As a vast oversimplification of human personality, it's often said that most people are either inclined toward introversion or extroversion. And while extroverts are more vocal—which makes them seem like the majority—the reality is that there's nearly a 50–50 split between introverts and extroverts.
Why is it then that introverts often feel so out of place in the office? Despite the business world being made up of millions of introverted professionals, it's not always easy to know how to be successful. But for those who are willing to lean in and grow, there are plenty of opportunities to thrive.
Understanding One's Introversion
Before being able to thrive as an introvert, one needs to understand how to function and what sort of impact this has on them as a person and a professional.
"Introverts tend to be more quiet, reserved, and introspective," author Kendra Cherry explains
. "Unlike extroverts who gain energy from social interaction, introverts have to expend energy in social situations. After attending a party or spending time in a large group of people, introverts often feel a need to 'recharge' by spending a period of time alone."
Within a work setting, introverts tend to speak up less often, prefer to work alone, and crave periods of solitude—such as a lunch break. Extended periods of engagement are taxing and can actually result in lower productivity.
Four Tips for Introverts
Though introversion is often discussed in a negative context, it can actually be advantageous in the workplace. Here are some tips that are successful:
Prepare (When Possible)
It takes a lot of courage for introverts to speak up in meetings. If in a meeting where ideas and suggestions are expected, it's best to prepare in advance.
As entrepreneur Stacey Lastoe points out
"It may take a few minutes of your day or week to jot down notes or do some brief research on the topic that the marketing manager has stated will be the focus of the meeting, but think of how much better you'll feel when you're not only able to nod in understanding, but you're also able to respond to the host as soon as you're given a chance."
Preparation breeds confidence, which subsequently increases the likelihood of engaging in a group setting. Remember this to be set up for success.
Schedule Some Alone Time
If it's known that being around people for extended periods of time results in bad performance, organize the daily schedule so that there are purposeful breaks. Instead of scheduling back-to-back meetings, create a 30-minute buffer so time can be spent alone in an office with a closed door. Lunch breaks can also be utilized as a chance to be alone and relax.
Connect with People Your Way
While extroverts often shine the brightest in meetings and at company parties, introverts are not always willing to put themselves out there in big group settings. If not careful, people will start to think of an introvert as being unfriendly. In order to combat this, be sure to connect with people on an individual basis—which is generally a strength for introverts.
"Take key stakeholders out to lunch or for coffee," career expert Vicki Salemi recommends
. "You can build individual relationships one-on-one rather than in a group setting."
Let Other People in
It's easy for introverts to come off the wrong way to extroverts. It's nearly impossible for an extrovert to understand how an introvert thinks and feels—and vice versa—but an introvert can explain themselves to others. Let people know that work is best completed when alone, and brief periods of time to recharge in solitude are often needed. Most coworkers will respect these wishes and give the space needed to thrive.
Introversion isn't something to run from. If fought, one could ultimately end up frustrated, anxious, and depleted. Embracing the way one's brain works and learning to leverage strengths while overcoming weaknesses will prove to be highly advantageous in a career.
Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.