Raise your hand if you’re an introvert.
Introverts are everywhere (one out of every two or three people you know). And they are like icebergs. What you see on the surface is only a small percentage of their entire selves. It’s just that they don’t usually help people to see the rest of them or the strengths they bring to the work environment.
If you work with an introverted person, you’re going to have to look for the substance underneath to fully appreciate introverts have incredibly valuable input at work. Keep in mind that introversion seems to increase with intelligence so that more than 75% of people with an IQ above 160 are introverted.
Here are fifteen things introverts don’t do at work that gives them a marked edge to excel in the workplace.
1. They don’t speak before they think.
While most extroverts will interrupt you when you are trying to say something because they can’t wait for their turn to speak, introverts will take their time before opening their mouth, quietly listening and reflecting in their head instead of thinking out loud.
Joe McHugh, vice president of executive services for the Edina, Minnesota, office of Right Management Consultants explains: “Colleagues and bosses need to realize that introverts often don’t know what they think immediately, and that they need time to think things through before coming to a conclusion.” It’s critical, Joe stresses, that you “circle back to introverts after they’ve had some time to consider things.”
2. They don’t encourage endless small talk.
This is especially true when it comes to engaging with a raging extrovert because, let’s be honest, office small talk is a drain. It will put any introvert out of her element. Unlike extroverts who are energized by such interactions, introverts are exhausted and or bored by them. Introverts prefer much deeper conversations, ideally about philosophical ideas.
Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, explains that it ultimately comes down to how a person receives (or doesn’t receive) energy from his or her surroundings.
3. They don’t crave attention or the limelight.
The thing with introverts is that popularity contests aren’t their thing. They do their best work on their own and don’t really like attention. This is in stark contrast with what extroverts generally like. Extroverts tend to engage in boisterous, attention-seeking behaviors and demonstrate great enthusiasm and assertiveness in a bid to gain external recognition and or reward.
It’s no wonder introverts are often overlooked for leadership roles, even though they make the most thoughtful leaders when selected.
4. They don’t sit all day at their desk, cursing the world and shunning daylight.
Just because introverts like to be alone and don’t like small talk or being in the limelight doesn’t mean they are disheveled, anti-social misfits or loners. They don’t sit all day at their desk cursing the world and shunning daylight. Introverts sit quietly incubating new ideas and executing plans for success.
They create brilliant works of art, launch start-ups, and lead major corporations. They are happy to bring you along with them, just as long as you don’t insist on introducing a noisy crowd into their world.
5. They don’t patronize those they lead or supervise.
The reason introverts do so well in leadership positions is because they thrive by listening carefully, even to suggestions from below. It is second nature for introverted bosses to listen, appreciate and validate great ideas, and highly unlikely for them to treat those they lead condescendingly. Take Doug Conant, an introvert and former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, for example. Doug has been celebrated for writing more than 30,000 personalized thank you notes to his employees. It’s hard to imagine an extrovert doing that.
6. They generally don’t evoke negative emotions in others.
Studies suggest that extroverts feel more positive emotions than introverts due in part to the former’s larger networks. However, it turns out, extroverts don’t always cause other people to feel those same positive emotions. In fact, studies of work groups show that extroverts actually have slightly more difficult relationships with teammates and elicit more negative emotions in others compared to introverts. Many extroverts, consequently, often start out with higher status but lose it over time.
7. They don’t mind networking as extroverts when necessary.
Many introverts are friendly and sociable. They are just as comfortable networking as extroverts because their low-key demeanor is far removed from being shy. As author Susan Cain reiterated in her 2012 TED Talk titled The Power of Introverts, “Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation.”
So there are many shy extroverts, who are hesitant and self-conscious when dealing with new people, but love going to rock concerts. And there are also many sociable introverts who will easily strike up a conversation with people at parties until it’s time to retire to their quieter, more laid-back and preferred environments.
8. They don’t stay silent on topics they’re passionate about.
The prevailing stereotype in many workplaces is that extroverts are charismatic and not shy of speaking, while introverts are shy and never speak up. The truth, however, is that introverts won’t speak unless they have something important to say and or are deeply passionate about a topic.
“Speaking is not an act of extroversion,” observes Malcolm Gladwell, an introverted writer who spends a lot of time on stage. “It has nothing to do with extroversion. It’s a performance, and many performers are hugely introverted.”
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D, a certified speaking professional, concurs: “At least half of people who speak for a living are introverted in nature,” she says. “They succeed on stage – just not in the chit-chat afterwards.”
9. They don’t act rashly.
Introverts have an attitude of observance, reflection and caution. They don’t act rashly.
Instead, they pause before action and are characteristically sure and steady.
This pause, often mistaken for hesitation, gives them time to study and analyze situations so that the actions taken make the most sense in the long run. In contrast, extroverts tend to be more spontaneous and respond immediately, adapting as necessary after engagement. Acting in haste is not necessarily bad, but it is often dangerous.
10. They don’t support superficial office politics and gossip.
There are a many shallow people in our workplaces. These people knowingly or unknowingly prefer to keep things light and superficial. If you are not careful, you can easily get swept away by their endless chitchat, politics and gossip.
Fortunately for introverts, they naturally don’t enjoy small talk or empty chitchat that has no real substance, and that doesn’t go beyond the surface. Introverts just won’t give gossip the time of day, and discussing other people’s business with everyone truly isn’t in their DNA.
11. They don’t feel bored working long hours.
Introverts have an impressive ability to focus deeply on one activity. They actually enjoy (and thrive) working long hours by themselves in environments that are quiet and peaceful.
By contrast, extroverts dread being alone for extended periods of time and easily get bored doing one thing for too long. That being said, introverts are distracted and sometimes overwhelmed by crowds in loud, open office spaces.
12. They don’t mind taking on solo projects.
While extroverts love working in groups or teams and dread solo projects, introverts work well on one-to-one relationships and are naturally drawn to more creative, detail-oriented solo careers that allows them to “dive in” with few interruptions.
The latter’s ability to focus deeply on a subject and work long hours by themselves make them perfectly suited for certain professions, such as researchers, behind-the-scenes tech workers, in-the-field natural scientists and writers.
13. They don’t appreciate interruptions when working.
Introverts don’t like being interrupted until work is ﬁnished because it causes them to abandon focus or thought on the current project. Besides, most interruption by friends requires a certain level of small talk that introverts avoid.
Introverts will actually screen phone calls and let calls go to voicemail so they can return them later when they have the time and energy to dedicate to the conversation. On the other hand, many extroverts secretly enjoy being interrupted occasionally by colleagues and friends after working on one thing for an extended period of time because it breaks the silence and dispels boredom.
14. They don’t miss deadlines easily.
That’s because they are good at processing information and planning ahead. “As long as goals and deadlines are understood, there’s no need to hover over their shoulders and micromanage,” he says. “You’ll get the most out of an introverted employee by giving them clear expectations and a lot of space.”
15. They don’t hate people or colleagues.
Just because introverts are self-reflective and dislike being interrupted at work doesn’t mean they hate people.
Far from it; they just tend to do their best work on their own, prefer a few good friends over many acquaintances, and need to be given air time as they typically will not demand it.
Once you give them that and understand they are more reserved, you can establish a deep and fulfilling personal and professional relationship with them. And you want to be friends with introverts because, in a word, they are hard-wired for excellence in whatever field of specialty they choose at work.