Think being an introvert prevents you from things like networking or holding a leadership position? Think again! Introverts are generally misunderstood, not only by those around them, but by themselves. Check out these five common myths about introversion and career tips for introverts.
Myth #1: Introverts are incapable of social interaction
While this may be true in a small percentage of cases, it’s more accurate to say that introverts prefer their own company, or that of small groups. Also, introverts will tend to shy from large crowds when it comes time to recharge their batteries, but that doesn’t mean they can’t party with the best of them. It just means they may need to curl up with a good book, or tackle a tricky crossword puzzle to recover.
The Remedy: Ditch the pity party
The first step to better networking for introverts is to change the way you think about networking. Think of it more like medicine – it may be bitter to take, but the hard fact is that a certain measure of social interaction is necessary for any career outside of hermitry. Therefore, it’s vital to develop a degree of objectivity about the situation and go into it with an open mind as opposed to dread.
Myth #2 – Introverts can’t speak up for themselves
As we discussed in a recent post on introversion and extroversion, shyness is not the same as introversion. Someone who identifies as an introvert is perfectly capable of speaking their piece when necessary – it’s just that they are choosier about how and when they’ll share their thoughts and opinions.
The Remedy: Flex your comfort zone
As with most of these myths, their perpetuation is one of habit: if you believe in their truth, they become true. So, make a conscious practice of giving your two cents or standing your ground when you feel the need to do so, even if it makes you uncomfortable. That discomfort is simply lack of practice making itself known – like a little-used muscle after a good workout. In time, that muscle will strengthen, and that discomfort will lessen.
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Myth #3 – Introverts are lonely and anti-social
One of the hardest things for extroverts to understand about their introverted counterparts is that being alone does not equate to being lonely. A preference for one’s own company may seem downright strange to some extroverts, and as a result, leads to introverts feeling as if what makes them comfortable is somehow weird or unnatural.
The Remedy: Own your loner status
There’s no shame in being a lone wolf – there’s even a certain status attached to it. The key is to know – not think, but know – that it’s okay to be on your own. If you’re comfortable, it won’t matter that others aren’t. Their discomfort is their problem, not yours. Think about all the cool loners from TV and movies – you’ll see that none of them give the smallest fig what others think of their singularity. That’s not to say you need to be rude or mean, just that you don’t owe anyone an explanation or an excuse for wanting to be alone. [Pro Tip: How to cope as an introvert in an extroverted office]
Myth #4 – Introverts are intellectual snobs
This misunderstanding comes from the introvert’s tendency to be quiet. Many folks equate this lack of chattiness with snobbery, mistaking a dislike of idle chin-wagging with disdain for the people around them. This can also stem from an introvert’s tendency to turn inward to think about a discussion, resulting in a loss of attention paid to the expression on his/her face.
The Remedy – Communicate!
Few introverts can be identified by sight alone. When interacting with new people, it’s worthwhile to put more of your thoughts into words so that they can stay on the same page as you, and know that you’re still engaged in the conversation. This will seem like overcommunication to most introverts, but that’s okay. Having that feeling of overshare means you’re doing it right. You don’t need to slip your introvert status into your introductions, either. Try replacing an acknowledging nod with words like, “interesting,” or, “I see.” If you need a moment to ponder, say, “Let me think about that for a minute.”
Myth #5 – Introverts don’t play well with others
Team activities may not be your first choice, but they can actually be an intriguing challenge for an adventurous introvert. Your skill for objective interaction represents a positive boon for any team-based endeavor. Plus, your disinclination to be a social butterfly can keep a project trucking along when progress slows because things are getting too friendly (or aren’t friendly enough).
The Remedy – Play to your strengths
You’re a great natural facilitator. You possess an eye for detail, while being able to see the big picture. Whatever your strengths, flaunt them (quietly). Don’t know what your specific strengths are? Figure it out here. The trick is to leave no doubt whatsoever regarding your value to a team situation. For all introverts, your ability to complete projects independently may be as much of a saving grace to team efforts as not, since you’re well-equipped to take on a chunk of work and get it done with no need for babysitting or hand-holding. Find your niche and fill it to the brim.