3 Tips for Introverts in an Extrovert Workplace

Don't let more vocal colleagues disrupt your workflow.

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All too often, talented introverts are overshadowed by their louder, more gregarious and extroverted colleagues.

Susan Cain's recent book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, helps shed light on this issue. In an interview with NPR, she makes the point that American culture started idealizing extroverted personalities at the turn of the 20th century when we had the rise of big businesses. "It's quite a problem in the workplace today, because we have a workplace that is increasingly set up for maximum group interaction. More and more of our offices are set up as open-plan offices where there are no walls and there's very little privacy," she says in the interview. "The average amount of space per employee actually shrunk from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet today."

Introverts shouldn't have to succumb or change themselves to succeed or take on a leadership role. There should be some balance. Introverts bring different and great strengths to the table, like less micromanagement and more insight and contemplation. Here's how to create some boundaries when you're working with extroverts:

1. Incorporate two minutes of small talk. Extroverts love to talk, but it's up to you to limit how much time they suck out of your day. While talking and socializing is fuel for an extrovert's energy, it's actually draining for introverts.

To compromise, "plan for a couple of minutes of connecting with the extrovert at the beginning of the conversation (asking about their weekend plans, their family, etc.)," says Lauren Still, president and strategic career advisor at the Careerevolution Group. This way, "The extrovert is likely to shift into a more task-oriented mode more quickly, which will benefit the introvert," she says.

After two minutes, you have to transition back to the work-related matter at hand to prevent going off on tangents.

2. Schedule time for yourself in the workday. Block off a couple hours each day in your Outlook (or whichever work calendar you use) for devoted work time. If you get in the habit of denying meeting requests and random pop-ins during this allotted time, you can teach your extroverted colleagues to respect your space and privacy—even if it is just for a couple of hours.

Extroverted colleagues need to know that they cannot just barge into your space whenever they please. Acknowledge that you're introverted and simply enjoy time to yourself. Extroverts may not be aware of your desire for alone time when you can recharge and regroup, says Denise Altman president of the Altman Initiative Group, a hiring assistance company. "You may need to nicely say to the extrovert something [like] 'While I'm interested in what you have to say, it would help me if we could schedule time to talk over all the ideas or comments you have to offer instead of catching them one at a time throughout the day,'" Altman says.

3. Take breaks between social activities. Cain says that, unlike extroverts, introverts are simply stimulated more easily. In other words, occasional socializing is enough for the introvert.

To give yourself enough time to balance out extraneous social activities at work, Cain suggests "taking quiet breaks between sales calls, canceling social plans before a big meeting at work or practicing yoga."

Choosing to take time for you does not make you superior or inferior than someone who thrives in groups and social activities. "There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas," Cain says in her book.

The truth is that extroverts are not better than introverts—we are wired differently and should be able to work accordingly.

Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information, and a free career happiness assessment.

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