Extroverts often get the limelight at work because they seek it. Many times, that can leave introverts in the shadows.
Good leadership involves taking time to listen to the ideas and opinions of your colleagues. (ISTOCKPHOTO)
But there's more to doing good work than just being the most visible. In fact, when it comes to being productive and successful in your career, there's plenty that extroverts can learn from introverts. Try these tips to channel your inner introvert and up your game in the office.
Think Before You Speak
One of the key differences between introverts and extroverts is that while the latter thrive on "thinking on their feet," the former prefer to have time to formulate their responses before sharing them. In a room full of people, introverts may appear as though they have less to say on a topic than the more verbose extroverts who are dominating the discussion.
But the truth is, introverts are listening and reflecting on what they hear first. They might prefer to take notes or review background materials on a topic rather than speak the instant they hear something explained verbally. This can give introverts an advantage in being better prepared with facts and figures when they are ready to chime in. Take a page from their playbook and do your due diligence before saying the first thing that comes to mind.
Listen and Share the Limelight
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A crucial part of successful communication is cultivating strong listening skills. Observant by nature, introverts generally enjoy hearing and truly understanding what others are conveying. Being a good listener doesn't mean you're simply passive; listening is a very active process that helps you make more sense of what you hear so that you can assess and respond to messages appropriately. Listening can also help prevent miscommunication, which can improve how well you get along with team members and bosses alike.
To cultivate your listening skills, follow the lead of introverts in your group and step out of the limelight. If you're always trying to get a word in or formulating your next response while others are talking, then you aren't really focusing on listening. Instead, in your next meeting, be less self-promotional with your own ideas. Tune into what those around you are trying to articulate and provide feedback on what they say before blurting out your own opinions.
Step Away From the Water Cooler
There are certainly benefits of office chitchat, and socializing at work can be an important career success strategy in its own right. But while you're gabbing around the water cooler for a half hour each morning, introverts are getting ahead on their most important goals and projects.
Think about whether you can meet your social needs at work with less small talk. Introverts have an advantage here since they find idle chatter draining rather than energizing. If you can cut your time around the water cooler in half each day, just think of how much work you could get done.
Validate Others' Ideas and Opinions
Who would you rather have as a boss: someone who just pushes their own agenda, or someone who cares about your suggestions and preferences, encouraging and validating you? Most people would choose the more caring boss, which is why introverts are often popular though underrated leaders. Some of this quality goes back to strong listening skills; since introverts tend to be better listeners, this can translate into better leadership under certain circumstances – particularly when people in the group are more proactive.
So whether you currently lead a team or aspire to do so someday, you'd be well-served by moving away from traditional command and control leadership that extroverts thrive on, and giving a more collaborative style of leadership a try. It's easier than you think: validate initiative and good ideas, and listen carefully to suggestions in any type of leadership role you might take on.
Take a Quality Approach to Networking
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Psychology Today reports that, contrary to myth, introverts are often more effective networkers than extroverts. That's because when it comes to successful professional networking – the type of connecting that leads to landing jobs – having a higher quantity of contacts isn't the best strategy.
Introverts know that when it comes to your networks and friends, it's more about quality than quantity. More intense, volume-based networking doesn't lead to more success in getting a job. Instead, focus on having a wide diversity of high-quality contacts you truly enjoy and connect with, rather than just trying to have the most LinkedIn contacts or Facebook friends. If you do so, you'll be well-positioned to leverage your network for job-search success.
By Robin Madell
This article first appeared in U.S News.