aren’t offensive, but curious and loving.
- Build and do awesome things, and others will do all the hard work that’s usually painful for introverts. The same goes for the opposite sex, if you’re looking for a relationship (for men).
- Don’t stay in your comfort zone at all costs. When you do need to recharge, take time for yourself, but don’t avoid all the potential interaction all the time. You have to see the opportunity to experience new things and meet new people, all of whom hold potential for new strong and deep relationships. Let your curiosity be stronger than your desire to avoid interaction.
Self-advertising, speaking up, selling and giving presentations
The next big disadvantage of introverts can be that they really suck at self-advertising, especially when there’s a need for great oral skills – convincing someone of something. But, much like there’s a difference between being an introvert and being shy, so there’s a difference between being an introvert and not wanting to communicate with people about the value you can create.
If people don’t know and tell people what you can deliver, no one will care. You don’t have to be in the center of attention all the time, but you have to understand the basic formula in business: to capture value (getting paid) you have to know how to create value (innovating) as well as deliver value (marketing). If you avoid one part of the equation, there’s a big probability that you’ll hinder yourself from capturing maximal value (maximizing your potential earnings).
There are a few things you have to do as an introvert:
- There are a few moments in life when you have to clearly communicate what you can do and what you can deliver (job interview for example). Prepare yourself really well for those few moments. These are the moments when you have to push yourself over being an introvert. Practice, practice, practice.
- You can more or less substitute in-person advertising with written self-promotion. Make sure you have an outstanding CV and LinkedIn profile, write articles and blogs, answer forums and Q&A sites, post slides etc.
- Make sure you get recommendations from people you build deep connections with, people who know what you can really deliver. If you have deep connections, people are prepared to go the extra mile for you. Let other people be your advertising boards.
- As mentioned before, make sure your work speaks for your competences.
- You can also choose industries where there’s less need for aggressive self-advertising and sales. Look for industries where introverts are flourishing. You’ll find that industries that work very well for introverts are all kinds of arts, engineering, academia, technology, spirituality and investing.
- Be a quiet producer and hire other people to do all the advertising and selling for you.
Introverts have a great capacity for working alone, but it often seems that they lack the skills to be great team workers. In today’s world, that could be a quite a big problem. An important fact is that the world has become too complex, turbulent and fast-moving for you to succeed alone. You simply need a team of people to achieve great things.
The good news is that outstanding teamwork has nothing to do with the characteristics that extroverts usually possess. Meetings, socializing, pushing your ideas etc. are not elements of outstanding teamwork. Many times, meetings are a waste of time. A team of experts who acknowledge and respect each other is a better team than a team of people where everybody only wants to push their own ideas.
Outstanding teams are small, cross-functional, self-managed with all the competences needed to complete the task. They visualize their workflow, which helps introverted people, have short adjusting standup meetings, the team members are honest but respect each other. After short meetings, people go work productively on their own tasks, often in solitude. It’s nothing that extroverts would do more easily than introverts.
Thus being an introvert has nothing to do with being a lousy team worker. The best performing teams are usually diverse and the same goes for collaboration of introverts and extroverts. In the best teams, both personality types are present. The important thing is that all the team members respect each other and their differences, because in reality, the differences are what makes a team more competent. Only diversity can create something really new and awesome.
Here are some ideas for making sure you’re a good team worker as an introvert:
- Make sure you have a place to work in solitude, but when you do participate at a meeting, play a very active role. Prepare yourself and put the advantages of being an introvert to work (thinking before saying, analyzing more, being better prepared etc.). If you’re going to just sit there quietly all the time, people will see you as a weirdo. Don’t let being an introvert be an excuse for not performing.
- Respect all the extroverts and they’ll respect you too. If they don’t, they’re assholes or bozos, and nobody wants to work with assholes or bozos. In that case, think of changing for a better team.
Because they’re more sensible to any stimuli, introverts are supposed to dislike any sudden changes. Any rapid change in the environment puts introverts under a lot of stress. The problem, of course, is that markets as well as both business and home environments are becoming more and more complex, volatile and unpredictable. In the future, there will be even more sudden changes. It’s a fact nobody can avoid.
Therefore every introvert must somehow prepare to face rapid changes. The ability of introverts to process large quantities of information helps with this a lot.
It’s impossible to predict all the changes and mitigate all the risks, but as an introvert, you can definitely prepare for many potential scenarios that can happen (negative and positive ones). If you’re prepared, if you have alternative options, your stress level goes down fast. That is the secret formula that can help introverts face changes. It takes a lot of effort, but protects health and prevents a person from going crazy in an unpredictable environment.
As an introvert, you should do the following to face rapid changes more easily:
- For the really important situations in your life, you should list what could go wrong and the optimal ways to proactively deal with a change. Every battle is won before it is fought and in the same way, successfully dealing with a change when it happens strongly depends on how well you’ve prepared yourself beforehand. The more you hate change, the better you have to be prepared.
- List all the alternative options you have. Always be aware of the alternative paths you can follow. By seeing alternatives, you’ll know that it’s not the end of the world if a change happens. If you don’t see any alternatives, create one. Innovate your way out.
- Go for inner instead of outer security (70 %). Outer resources are things like status, money, and other things that can be easily taken away from you or lost in a matter of seconds. Inner resources, on the other hand, are your competences, skills, knowledge etc., things that no one can take away from you. With inner resources, you can always create outer resources, even from nothing. If you have an abundance of inner resources, you’ll always feel safe, and rapid changes won’t strike you that much.
- No matter how resourceful you are, make sure you also build some security nets with outer resources (30 %). Have an emergency fund for any unexpected financial hits (3 – 6 salaries), good health insurance etc. The more bulletproof the system you have for protecting yourself, the less you’ll be stressed out about sudden changes. If you aren’t very adaptable, you need a fortress around yourself that helps you deal with change and gives you time to form a new life strategy and adapt. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely much easier than changing your character and becoming more agile and adaptable.
An extrovert switch for introverts
If you’re an ambitious introvert, you’ll find yourself in situations where being an extrovert is sometimes a must. But only for a short period of time. With developed inner resources and competences, you should know when to switch into the extroverted mode, to show that you aren’t lacking any skills to advance in life. After showing that, you can go simply back into introverted mode. It may take a little bit more courage and effort, but it’s worth it. And remember that same goes for extroverted people. Times come when they must show some introverted qualities.
The switch is not about turning yourself into something you’re not, but to show that you have the skills and the balls to be assertive and achieve goals in life. Saying something smart, selling, teamwork, leadership etc. are all skills that can be learned and always improved, by both introverts and extroverts.
If you are an extrovert interacting with introverts
Sensibility to stimuli and all different kind of changes as well as the desire for deep relationships of any real introvert brings much bigger vulnerability in personal relationships. Not only that: introverts are usually better at reading body language, tone and happenings in the room (which means they know better when you’re not honest), they also value a few deep relationships they have to their bones, and that brings a bigger potential for disappointments and pain in life. Therefore let’s look at some advice when interacting with strongly introverted people.
First of all, spend one-on-one time with an introvert. Show honest interest and invite them to talk privately. In most cases, you’ll be surprised at how quickly an introverted person will open up to you. Remember, introverts prefer deep and meaningful talks, and suck at small talk. Thus skip small talk. When they start talking don’t interrupt them, but listen to them carefully.
If you’re an extrovert this may be odd to you, but sometimes your introverted friend will just go off the grid. No replies, no online presence, nothing. When that happens, introverts are probably creating something, analyzing or recharging in their inner world. Respect their need for privacy and being alone. Don’t make them feel guilty for taking time away from you. When fully recharged, they’ll get back to you.
Try to be as kind to introverts as possible. They’re usually very hard and critical of themselves and so they will value every compliment much more than other people, and every critique will make them more insecure. Make sure you give them at least 5 compliments for every reprimand. And the worst thing you can do is to reprimand or embarrass them in public. They’ll never forgive you.
If you’re their superior, first of all let them have more time to get familiar with the surroundings. Introverts need a little bit more time to relax, and even more time to shine, but they will. First they need to observe a new situation and feel safe. In the same way, it’s good if you don’t demand an instant reply when you ask them something, but instead give them time to think. It also helps if you help them find a coworker with similar interests, it will speed up the adjustment process.
In the same way, it helps if you begin by giving them a slightly more complex task to start exploring and processing information. And don’t forget to give them a room where they can work in solitude when necessary, and try to eliminate as many distractions as possible. But don’t push them to make lots of friends and don’t try to make them into extroverts. And remember: values and morals are very important to introverts, so talk about them and respect their integrity.
The same goes for introverted children, if you’re a parent. For introverts, an optimal environment is so much more important for success. It’s mandatory for introverts to have a strong supportive environment to blossom and flourish in. Therefore make sure that your kid or employee or friend has an environment that’s as supportive as possible in order for them to develop their talents.
The formula for success is treating introverted people with respect, empathy and engaging them with a little bit more complex tasks, while having strong and deep trustworthy relationships with them.
Before we come to the end, we can easily bust a few myths about introverts now:
- Introverts are definitely not weird and only some are aloof nerds.
- Being an introvert has nothing to do with being shy or rude.
- Introverts like to talk, but about deep and important topics, not small talk.
- Introverts like people and relationships, but they want to have a few deep relationships.
- Introverts definitely don’t relax by socializing or doing adrenaline things, but they know how to have fun and relax, especially by reading, being in nature etc.
- Introverts like to go out in public, but they don’t need to socialize for a long time.
- You can be an introvert and have outstanding social skills.
- You can be an introvert and a good public speaker.
- It’s impossible to change an introvert to an extrovert.
- On the other hand, assuming that extroverts are bad listeners, don’t like alone time or are shallow is totally wrong. They just have a different way of processing information.
Now that you know how to be a successful introvert, make sure you remember that your personality type isn’t a disorder or an excuse! You have to build your life strategy based on your strengths and when life gives you an opportunity, you need to push yourself towards your dream life, be it as an introvert or an extrovert.