“Don’t underestimate me because I’m quiet. I know more than I say, think more than I speak and observe more than you know.”~ Michaela Chung
The quiet one, I was the quiet child who became the quiet adult. I always enjoyed being alone and you could often find me buried in a book. I was comfortable and content.
There was nothing wrong with me, but I was worrisome for my mother. She felt I was too quiet. I went to a small parochial school in a nearby town, and I had no friends near home. My quietness became an issue. As a result, my parents decided to send me to the local school.
Did I make friends? Sure, but it made no difference to me. I was who I was. In my mind, there was no problem, ever. It was my mother’s problem, not mine. I did the same crazy things other kids did. However, I was still the kid who was quiet and spent most of my time reading. To me, that was a perfect world.
Slowly, as I got a little older, I became a little bit more open. Not that much, but it started to become more necessary. Group discussions, debate sessions, reading something I had written to the whole class, all made me squirmy and uncomfortable, but I had to do it.
So the progression began from school and then to work. I always did well, and my performance reviews were always good. I was smart, I was determined, and I was focused. Give me an assignment, and I was committed to doing the best job I could, even going beyond what was required. I always excelled at anything written. It was the group interaction where I was uncomfortable.
That pretty much describes an introvert. Introverts may be quiet, but we are great listeners. When we speak, we give well thought out answers. We are very observant and may learn more about someone by just watching their body language. We may not say much, but we are always focused and are very aware of everything that is going on around us.
Introverts are self-sufficient because we like being by ourselves. We like figuring things out by ourselves. We are great thinkers, and we love to read, are curious and eager to learn new things.
People will refer to us as a reserved person, quiet, thoughtful, and they may think it is difficult to get to know us. We do prefer to sit back and observe, and we are uncomfortable drawing attention to ourselves. I remember it so well when I would be in a meeting listening to everyone else, and I wanted to ask a question or offer an idea but I just could not.
So how do introverts succeed in business?
After a meeting, I would sometimes send an email, call, or stop by someone’s office for a one on one conversation. I would say that I had taken some notes, thought about it, and had developed a plan that I would like to discuss. There was safety with that approach because I did not have to talk in front of the whole group.
I slowly learned to step outside of my comfort zone by using that technique. I decided to take a speech class. Speaking in front of a group is one of the biggest fears people have. It was a small class, which made it much easier, and I worked hard to be more comfortable. Every time I had to present something in class, I would practice. I would have something prepared, and I would stand in front of a mirror and do it over and over. That made it so much easier. That practice served me well going forward in my career.
The most challenging experiences I had were the work-related social get-together’s. I was required to attend, and it was excruciating. I hated small talk, and I could not wait for it to be over. There was nothing easy about it.
I would try to find one or two people that I was friendly with, or I knew they felt the same way I did. I even tried to think of things I could ask people ahead of time. If I knew someone had a particular interest, I would ask them about that. If they were involved in an organization or charity, I would ask questions. I could not wait to leave and would do so as quickly as I thought I could get away with it. That was the best I could do at that time. Now looking back the best suggestion I can make is to relax. In the scheme of things, how important is it? It is not a life ending event. Smile. It is always more comfortable when you smile. You may want to hide in the bathroom, but I think the best practice is to decide before you arrive to walk up to people and hold out your hand, shake theirs, and say hi, how are you. Get it over with and then relax.
Social networking was also the pits for me, and I relate to it just like the required get together’s. I think it is easier now than when I was working. There are so many ways to find information on other people and to reach out to them online. An example would be Linkedin. You can establish a relationship before you meet them face to face, which will make it so much easier when you do. You can use this technique with business associates as well as customers.
When you are at work, you do need to put yourself out there. Be friendly, smile, be social by asking questions. Be approachable. If someone walks by, say hi and ask how they are. It is an easy, natural gesture to adopt.
Your body language is a big tell-tale. You want to appear confident and competent. Do not slouch or avoid eye contact. The way you hold your body and the movements you make all tell a story, and it is a story that everyone reads.
To be successful as an introvert, you have to put yourself out there. Take baby steps, and you will learn to be more comfortable, and you can keep pushing yourself to move forward. You can still be you, but you need to stretch yourself. As you continue to push yourself, people will notice. They will see your strength and your capabilities.
I started my job with a customer service organization in an entry-level position, and I slowly pushed myself to succeed. I worked full time as a single mother and went to college part-time. I used all the excellent introvert skills I had to move up the ladder into a management position. I was named the employee of the year and was a speaker within my organization, as well as outside of work. Was I comfortable doing all of that? Not at first, but by the time I retired, it all felt natural and very, very good.
Being an introvert is not a bad thing. I would say we are pretty awesome because we are.
An introvert is an asset in every aspect of life. Here are a few quotes about the benefits of being an introvert:
Creativity – “Some of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune into their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.” Susan Cain
Academic Performance – “Quiet people have the loudest minds.” Stephen Hawking
Health – “For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.” Jonathan Rauch
Business Success – “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” Susan Cain
From one introvert to another, thank you for reading my blog. Have a wonderful day.