Stop calling us quiet : 3 Keys to Finding your Voice in the Workplace as an INTROVERT
Have you ever been in a meeting and felt utterly overwhelmed by the loud voices in the room? Do you have strong opinions, but you get overpowered in meetings? Do you struggle to figure out where you fit in because you’re not the loudest person in the room? You’re not alone. This is ME all the time.
Some time ago, I started a position where I present, teach, facilitate, and meet all day long :). There’s lots of talking involved, which I don’t have a problem doing. But, I’d often get overwhelmed by the loud opinions, wanting to share my own voice but feeling unheard when I did speak up. Or, I’d want to speak up, but by the time I mustered up the energy to speak, we’d moved on to another topic. Or, I’d feel drained without a chance to recharge.
Do you ever get deemed as quiet even though you’re really not? You just process things and people differently than your more extroverted counterparts. I’d get so frustrated when people deemed me as “quiet.” It’s not that I don’t have an opinion. I’m just not always in spaces inclusive of how I process and speak out that opinion.
However, I had to learn that being an introvert is not a handicap. Being an introvert doesn’t make me less capable of doing my job in excellence. Being an introvert doesn’t make me less valuable in a meeting just because I’m not the loudest person in the room.
My silence speaks. My listening skills are my loudest strengths. My observational abilities pick up on things that others can’t.
Once I realized that being an introvert in the workplace is a GIFT, it changed my confidence level and how I speak up in the workplace. I’ve been able to hone in on my strengths and become highly sought after for what I bring to the table.
I want to help you do the same!
First, let’s get rid of the common misconception that introverted people are just “quiet” or “antisocial.” This is FAR from the truth.
An introvert is NOT just simply someone who is “quiet.”
Generally, introverts are individuals who are motivated and recharged from being alone versus being around other people. Sometimes, they’re seen as quiet or shy. But really, they just process their thoughts best when they’re alone.
Introverts are often introspective and enjoy more in-depth conversations with a familiar few over small talk with many.
It’s also important to note that not all introverts are the “same.” As introverts, we are still individuals with varying levels of comfort/uncomfort, likes/dislikes, pet peeves/preferences. So, don’t stereotype us all together!
Specific to the WORKPLACE, introverts can sometimes process better from WRITING and VISUALIZING versus SPEAKING (I’ll talk about this later).
Here’s a great article/resource I found for introverts that goes more into depth:
Introverts are often great listeners and observers and pick up on what others miss.
Just because we’re quiet in meetings doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to say.
Everyone has something to say, but not every environment supports every unique voice.
Some communicate better on the spot. Some communicate better when they have time to process. Some communicate better orally and others visually.
Unpopular opinion: It’s important to be flexible and adaptable in every environment. But, we don’t all have to be masters in every communication mode. We aren’t called to process, react, and speak the same language. Yes, we should always be willing to adapt and learn. Still, the entire point of having a TEAM is to pull on each other’s strengths with an understanding that those strengths will differ from person to person.
What’s my point? INTROVERTS, there is a place for you to thrive in the WORKPLACE.
So, here are some tips that I use to manage the WORKPLACE as an introvert.
1 Become the expert and indispensable in your strengths.
I’m typically never the loudest person in the room (unless I’m with my familiar few). But, I have a very unique gift to listen, pick up on concepts quickly, take people’s thoughts and ideas, and make it make sense. Whether it’s through a project plan, a memo, an email, a presentation, or other visual materials, I have a gift for putting on paper what’s in people’s heads. Why? Because I’m a listener. I’m an observer. I’m strong in visuals.
I’m excellent at asking the right questions to get to the right decision. I’m great at asking the right questions to help bring clarity to complicated and unclear situations.
I may not be the most eloquent speaker on the spot. But, when I have a chance to listen and process what you’re saying, I can put on a plan what your own words couldn’t even speak.
And, as a project manager, these skills make me great at what I do.
What are your gifts? Do you process better with writing with a gift to craft relatable communications that call people to action? Maybe you’re more analytical, and you can contribute data and substance to conversations going around in circles.
What’s something that ONLY YOU can bring to the table? Become an expert in it. Spend time honing in your unique skills.
If people in a meeting talk around in circles, nothing gets done. So, leverage your ability to listen and observe. Then, couple this gift with your practical skill set to move the needle forward.
2 Understand the uniqueness of your voice
If you’re like me, you don’t just speak to hear yourself talk. You speak when you have something of value to add. You’re less likely to speak out in large crowds. But, no one can deny your ability to thrive with people 1:1. No one can deny your smartness and strength when it’s just a few in the room, and you’re finally able to speak :).
Regardless of what your insecurities may whisper to you, when you speak, people listen.
You have to tell yourself that YOUR VOICE BRINGS VALUE.
Don’t dim your light when you seem to get overpowered. Leverage your ability to connect with people 1:1 on a deeper level. When I get chosen to work on new projects or initiatives, it’s not because I’m the loudest person in the room. It’s not because I’m a show off. It’s because my strengths, loyalty, valuable opinions, and ability to connect with others deeply speak for itself.
My voice challenges the status quo. My voice often says what others are thinking. My voice holds people accountable. My voice makes people think about concepts differently. My voice brings calm, peace, and clarity in stressful situations.
When I understand the uniqueness and strength of my voice, it gives me confidence in what I bring to the table. Regardless if I had a chance to speak or was never called on for my opinion, my value in my voice does not change. And, it’s the same for you.
So, be confident in your unique voice. Know that your voice is valuable regardless if others can see it or not. Because you have the ability to connect on a deeper level, your voice will be made known to those that matter. Your voice will be found valuable to the right person at the right time. So, fight the urge to be someone else, and hone in on how your voice brings value to the table.
3 Openly communicate how you process. Openly speak what you need to be successful
Challenge people when they call you quiet and shy. Challenge people when they try to put you in a box. You’re not quiet. You just process things differently. Sometimes, you have to adjust to the louder voices in the meeting, and yes, that can be overwhelming. It’s also essential to communicate your need to have space to voice your opinion. I know this may seem nerve-racking. I’m not saying you should have an outburst and flip tables in the middle of a meeting.
Have real conversations with your leaders and coworkers on how they can help create a better atmosphere for ALL people to be heard. Maybe your team can incorporate more round table discussions. Maybe your team can do better with intentionally asking for the opinions of others.
What you bring to the table is no less than anyone else. So, it’s important to communicate what you need to be successful.
It’s also important to not back down when you feel overpowered. Stand tall in your unique voice, confident in your skills. Maybe, it’s raising your hand and waiting patiently while everyone else is talking, not backing down until you’ve had a chance to say what you needed to say. Even if they move on, you still speak what it is that you have to say.
Speak it quietly. Speak it softly. However, it has to come out, speak it. Write it. Visualize it.
You were hired to have a seat at the table. So embrace what your seat looks like and communicate what your seat needs to remain at the table.
You are not less than or second hand. You are indispensable, and your voice and strengths bring value to your team. It’s time to come out and command respect by being uniquely you.
I hope that helps and gives you a quick boost! Let me know if you have any comments or questions below!