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How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

As an introvert, I value my tendency to reflect and think deeply and to crave substantial connections. I love to listen. In fact, part of my decision to become a psychotherapist was based on my affinity for listening and understanding rather than talking. However, no matter how much more comfortable it might feel as an introvert to listen, it is necessary on occasion to be able to talk, and to talk with some authority, feeling able to voice your opinion when you need to. Over time it can become frustrating and depleting for introverts if we find that we’re not able to express ourselves much at all – or that when we do, no-one is listening!

When it comes to friends and partners, you can choose who you spend time with and can navigate those relationships in your own time and in your own way. But when it comes to relationships that we can’t choose, such as colleagues or family members, trying to be heard amongst loud groups or people who are extroverts can be exhausting.

It’s vital not to try to override your introvert qualities for the sake of being heard, but being introverted rarely sets us up to ‘shout the loudest’. So, being an introvert but wanting to be heard can sometimes feel impossible. An introvert needs to have time to consider, reflect and prepare first means that by the time we’re ready to contribute a well thought-out comment your extrovert colleague has probably made their point and moved the conversation on to a different topic!

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Here are some tips, from one introvert to another, on how to be heard and find your voice in group settings and around extroverts.

Pick your battles – learn how to interrupt 

Interrupting is difficult for introverts. As an introverted psychotherapist, I’ve struggled for years to get comfortable with interrupting people at salient moments to add in something of benefit. I’m still not comfortable with it overall, however. Interrupting goes against the grain for introverts but sometimes it’s necessary to interrupt in order to be heard. Other times, however, it’s simply not worth it. Well-timed interruption, or intelligent interrupting, is a skill that can be learnt and is a skill that is sometimes vital if you want to get in a word in with some more extrovert or chatty counterparts.

I’m not suggesting that interrupting is always the way to go, but if you don’t find a way to do it from time to time it’s likely that you’ll be railroaded in most conversations. I know we introverts prefer to listen but sometimes we need to communicate some of our thoughts so that we don’t feel perpetually overlooked or excluded, and so that an alternative perspective is offered. Interrupt when you either really want to contribute something or when you’re starting to feel downtrodden or used as a sounding board.

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If there’s no natural pause just start talking…as I write that it goes against everything I know and treasure about relationships. It seems unbelievably rude to just start talking over someone, however, I’ve come to realise that the reason I find it such an awful concept is because I would hate for someone to interrupt me harshly. However, people have different levels of sensitivity and not everyone will be  as offended by being interrupted as you might assume. I’ve found that extroverts or very talkative people often don’t actually mind being interrupted (this was quite a revelation for me following years of withholding information for fear of being rude!). Test the waters a bit for yourself. Now and then interrupt someone when they’re not leaving a gap for you to talk and observe their response.

Work with your introvert strengths

Generally as introverts we tend to find giving instant responses in conversation challenging. Contributing to conversations off the cuff isn’t usually easy because it doesn’t allow any time for the reflection and thought that we crave. As Susan Cain writes about introverts, “They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.”

Marti Olsen Laney has written about the reason introverts take longer to respond saying that “it’s because they have a longer neural pathway for processing stimuli because introverts process information through a pathway associated with long term memory and planning, so it’s more complicated (and takes longer) for introverts to process events interactions and their surroundings.” This longer processing can slow down input into conversations. Quick responses and starting up new topics of conversation might not be your strong suit but you will probably find that you’re naturally curious and have questions during most interactions. The tendency for introverts to ask why and to want to understand is one of our most valuable social assets.

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If contributing new information or telling a story doesn’t feel natural (and it almost never does!) then work with your strengths and ask questions instead. It’s a good way to contribute and become part of group discussions in a way that’s less jarring than trying to match our extrovert counterparts. Asking questions gets you heard in a more subtle way than trying to interject with a captivating story or by speaking the loudest. It can help you to influence the direction of your conversations whilst playing to your strengths.

Another introvert strength is that we often find solace in writing. Depending on the circumstances a well-timed and thought through email can be more beneficial that a face to face conversation. Although emails or texts can’t replace face to face interactions, there is definitely a time and a place to get your message across by writing it versus not communicating your point at all.

Be patient 

It’s often the case that extroverts seem to make quick gains in situations that require social interaction; in the workplace, when socialising and at family functions. Introvert qualities, however, like listening, reflecting, considering and thinking deeply all contribute to playing the long game instead. It will probably be hard to always be heard sometimes, but your actions and the way you might naturally execute your plans will allow you to be seen fully at some point rather than just heard instantly. Be patient as the introvert route is likely to take longer. As Sophia Dembling writes “Extroverts sparkle—introverts glow”.

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Strength isn’t always found in numbers

It’s likely that you naturally form bonds one on one with people rather than in groups. If groups aren’t your thing then don’t expect yourself to have a loud voice in a group. If, however, you find it frustrating because decisions are made without you in group settings, try to connect with group ‘influencers’ instead. You can be the voice in the ear of someone who is happy to ‘shout the loudest’ and spread the word. If commanding authority in a group is likely to take you hours to build up to and a few days to recover from then buddying up with someone who naturally likes get their point across can be a less draining way of getting your point out into the group ether!

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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Sian Morgan-Crossley

Psychotherapist and Coach

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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