I have been “blessed” with an introverted personality. While I thought ordinary situations were over-stimulating to me, moving to Memphis was a whole new experience that brought out all of my introverted qualities to an extreme. From a new city to a new workplace to all new co-workers, let’s just say that inwardly, I was a mess.
Outward communication is something I have struggled with, whether in person or over the phone, since I was a child. While many people are completely comfortable walking into a new workplace with confidence and zest, I walked into Obsidian with a million thoughts, mild anxiety and (I’ll admit) sweaty palms. While I was confident in my abilities to perform the job functions, the thought of communicating with people I didn’t know literally made me nauseous, and in new situations, still does.
While I have adapted to my work climate and co-workers, there are still many times at work that my introverted personality shines through. For example, the simple question of “how was your weekend” can make my mind spin, my hands fidget and my eyes immediately fly to the ground. And team events still take preparation the night before to be ready for the amount of stimulation that I will receive the next day.
Do you have a co-worker like this? Truth is… you probably do, and every introvert has these same struggles in varying degrees. Here are some tips and tricks for dealing with the most introverted co-workers during the workday:
- If we’re quiet, it doesn’t mean we’re unhappy. Introverts are known for listening and soaking in everything going around them like a sponge. Just because they’re quiet, doesn’t mean that they aren’t engaged in everything that is going on around them. Start with simple, one-on-one questions and work up from there. Increased comfort will increase the amount that they are willing to open up.
- Dear mysterious introvert, we want to know you. It’s human instinct to want to learn about a new co-worker, but for introverts, that is one of the last things they want to jump into before becoming familiar with the people and the situations at their workplace. Not only are introverts’ thoughts often kept to themselves, but their body language doesn’t often give off much either. Therefore, introverts can carry an air of mystery to them. As I will mention later, patience is the key.
- Large event? Grab their hand. Big events full of people that they don’t know are the worst kind of situations to put an introvert into. Unlike extroverts, introverts are not energized by being in large crowds. Help your introverted co-workers feel comfortable by helping them find connection to the event, conversation or something going on around them. Delicate immersion can help even the worst of introverts feel slightly more comfortable in this setting.
- Start slow. Introverts are very cautious of who they open up to and trust, and by no means will this happen in a day. Start with small questions, such as “how was your weekend,” then work your way up to bigger personal questions that may take more trust to answer.
- Be patient. Whether you asked your introverted co-worker a question or asked her to explain her way of thinking, be patient while waiting for answers. Introverts are introspective and don’t want to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Formulating a well-thought-out answer is important to introverts, and not feeling pressured with immediacy in verbal situations is key.
- It’s all in the writing. Like I said above, verbal communication can make introverts uncomfortable, but writing to an introvert is like chocolate to a chocolate lover. Written communication via email or text gives introverts time to formulate the perfect answer before it goes to you.
Showing introverted co-workers that you understand how they need to acclimate and respond to situations is a key way to building their trust. Learning how to respond to them is important and will lead to increased comfort and conversation.