There’s a common misconception that introverts have to mimic stereotypically extroverted personalities to succeed: Be outspoken, always raise your hand and command a room.
But the most successful introverts actually get ahead by avoiding those situations entirely, and building environments where they can contribute in more comfortable ways, says Jevonya Allen, a self-described introvert and author of “The Introvert’s Guide to Becoming a Master Networker.”
“If you know that you prefer smaller settings, you might not want to apply for a job at a large corporation,” Allen says. “If you’re on a team and you notice that they expect you to speak, you might want to talk to your boss about how you can submit your thoughts in writing [instead].”
The concept is applicable in almost any workplace and most regular-life situations. The most daunting part might be opting out of extrovert-friendly situations without bothering anyone else, Allen says.
At work, you can ease the pressure by having a private conversation with your manager. Allen’s advice: Come prepared with clear examples of situations you’d like to avoid, how you’d like to contribute instead and why it’ll make you both happier and more productive.
Preparing those details ahead of time can make all the difference. “We [introverts] have to first of all understand how we show up,” Allen says. “Then you can tailor your environment to fit. That’s what helps us thrive.”
You can use a similar strategy to more gracefully navigate social situations, too.
Take former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who found that events and social gatherings frayed her nerves and grated at her naturally shy demeanor, she told Vogue in 2013.
Ahead of landing the Yahoo role in 2012, the beginning of a controversial five-year run at the company’s helm, Mayer developed a tactic to keep herself from fleeing rooms full of strangers. “I will literally look at my watch and say, ’You can’t leave until time X. And if you’re still having a terrible time at time X, you can leave,” she said.
For those who need help figuring out how to tailor other parts of their lives in a more introvert-friendly way, Allen has a simple recommendation: “Take some of those online personality tests.”
Specifically, she recommends the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for anyone who wants to gauge just how introverted they are, and a DiSC assessment if you want help figuring out how to best communicate with the people around you.
Notably, the scientific validity of both tests has been hotly contested over the years. In this context, you’re merely using the results as an informational tool, Allen says — data points that can help you figure out the best path forward.
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