NEW YORK (MainStreet) Being outgoing and successful seem to go hand-in-hand, especially in American culture. When we think who should lead a party, a country or even a pressing work assignment, we tend to imagine the ideal candidate as a gregarious hand-shaker on a first name basis with everyone from the mail carrier to the senior vice president. But that leaves about half of us out of the running.
We call this half introverts; but who are they really?
They're not simply people we call shy or quiet, says Beth Buelow, CEO and founder of the Introvert Entrepreneur, a company that helps introverts develop both personally and professionally.
Buelow finds an introvert is "someone who gleans energy from solitude and silence and low stimulation assignments."
"So going to a party or big gathering can be stressful, not because of social skills but because it requires projecting a lot of energy outward and not getting a ton of energy back," says Buelow. "An extrovert might go to that same party and gain a lot of energy from the room, and they will feel more energized than when they walked in the room."
That is not to say that introverts don't have an inherent set of skills to aid them in maneuvering the world of work, if they're willing to use them.
Introverts tend to pay attention to details others miss and ask more questions than someone only waiting for his or her chance to speak. These skills lend themselves well to the job hunting process, says Buelow.
"A lot of introverts like to hang out online, look up people they are going to be meeting for coffee or interviewing," she says. "Introverts tend to keep their focus on the position or the company or the goals rather than themselves. So as they are preparing and thinking about what they want to contribute to the workforce."
"That tendency to shine the light on others is a strength," she says. "You can start conversations and learn more about other people and how you can help each other. And along those lines introverts are usually good at doing one-on-one with people. I always encourage networkers to focus on a quality connection than trying to meet a lot of people or working a room."
Buelow recommends the contemplative focus on "a few meaningful conversations where you have a chance to listen, ask questions, and get to know somebody."
"The introvert has to blaze something of an unconventional trail in terms of how they grow their business and how they are showing up in the world," Buelow says. "There is this image that to be successful you have to be super outgoing and everywhere all the time; you have to be good at sales and small talk."
Introverts must be honest with themselves in what they can handle. There are effective alternatives to the stereotypically loud CEO route, finds Buelow. She recommends scheduling in time to recuperate from draining social events and appearances and incorporating thoughtful gestures into your business practices, such as writing thank you cards for new people in your professional network.
Area for Growth: Dealing With Co-worker Conflicts
"Introverts tend to think a lot and forget that they haven't actually spoken what they are thinking," says Buelow. "They forget that people cannot read their minds, so that is where communication conflicts are going to come in."
She advises clients to communicate more than they might think necessary and be transparent in their processes. For especially difficult confrontation, Buelow advises scripting out your words and rehearsing them if possible in order to make the act of disagreement more comfortable.
A Declaration for the Thoughtful
As extra encouragement for people who identify as introverts, Susan Cain, author of The Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, recently released "A Manifesto for Introverts" in 2014:
- 1. There's a word for "people who are in their heads too much:" thinkers.
- 2. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
- 3. The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
- 4. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There's always time to be quiet later.
- 5. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.
- 6. One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
- 7. It's O.K. to cross the street to avoid small talk.
- 8. Quiet leadership is not an oxymoron.
- 9. Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
- 10. "In a gentle way you can shake the world"-Mahatma Gandhi
--Written by Jean-Marc Saint Laurent for MainStreet