Studies show that somewhere between one-third and half of Americans are introverts. Since introverts are, almost by definition, somewhat shy, their nature can make it difficult for them to get ahead in the business world. Introverts often feel exhausted from being around groups of people, tend to prefer writing to talking, and sometimes have difficulty saying no. Those are all traits that can be difficult to manage in the business world. Nonetheless, Bill Gates and Abraham Lincoln are both examples of extremely successful introverts. But how did they do it? Just what can an introvert do to get ahead in the highly social world of business?
When you know that you’re going to be in a situation with high social expectations, have a game plan. Prepare for important meetings by thinking about what is likely to be said and planning out your potential responses in different scenarios. If you’re going to be in a situation that will have lots of important networking opportunities, plan ahead what you might say to people when you approach them. If you don’t plan things ahead, you’ll likely fall back to the old habits that are most comfortable to you and simply not do much of the talking.
Push yourself to be more social than you might normally be. If you’re in a meeting or conference call, try to make sure that you make a comment early in the session. The longer you wait to jump it, the harder it is. So push yourself to get involved early. Also, try to communicate more often. Don’t wait to be asked for updates; volunteer information to your boss and coworkers.
As with any new skill, practice makes perfect. The more you participate in meetings and the more you speak up, the easier it becomes. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Make a commitment to keep trying and eventually it will get easier.
Know your triggers.
Explore what in particular you find most exhausting and overstimulating. Maybe it’s loud work environments, large groups, or social media. Different introverts will have different things that are most bothersome to them. Many of these situational triggers can’t be avoided altogether – and some, like group meetings – may not be able to be avoided at all. However, you can try to minimize your exposure to the things that bother you the most and focus on developing your social skills in less stressful situations.