If you're an introvert, you already know the world (at least the Western world) is geared toward extroverts. According to Psychology Today, between 16 and 50 percent of the population are introverts. Yet, if you look at how many jobs and social situations are geared toward extroverts, you'd think this number was much lower.
Even our earliest experiences teach us that we need to be extroverted to get noticed; for instance, which students typically get the most attention in school? Not the quiet, mild-mannered kid sitting the back row, that's for sure.
The same holds true in the "grown-up" world. Extroverts thrive when they're around people and activity, and are quick to share their thoughts and opinions on a topic. Introverts, on the other hand, often prefer to be around people in short spurts, and tend to carefully consider all angles of an issue before giving their thoughts or opinions. Which personality type do you think is most comfortable in networking events, business meetings, and large social get-togethers? You got it.
So is it impossible for introverts to succeed in a world that seems to place more value on extroversion? Absolutely not. The key is understanding what special gifts and abilities you--as an introvert--bring to the table. Instead of focusing on all the ways you're failing to be an extrovert, try to focus on how to succeed and thrive given your unique temperament.
Here are 9 ways to succeed, personally and professionally, in a world full of extroverts.
1. Meet like-minded people online.
While many extroverts thrive in new social and professional environments, business networking events or parties can be a nightmare for introverts. This doesn't mean you're unsociable, shy, or awkward--in fact, many introverts are excellent at small talk because they're great listeners and are able to see issues from another's perspective.
The problem is that large, noisy events tend to suck the life out of the average introvert; even introverts who love being with people in small doses.
For this reason, don't be afraid to do some of your networking online, via social media or meetup groups. These can allow you to find like-minded people who you can then choose to meet with offline; sparing you the hours it might take to find such individuals in real life.
2. The written word is your friend.
If you're an introvert, chances are you feel more comfortable expressing yourself in writing than through talking. While extroverts tend to think out loud, you likely prefer to carefully consider an issue before you share your thoughts with others.
Use this to your advantage by writing down your thoughts before meetings or get-togethers. For professional situations, bring along notes or an outline of all the issues or topics you want to see addressed. For social situations, brainstorm some possible topics of conversation you can broach--these are particularly helpful during those inevitable awkward pauses.
3. Be realistic in what you can handle.
It's not uncommon for an extrovert to go straight from a busy day at work to the bar to have drinks with friends. As an introvert, you're more likely to be exhausted by the end of the day, wanting nothing more than to go home and unwind--by yourself.
Be realistic when it comes to accepting social and work-related invitations. Instead of planning social events on weeknights, accept that you're much more likely to actually enjoy social interaction on the weekend. Instead of going to every business networking event and running yourself ragged, choose one or two that seem to be the most valuable and leave the rest.
4. Turn cold leads into warm ones online.
As mentioned in the first point, online networking can be extremely beneficial for introverts, as it allows them to scout out like-minded individuals. It can also be one of the best ways to "warm up" your leads before you even meet them.
Before an upcoming meeting or event, do some research on the people you're going to be meeting. Check out their LinkedIn profile to see what you may have in common, or send them an introductory email letting them know you're looking forward to meeting them. This can set the stage for a successful meeting and help you to avoid awkward small talk.
5. Step outside your comfort zone (from time to time).
Unfortunately, there will be times when you'll be in a room surrounded by extroverts. When you find yourself in these situations, it's important you don't give in to your natural tendencies to just let everyone else do all the talking.
Taking a course like Toastmasters can be a great way to prepare yourself for times like this. Forcing yourself to practice your public speaking and off-the-cuff conversation skills can benefit you in all areas of your life, giving you the confidence needed to step outside your comfort zone when the need arises.
6. Focus on your strengths.
While being an introvert in a world full of extroverts can certainly feel like a disadvantage at times, it's all a matter of playing to your strengths. As an introvert, you're likely to absorb information quickly (because, you know, you're listening), be observant when it comes to group dynamics, and see things that others may miss.
Use these skills to your advantage, whenever possible. Be aware of the strengths that come with introversion, and focus on honing and developing these skills and traits.
7. Don't let yourself get squashed by extroverts.
As an introvert, you're probably not a big fan of drawing attention to yourself unnecessarily. In a business meeting, for instance, you may prefer to sit back and absorb all the thoughts, comments, and information being strewn back and forth across the table.
If you do have a thought or idea to contribute, realize it's your right to make yourself heard. While you may not be as loud as the guy sitting next to you, your thoughts deserve to be heard too. Grab the attention for yourself by holding up a hand and saying, "I have an idea."
8. Fake it.
I once talked to a business associate who had reached a pivotal moment in her life. She was a introvert, and after a particularly disastrous business meeting where she (yet again) failed to share a valuable idea, she made a life-changing decision: Going forward, she would pretend to be an extrovert in moments that truly mattered.
From that point on, she "faked it" in times when she knew she would later regret not having her voice heard. While she says she's still uncomfortable drawing attention to herself at times, she's become better and more confident at sharing her views when it really matters.
9. To be successful professionally, find a job that suits your temperament.
Let's face it: There are some jobs that just aren't well suited for all personality types. Instead of trying to make your personality work with your job, why not find a career where your introversion is actually an asset?
Jobs that value attention to detail, great listening skills, and the ability to work independently are all ideal choices. Careers that demand a lot of networking, cold calling, or public speaking may be a bad fit.
Instead of using up your valuable energy fighting against your temperament, find a career that values and celebrates your unique skills, traits, and strengths.
In a world that seems to value extroversion, being an introvert can be a challenge. But recognizing the strengths and abilities that come with being an introvert can actually give you the upper hand in many personal and professional situations.