Small talk and 5 other traits introverts must improve upon

breakroomWhen my colleagues are chatting away during lunch, I like to join their conversation which is usually about current affairs, television shows, or other topics extraverts seem to enjoy and master with ease.

I do my best to break into their banter, picking the right opportunity to voice my views. But at times choosing my words seems like work. I’m not unusual in this way–finding making small talk difficult–other introverts have expressed the same frustration.

Being comfortable making small talk is one trait I admire in extraverts. Other extravert traits I admire are:

Ability to promote themselves. Extraverts have the gift of gab, and we all know that verbal communications is more direct and timely than written communications. While I feel comfortable sending an e-mail to my manager about my accomplishments, extraverts would go directly to her office and talk about their accomplishments. This confidence they display I erroneously misconstrue for conceit.

Solution. Before approaching the manager to speak of their accomplishments, introverts should formulate what they’re going to say. It may be helpful to write down some talking points on their accomplishments before approaching the manager. They should also remember to smile.

Ease of networking. Most extraverts will tell you they have no problem entering a room full of people and striking up a conversation. Most introverts will tell you this takes effort and is often uncomfortable, and some introverts will tell you they fear networking, both for professional and job-search purposes. Therefore they don’t network and miss out on valuable opportunities.

Solution. Introverts should not network like extraverts. I tell my jobseekers that introverts can network; they just do it differently. Instead of working the room, they feel more comfortable in smaller groups and engaging in deeper conversation.

Boundless energy. Presenting in front of a group doesn’t scare me. By most accounts I’m quite good at it. However, after conducting three workshops a day, my brain feels like mash potatoes. Extraverts, on the other hand, can talk till the sun goes down. Where extraverts may run into problems is not taking time to ask questions and listen to their attendees. Introverts are said to be better listeners. Still, it’s nice to have the endurance to talk with people for eternity.

Solution. Introverts should take advantage of downtime to recharge their battery. I retreat to my cubicle where I can rest my mind and reflect on the next workshop to come. When colleagues approach me during my down time, I tell them I’m busy with important work…even if I’m not. Introverts must take any opportunity they have to re-charge their batteries so they can be ready to jump back into action.

Conflict management. Well-known psychologist and author, Marti Olsen LaneyPsy.D, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, asserts that introverts are not as strong at conflict resolution as extraverts are. She writes that introverts avoid conflict as much as possible, and I see her point.

Solution. In order to be good at conflict management, introverts must choose their battles and formulate their thoughts before jumping into the foray. When an answer to an accusation is called for, introverts should ask for time to think about their response. I feel this way when I’m asked to defend my actions.

Participating at meetings. I tell my MBTI workshop attendees that introverts have wonderful ideas but often let those ideas go unheard because they fail to speak up at meetings. The extraverts dominate the discussion because they feel uncomfortable when there is silence. Silence is not a problem for introverts.

Solutions. Arrive with talking points or write them as you’re listening to the other members of the group. When your ideas warrant being introduced, don’t wait passively for your turn; speak out regardless of etiquette. I feel strongly about being forceful, as evident by the time I jumped in front of one of my extraverted colleagues in order to express my thoughts. He took offense, but he’d already had his 500-word limit.

My admiration for extraverts makes me think about how I can improve on the aforementioned strengths they possess. I’ve witnessed them in my extraverted colleagues and friends; as I’ve also witnessed introverts weaknesses. With some practice, introverts can improve upon their weaknesses, and extraverts can tone it down.

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