When you’re an introvert, it can be easy to beat yourself up for not being social enough, energetic enough, outspoken enough, or whatever else. With so many people talking about it being an extrovert’s world, you probably haven’t noticed how big of a deal it is when you do make an effort to get out of your comfort zone—which likely happens more than you give yourself credit for.
So, what if you’re not the strongest voice in that big team project? Let’s celebrate all your little victories that have you made you successful so far.
Obstacle #1: Getting Noticed in a Group of Extroverts
There’s nothing like a department-wide meeting, group project, or a large company lunch to make you feel like the quietest personality there. And I get it—when you’re watching that one co-worker who always has the guts to speak what’s on her mind (even if it’s a totally irrelevant or useless statement), you silently envy her confidence. There are a few times throughout the hour that you have a couple of things you want to add, but they don’t seem that helpful or insightful. So, you keep them to yourself.
Small Victory: Making at Least One Contribution
It’s helpful to weigh your possible outcomes with this one. The most exciting possibility is that your comments can fill the room with excitement—and you leave those meetings, working sessions, or events feeling nice and accomplished and special. The worst case scenario? Everyone takes in your thoughts and moves on.
You don’t have to be the person to respond to every single thing, and you’re not a failure if you spend most of the event listening or taking notes. But you do owe it to yourself to believe in your ideas and to give them a chance to impress people. Committing to making one contribution in each meeting or event you attend will only make offering your ideas in the next one feel that much more doable—and that’s worth being proud of, too.
Obstacle #2: Making Office Small Talk
If you’re still experiencing a lot of awkward silences during brief moments of chit-chat with co-workers you’ve known for months, fight the urge to beat yourself up about it. Not everyone naturally knows how to transition from photos of your colleague’s new baby to last night’s episode of Scandal.
Small Victory: Checking in With Co-workers
Here’s where being an introvert can be to your benefit: Science says it means you “listen well and have great emotional empathy.”
The easiest way to get to know your co-workers is to simply ask how they’re doing, and making that extra effort each day to check in with them and learn more about their personalities and interests will make you better at understanding and working with them. So what if you’re not attending their birthday parties or wedding celebrations? You don’t have to be BFFs before you can recognize that you’ve already branched out more than you’re used to or normally would like to, and that’s worth recognizing.
Obstacle #3: Working on a Group Project
I’m not sure I know anyone who doesn’t hate group projects. And for introverts, part of the problem is that in brainstorming sessions, it can feel like everyone is moving a million miles per hour with half-ideas instead of fully-formed plans. With so many strong personalities involved, it can be easy to feel drained instead of accomplished by the end of the working meeting.
Small Victory: Contributing to the Project on Your Own Terms
So maybe you’re not giving the final presentation at the end, but it’s equally important if you’re the one who takes on a more silent leadership role in the background. Remember when everyone had those haphazard ideas? You were the one who listened, organized and delegated the tasks necessary to stay on schedule.
Here’s one great lesson everyone could learn from group projects: You don’t need to have the spotlight to have been vital to the team.
Obstacle #4: Celebrating Your Accomplishments
Have you ever met an introvert who likes to brag about himself? Me neither. Sometimes, it can feel like your boss is paying attention to your peers’ accomplishments way more than he is yours, or that Lisa from Sales is always receiving props for her cool ideas while yours are being left in the dust. Sure, you might be thinking, If my work was actually great, I wouldn’t have to explain to people how awesome it is. I shouldn’t have to tell people when I’ve done a good job. And maybe that’s true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t speed up the process a little.
Small Victory: Speaking Up and Taking Credit for Your Role
You don’t have to display every little accomplishment for the world on LinkedIn, but you can speak up when you were involved in bringing in new clients or played a key role in developing a new project. There are plenty of ways you can be confident and humble at the same time.
Keep in mind: Promotions aren’t the only sign of success in the office. And at the end of the day, you know what you were capable of to see something great through, and you shouldn’t devalue your accomplishments just because others don’t notice it.
Obstacle #5: Pulling Off Big Presentations
You’ve probably watched a lot of TED Talks in your spare time, so I’ll save you the trouble: No, your presentation does not have to be a 20-minute speech, with perfectly timed jokes throughout, that draws a standing ovation. It’s OK to have jitters beforehand, and it’s OK if you feel like you stumbled somewhere in the middle.
Small Victory: Doing Your Research Beforehand
Try to keep in mind that you’re giving this presentation because you’re informing people on something important—not because you’re a semi-celebrity in your field. While it certainly helps to charm your audience, that’s not the standard you should hold yourself to.
The best way to impress your crowd is by being an expert on the topic you’re presenting on, and good news—you’re in control of all the research and information you dig up in preparation. Sure, the random questions at the end might seem like the most stressful part, but there’s no better opportunity to show off your knowledge on the subject. Just answering them with confidence is worth celebrating.
Obstacle #6: Thinking on the Spot
You’re in the middle of something at your desk, and someone comes up to you and asks your thoughts on a project he’s working on. He’s stuck for ideas moving forward, and he wants to brainstorm with you. People around the office know you for having great ideas, so you feel pressed to come up with something good—and don’t want to say anything until you’ve formulated that full thought.
Small Victory: Going With Your Gut for Once
What’s one of the scariest things you can do? Saying what’s on your mind—before you’ve completely refined it. And that’s worth being proud of in itself. Introverts tend to want to think before speaking. But, sometimes that can have the opposite effect, and you end up thinking yourself into utter silence.
Next time you’re put on the spot, take a chance on yourself and spitball a couple things as they come to mind. After all, no one’s actually expecting you to come up with the next Facebook on your first try.
Obstacle #7: Actively Shaping Your Career
Saying no to a colleague or being assertive to your boss about what you want more or less of at work are both very intimidating conversations to have, but absolutely essential ones to your happiness and fulfillment in your career. Sure, one extra task here or there won’t hurt anyone, but they add up over time.
Small Victory: Being Honest
Obviously, you don’t have to quit tomorrow, but you know what they say: You are your own best advocate. Communicating with others about your needs and wants, especially in the office, is the only way you’re going to get them. And by starting small, like saying no to an extra project or asking to try something new, you’re standing up for yourself and prioritizing those tasks that matter most to you.
Sure, your boss might still have you do a few projects you aren’t passionate about, but at least you’ll have been honest about your interests. And, chances are, he or she will remember that for next time.
It can seem almost unfathomable to go from being that always-silent person in meetings to full-on running them, so let’s celebrate the baby steps along the way.
What little ways do you make an effort to step out of your comfort zone at work? Tweet me @caroqliu and let me know!