I should know--in the Myers-Briggs assessment, I fell squarely into the introvert slot. You could almost hear the thud. The people administering the test nodded at me politely, in a knowing way, and they handed me my introvert card on the way out. I quickly shoved it in my pocket.
Lately, I've been trying to break the mold. Introversion has many perks in the workplace, such as the ability to focus on one thing at a time, tuning out the world, and reaching a higher level of productivity. Introverts are often the best programmers, the best writers, and the best producers overall at work.
At the same time, there are many challenges. We can be extremely antisocial, and that means we often fail to connect with other people and promote good communication. We create conflicts because, in an effort to avoid confrontation, we don't share our viewpoints, people misinterpret our intent, and we end up slowing down progress on a project.
Keep in mind that you can't change your DNA. It's okay to be who you are. However, you can make minor adjustments to make yourself participate more on projects, communicate more effectively than you normally do with your team, and develop stronger leadership skills.
If you're the founder of a company and have an introverted personality, try putting these practices to work. And you know what? Give me a call sometime to talk about how it's going. (E-mail me to get my phone number or send me a quick tweet.)
1. Make one phone call for every 10 e-mails.
To an extrovert or an ambivert, this one seems almost laughable. Since I work with PR pros so often, I find they are usually the outgoing types. A few don't seem to use e-mail at all. But to an introvert, this is actually a major step. If you use Gmail, you can go to your Sent folder to see all outgoing messages. Go ahead and take a free pass: e-mail all day long, but then add up your sent messages and still make one call for every 10 e-mails.
2. Every time there's a meeting, show up early.
Introverts tend to hide in the back of the room. We slip in unnoticed and take a backseat, then we won't speak up in a crowd. Don't do that. Arrive early at a meeting and force yourself to get to know your co-workers. It's amazing how a little free time can force even the most introspective among us to open up a little. Go ahead and reward yourself (and I mean this with all sincerity) for coming early by then leaving immediately without making any small talk. It will help you stick with your plan. And get back to your task list.
3. Make your bank deposits in person and force yourself to go inside.
This is hard one. Introverts often look for any possible option that does not involve interpersonal relationships. If we can communicate by text or e-mail, we will. However, there are easy ways to change our routine. Going inside a bank is not a Herculean step or all that social; it's not like speaking at a conference or suddenly jumping up on stage to pump up the sales force. Go in, greet the teller, tell him a story about your day, deposit your checks, and then leave. It's that simple.
4. Learn the names of at least three people at every event.
One of my favorite editors of all time once told me how she hates going to press events because she usually doesn't know anyone. I get that. (To be clear--she's not really an introvert, but press events are particularly awkward for every personality type.) The key is to go into a corporate event with the goal of learning at least a few names. Let's say three of them, okay? Feel free to write down the names if you want or add them to your smartphone contacts list. It forces you to be social and also gives you a goal.
5. Get an extrovert to hold you accountable.
We're all in this together, and the key to success with any plan is to find people to hold you accountable. And by "people" I mean extroverts. We can learn a ton about how to meet co-workers for the first time, how to carry on an engaging conversation, and how to act in social situations after work. Go ahead and specifically find an extrovert and ask that person to hold you accountable to your plan to be social. Ask your friend to follow up with you--by phone.
6. Celebrate your success by doing something introverted.
None of these steps are hard. In fact, they are quite attainable and practical; they should fit right into your day. If you do all of them over the next few weeks, and feel you are making progress (e.g., the project is going better, you are dealing with less conflict) then go ahead and reward yourself. Maybe you take some time off from the phone calling or tell your accountability partner you're taking a break. Maybe you buy a book or read more articles. But keep at it, okay?
Do you remember how I mentioned you should call me to chat about your progress? I am serious about that. Drop me a line and arrange the call. And then call a few minutes early.