How Introverts Can Thrive in a Collaborative World

If you’re someone who considers yourself an introvert, workplaces today are probably a big pain in the behind.

Open concept floor plans, collaboration areas and even a coffee shop smack dab in the middle of the office generates lots of noise, commotion, interactions and all the other stuff that wears down an introvert and plays havoc with concentration.

But there is a way that introverts can harness the new workplace to their advantage so that they can still work in a way that plays to their need for more quiet and introspection, but still meets the demand for constant collaboration.

Among the ways introverts can succeed:

  • By embracing social media. While you may have no problem posting updates to your family and friends on Facebook, branchout and reach colleagues or others in your industry through various social media networks. Try to set a goal of responding to at least three tweets a day from those in your company or joining at least one LinkedIn or Google+ discussion daily.  Such networking allows you to choose the times you feel like interacting.
  • Letting your caring side show. Introverts often are seen as standoffish to others, so if you’re not comfortable expressing sentiments to a co-worker in person (“I really appreciate your help with that project”), send an email. This can help break the ice so that when you need to collaborate in person, the colleague feels more comfortable with you.
  • Allowing colleagues in on your thoughts. Intranets and private social networks offer a chance for you to show off your brilliance at being thorough and well-prepared. It’s often difficult for introverts to sound off in meetings because they’re not comfortable with off-the-cuff remarks.  If you find yourself in this situation, you can use the company’s internal communication to share your knowledge or answer questions after a meeting. This shows a willingness to engage and can impress colleagues with your deeper reasoning.
  • Starting a blog. A blog gives you the chance to express your ideas and thoughts at your own pace, or share information that you’ve spent hours putting together. The only deadline you set is your own. This can be a great way to show off a portfolio of your work and establish your own personal brand in a way that’s comfortable for you and impressive to others.

Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” notes how critical introverts are to the workplace, noting such famous introverts as Gandhi, Albert Einstein and Steven Spielberg.  Still, she stresses that introverts often are misunderstood.  For example, many believe that introverts would rather be alone and at home, when the truth is that they’re quite capable of being sociable and enjoy business meetings and parties. But after a time, they’ve had enough and would rather be home in their pajamas, she writes.

She describes Guy Kawasaki, founder of and social networking extraordinaire, as a self-proclaimed introvert. Kawasaki says that social media is as a way for him to choose when he wants to interact.

That’s something that also appeals to Pete Cashmore, the founder of Mashable.  “Wouldn’t it be a great irony,” he writes, “if the leading proponents of the ‘it’s about people’ mantra weren’t so enamored with meeting large groups of people in real life? Perhaps social media affords us the control we lack in real life socializing: the screen as a barrier between us and the world.  Throw me firmly in the ‘introverts’ camp with Guy,” says Pete.

Studies have shown introverts to be better leaders because they‘re willing to solve problems while other team members spread their wings. Other research finds that introverts are often the team members who stick to getting the job done right instead of the extroverts who may spend more time talking and socializing instead of getting a critical task completed.

So, it’s clear that introverts have much to offer –now they just need to find a way to harness the new workplace to demonstrate their skills to others.

What are some ways introverts can thrive in a collaborative workplace?

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