An introvert’s guide to navigating the workplace jungle
⏳ 3 minute read
Keeping to yourself might be misinterpreted as being aloof or antisocial but there are ways to open up without over-exerting yourself.
Published on October 22, 2020
by Louie Yao
For the introverts, it’s one thing to attend dinner with friends, parties or networking events, it’s another thing to be at work — where you have to spend most of your time doing countless meetings and engaging in conversations with co-workers that always challenges your social meter until you desperately gasp for some “alone time.”
Though the generation we are in now has probably become more accepting of the way introverts interact and socialize, there are still some who are biased against this personality type. Let’s get this straight, introversion is just a personality type and not a disorder.
As an introvert myself, it has always been a challenge for me to have conversations and spend a lot of time with other people. I sometimes wonder if there’s something wrong with me because I’m so used to doing things alone. So entering the workplace made me feel like I’m going into a deep, dark jungle. It’s crazy how I was even able to hold conversations with my new workmates during my first week because it was such an uncomfortable situation. But then again, the world will not adjust for me so I had to do some serious self-reflection and come up with ways to thrive in my new environment.
Here are three things I practice to keep myself in check:
Accept who you are
After countless personality tests–I can 100% confirm it: I am an introvert. I’ve learned to accept this reality about myself along with the challenges that come with it.
Accepting our weaknesses would probably be one of the hardest parts, but it’s the first step to cross our biggest hurdles. But don’t be too hard on yourself because with acceptance comes the admission that we need the helping hand of others. By allowing others to help and teach you in areas where you need improvement, you will be able to understand more about yourself and gain friends along the way. I know I have!
Make an effort to connect
Being socially distant has been in our nature since the pandemic started. We want to maintain appropriate boundaries and keep out of the office dramas. But no matter how aloof or distant we are, we still have the desire to belong. Working with different people takes a lot of effort and time and it sure can be frustrating to realize that it takes a longer time for us to create a bond with our teammates — but it’s okay.
Take your time, be consistently present, reach out to your colleagues in your own little ways: start with knowing what they like, what they don’t like, and what their hobbies or what they do on weekends. At the same time, allow them to reach out to you too! This allows you to slowly build trust and confidence in each other which will eventually turn into collaborative relationships that will make you more productive at work.
Use one of your greatest strengths — listening
While speaking can be an introvert’s Achilles’ heel, listening is where we shine. In a setting where people want to express their ideas, opinions and problems all the time, we tend to just stay quiet in our own place and observe the discussions.
If you’re an introvert, you have a lot to give to the world through your listening skills, so never mistake your quiet attentiveness for a weakness. Introverts structure their thoughts before they speak so we might be able to connect the dots for our team and point out certain things that they may not have been paying close attention to. If you’re too shy to share your ideas in person or over video call, try sending it to your manager over an email.
It’s a journey
One day you might feel that you’ve improved a lot–having more social energy reserves than before. The next week, you might be feeling really sluggish and have no energy to socialize whatsoever. Again, it’s okay. Just remember to pace yourself and be present whenever the time calls for it. We don’t want all the rapport you’ve built to go to waste! Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Tell your manager or your teammate what’s on your mind and acknowledge that you need their help in certain situations. Just remember that you don’t have to deal with everything alone. Soon, you’ll find your own rhythm and help the next introvert who joins your team!
Louie is the media and marketing lead at Workbean. Her creative outputs are the best expressions of her current mood and she likes to deviate the norm by creating her own renditions of the mundane. At night, she becomes a master chef who whips up the best Korean dishes in the metro which will be seen on her IG feed, @louieyori.