My boss recently shared a story about a movie director he met at an event he managed during one of his early jobs. A total introvert and painfully quiet throughout the afternoon, this particular director seemed uncomfortable with the party crowd. Our boss - a jovial, outgoing guy - put the director so at ease during the event that he earned a spot at an impromptu, private screening of the director's newest film.
During the story, he said, "I wouldn't think an introvert would make a good movie director."
That gave me pause... and, as an introvert myself, I realized that I needed to use my internal "WHOA, wait... WHAT?" reaction to fuel a blog post for the greater good.
Often seen as cold, antisocial, unfriendly, shy or even lonely people, introverts fall prey to several misconceptions. So, in many cases, people miss the opportunity to embrace the strengths of an introvert and view them as valuable assets in a work environment.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, gave a TED Talk in 2012 by that is still one of the most watched videos on TED.com. Since introverts aren't typically seen as carnival barkers - shouting about themselves to get attention - they seem to be a bit of a modern day enigma.
6 Things Introverts Would Love to Tell You
Wallflowers? Not really.
Introverted people can be just as gregarious and social as extroverts, but it's more of a slow burn. If we seem hard to approach, be patient. We like to observe and may prefer at first to stay quiet, rather than risk saying the wrong thing. Often, once we've had a chance to get more comfortable and warm up to you, we'll feel safe to start putting ourselves out there a little more - and you may find one of the best co-workers you've ever had.
We process things differently.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Motor Behavior found that introverts take longer to process information than extroverts, but the findings indicate that they process more thoughtfully than extroverts do — taking extra time to understand ideas before moving on to new ones.
A different perspective.
Don't be fooled by the quiet that I got - I'm just Jenny overthinking on the Block. While I may be quiet in meetings, don't confuse that with my having nothing to contribute. My brain stays very busy... which factors in to the intentionality around my word choice.
When I'm ready to speak up in meetings, my words carry more weight than if I'd just been yapping the whole time.
Speaking without thinking is rarely an issue for us. We always take time to think things through and word our thoughts carefully. Contrary to the stereotype, we can be incredibly charismatic public speakers — as long as we're given the opportunity to gather our thoughts first.
Which brings me to the next important point...
Being put on the spot fuels the nightmares of introverts.
Instantaneous brainstorming makes me squirmy and uncomfortable. Anytime we search for ideas in the moment, being asked to come up with a brilliant idea on-the-spot causes my brainwaves to flatline. While I can eventually eke out SOME ideas, they aren't ever my best. However, as a team we've learned that instead of holding me at emotional gunpoint, getting some prompts ahead of time allows me to give the topic at hand appropriate focus and contemplation. I'm able to come to the table with better ideas to share with the team, allowing for a much more efficient collaboration session.
A leadership style with a focus on team.
Introverts don't seize power. Drawing on our personal experience, we prefer to start leading those around us through our example and inspiration. We enjoy providing teammates with mentorship, encouragement, and value others’ perspectives.
Typically an introvert won't jockey for the spotlight or try to be louder than the other kids to make their voices heard. Instead we prefer to be more supportive, collaborative, and focused on those around us. We need for our efforts to be recognized and appreciated as much as the next person; but it’s a bonus, not our primary motivation.
A tendency toward more insight and empathy plays into strong leadership, as well, because we spend more time listening to people and gathering data about their likes, dislikes, concerns, and interests - instead of worrying about what we're going to say next. When people around you feel like they're genuinely being heard, they feel like an important part of the team.
We LOVE your enthusiasm, but sometimes it's draining.
Whereas extroverts feel energized after social interactions, we need quiet time to regain our energy. It’s not that we don’t enjoy socializing. We can become pretty animated and excited when we can engage in conversations about deep topics...but we hate small talk. Even when networking, we're more methodical - instead of talking to as many people as possible, like we're operating on a points board, we will select a few meaningful connections and build relationships from there.
Introverts are people who get their energy from spending time alone, according to Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength. “It’s kind of like a battery they recharge,” she says. “And then they can go out into the world and connect really beautifully with people.”
We do purposely leave space in our schedules to recharge after social occasions; if we’re forced to sacrifice this, we won’t be operating at full capacity until we’ve had a break.
I'm Just Here to Drop Some Knowledge...
Now that I've given you some things to consider... Check out this article from Inc.com identifying the 23 most amazing introverts in history, which includes Steven Spielberg, one of the most successful and influential voices in Hollywood, at #4 on the list.