How to Own Your Voice at Work as an Introvert
Do you feel emotionally drained after you get home from work? Or does interacting with a large group of people in the office make you feel overwhelmed? Do you prefer your own company instead of having to spend your time after work with co-workers?
If you answered yes to any of those questions there is a good chance that you may be an introvert.
While extroverts have a bubbly, outgoing personality and are more energized when they are around lots of people, introverts tend to be more reserved and feel the most energized after they’ve spent some time alone to process their thoughts and ideas. They also prefer to have authentic one-on-one conversations versus mingling in a large crowd and participating in small talk.
Introverts may face additional hurdles on the job because many companies tend to reward people who show more social, high-energy traits. Although introverts aren’t the loudest people in the room, that doesn’t mean they don’t have any thoughts or opinions about what is going on in their workplace.
People who lean more towards an introverted personality type can also be a great asset to their company. Introverts usually have impeccable analytical and observational skills that allow them to read the room better than anyone. Since they usually have a rich, active imagination they can easily come up with innovative ideas to solve a problem or workplace crisis. However, they may not feel comfortable or confident enough to share it openly in a public setting.
As an introvert myself, I’ve found a way to conquer my fear and speak up for myself more often. Although I admit I’m still a work in progress, here are several techniques I’ve learned along the way to get me to where I am now:
Prepare Yourself as Much as Possible
One of my first tips is to do what you can to prepare yourself as much as possible. For example, if you are about to go to a work meeting, ask to see if there is an agenda prepared so you can take a look at it beforehand. You can also check to see who will be in attendance. When you take some time to learn who will be there and familiarize yourself with the topics that will be discussed during the meeting you will feel a lot more at ease before the meeting even begins.
If you want to contribute to the meeting, carefully go through the agenda and select which topics you’d like to discuss. Make a mental note of what you want to contribute or write it down if you think you may get nervous once it’s your turn to speak. Even if you only want to ask one question or re-emphasize someone else’s point, it demonstrates to others that you are engaged and can improve your visibility.
Don’t Overthink or Censor Yourself
When you speak up at work, try to do it early on so you won’t have too much of a chance to overthink what you’re about to say. I know firsthand how tempting it is for introverts to spend too much time mulling over what you’re going to say, but please don’t do that!
If you overthink things you may end up censoring yourself.
I personally like to use humor to break the ice whenever I have to talk to a group of people or do public speaking, so I always come prepared with a couple of funny jokes, comments, or questions. However, if jokes aren’t your style you can always come up with your own strategies for breaking the ice or reducing the nervous tension you may feel.
Be Concise and to the Point
Please don’t worry about giving long, flowery speeches when you want to speak up at work. Rambling on and on about a topic can eventually turn your audience off and make them tune you out.
Try to be as concise and to the point as possible without coming across as unprofessional or ill prepared. Time is money, especially if you work in a corporate environment so your coworkers will most likely thank you for your brief yet insightful comments. Besides, if you’ve followed step number one and organized your thoughts beforehand, and prepared what you wanted to say you will never be in danger of rambling.
Get a Partner in Crime
Another technique that has allowed me to excel in the workplace as an introvert is finding a ‘partner in crime’. Try to make friends with someone who won’t mind encouraging you to speak up more in company meetings.
Maybe you can make a deal with them in advance to nudge you during the meeting to prompt you to speak up and join in on the conversation. Depending on where you work, this ‘partner in crime’ could be a close colleague, boss, or anyone else who is generally invested in seeing you grow outside of your comfort zone.
Take Time to Process Your Thoughts and Next Action Steps
Lastly, remember to take some extra time to process your thoughts and decide what your next action will be after you’ve spoken up at work. What is your main goal?
Do you want to receive more one-on-one face time with the boss? Or perhaps you’re thinking about moving to a different department and want to talk with another colleague in that division to find out what it’s like? Perhaps you can send a follow-up email to your boss or colleague asking to schedule a private conversation in the future. Once you understand what you’d like to accomplish you should have a good idea of what your next action steps should be.
You may not be comfortable putting yourself out there and using your voice at first as an introvert ( or other people who are considered being “uncomfortable” in social interactions). However, with practice, I’m confident that you will become less awkward and feel more relaxed and at ease over time. Before you know it, everyone will be excited to hear your voice and looking forward to hearing your contributions!