How to Be More Effective: Tips for Introverts

By Eva Rykrsmith on October 26, 2010 3 Comments

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to work with introverts. Not to be one-sided, this post will provide some tips for introverts. After all, the world doesn’t have to cater to the needs of introverts. These tips are in the form of actions an introvert can take to work more effectively with others – be it introverts or extraverts.

Before I get into it, I again want to emphasize that introversion is a personality trait that stays stable throughout your life – and it is simply that. It is not something to be overcome. That being said, to be an effective leader, you must be able to adapt your style to attain the outcomes you want. Changing some behavioral patterns can be one of those small things that can have a big impact.

Introverts often need some time to work through a difficult problem or think things over before coming to a decision. Since people are not mind readers, this can sometimes be misunderstood. Extraverts—by definition who process information by talking—may mistakenly think that an introvert is indecisive, slow, lacking in social skills, or unwilling to collaborate. It is our human nature to make such judgments. It is unfair, but you can be proactive in managing the impressions that others have of you.

Create Alone Time

One thing you may or may not already do is to create breaks for yourself. You may do this reactively, as in, after you get overwhelmed. But you can be deliberate about it and prevent overwhelm in the first place. If your days are packed with interactions with others, insert breaks into your schedule.

For example, don’t schedule calls back-to-back – give yourself half an hour in between to process the things that were discussed, catch up on email, or read an article. Instead of skipping happy hour altogether, just show up thirty minutes late so you don’t miss out on important team bonding time. You can also plan quiet time before and after important meetings so that you can contribute without experiencing burnout.

Quick tips to be more effective:

  • Write question down. This will facilitate your thought process because now you are interacting with a task/item rather than a person.
  • Buy yourself some time: “Hmm, that’s a good question.” or “Let me think…” By doing this, you indicate to others to wait a second while you think it over.
  • Ask, “Can I email that to you?” You can then provide the answer through the medium that puts you in the best light.
  • Say, “I have some great ideas on that – let’s get together tomorrow to discuss further.” This will give you extra time to gather your thoughts.
  • Take notes during meetings. This will show that you are engaged even if you are not actively speaking up all the time.
  • Don’t apologize for being an introvert.

This post was originally published on the Intuit QuickBase Team Leadership blog and featured on SmartBrief on Your Career.

3 Responses to “How to Be More Effective: Tips for Introverts”

  1. novelevon says on: 9 January 2011 at 3:44 am

    Nice tips! I wonder if done effectively would being an adaptive introvert lead others to perceive one as a mild to moderate extrovert? And could this behavioral change then lead one to perceive themselves differently to match their behaviors and what others think about them?

    • Eva Rykr says on: 9 January 2011 at 8:27 am

      To the first question – certainly, at least I think so. I am an introvert, but there have been many situations where I have been perceived as an extravert.

      I don’t know about that changing our perceptions, though. I’d think that the change would have to be very global and quite persistent before we altered our self-concept.

      What do you think?

  2. novelevon says on: 13 January 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I agree to some extent that persistence is a strong factor; I think in instances of trauma this would be relevant, in regards to personality traits. For the second point, I think cognitive dissonance theory could be drawn upon to explain an altered self-concept, assuming that behaving like an extrovert and being perceived like an extrovert by others was in conflict with one’s beliefs about being an introvert, and that person decided to change their belief rather than behaviors again.

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