In this career-oriented Q&A, I answer questions from readers about how to navigate the professional world as an introvert: from handling job interviews to fair compensation to making it as an entrepreneur.
What tips do you have to prevent extroverts from dominating the conversation in business meetings? – Connor J., DC
This is an important question, Connor! A recent study conducted by the Kellogg School of Management found that in a typical six- to eight-person meeting, three people do 70% of the talking.
Here are a few ideas:
- Studies show that all of us—extroverts as well as introverts—produce more and better ideas alone than we do in a group. Ask everyone to prepare thoughtfully before the meeting.
- Go around the room, and ask people for their thoughts in turn. This prevents any one person from dominating.
- Stop the meeting periodically to give people time to think, reflect, and write down their thoughts. Then repeat step two, above.
How can introverts receive fair compensation in a work environment when an extrovert befriends them and has the ability to articulate an introvert’s ideas and thoughts? – Marge M. P.
Marge, I think you’re worried about extroverts expressing introverts’ ideas and getting the credit for them? If this is the case, I have a few suggestions for you:
- Before going into a meeting, prepare what you want to say, and give yourself a push to speak up early. The ideas articulated earliest are the ones people listen to most. You’ll feel psychologically more present when you speak up and others start directing their comments to you.
- Look for comfortable environments for expressing your ideas. Consider a blog or a company newsletter—even a short speech if you’re comfortable with public speaking.
- Look for strategic and mutually respectful yin-yang partnerships with your extroverted colleagues. There are many successful business relationships (think Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs) where one person does more of the behind-the-scenes work, while the other does the talking.
What tips can you share with introvert entrepreneurs? – Brad G., Canada
As an introverted entrepreneur myself, I have many thoughts on this!
- When pitching, lead with your knowledge and passion. You don’t need to be the most charismatic person in the room, especially if you’re the most knowledgeable. Passion does not need to be expressed in a showy way. When it’s genuine, people can feel it.
- As an entrepreneur, you have the great freedom to create a company according to your own preferences and beliefs. If, for example, you believe that uninterrupted periods of deep flow are conducive to productivity, experiment with “no-meeting zones” on particular days of the week or times of the day.
- Consider pairing up with an extroverted partner. It worked for Mark Zuckerberg (introverted CEO) and Sheryl Sandberg (extroverted COO)!
When I go for job interviews, I struggle to show my good, introverted qualities. If I say anything about being a quiet person, I know straight away that the employer is turned off. How can I find work but still stay [true to] who I am? Is this possible? Or do I need to change? – Meg H., Australia, via Facebook
You do not need to change; you only need a way to advertise your true strengths in a way that speaks to potential employers. I hope one day our culture will come to think of quiet as an asset! Until then, speak of your ability to focus, your incredible persistence at solving problems, or your tendency to forge strong alliances with fellow team members, one person at a time—whatever is true for you. And take the time to prepare concrete examples of these—stories you can tell of past experiences where you used your natural strengths.
I would also recommend practicing your delivery of these stories with a trusted friend or advisor until you feel fluent and comfortable.
This is a situation I’m struggling with. Over the last two decades I have gained deep expertise in my field (buried in my computer, of course). I’m expected to move on to an industry/thought leader role. This requires connecting to a lot of people & maintaining high visibility—not easy for an introvert like me. – Sanjay B., California
You can definitely do this! First of all, you need a mind-shift. Instead of focusing on the unwelcome need to self-promote, think of the joy of sharing your expertise and helping others to do their work. Look for ways to share your thoughts and ideas that draw on your natural strengths. Are you a good writer? Then find written venues for sharing your expertise. Do you feel comfortable in small groups? Call together small groups of influencers, and offer to share your knowledge with them. A good speaker? Volunteer to give short talks to your colleagues. Good luck!