An Introvert's Guide to Business Communication

Many of the ideals of achieving success in the business world are based on extraverted tendencies. The outgoing, sometimes brash individual that knows everyone and is constantly on-the-go is admired almost to the point of worship. Pursuing this extraverted ideal, however, can be exhausting for Introverts.

In truth, Introverts have a number of unique abilities that Extraverts do not and some of the most successful people in history are Introverts. Introverts might actually be more adept in certain areas than Extraverts, even though extraverted tendencies are often viewed as being the most successful.

Both types have their own strengths and weaknesses, however, and getting ahead in business does not require you to be an Extravert, or try to emulate them. By tapping into their strengths and learning a thing or two from others, Introverts will excel just as much as Extraverts. Here are five common business situations you'll need to learn to navigate and how to succeed as an Introvert.

1. Networking as an Introvert

There is no way around it, networking is, in fact, a critical part element of business success. The typical advice on how to do it tends to be a nightmare for most Introverts. Networking is seen as attending various social and business functions and meeting as many people as possible.

The more people you meet or know, the stronger your network will be. While this may work great for an extrovert, introverts tend to struggle with this concept and often get frustrated or just give up on trying to build their network.

Instead of that, you should learn and understand that your unique way of developing relationships can be just as powerful as that of extroverts. While extroverts can comfortably wend their way through a room full of people and confidently hold center stage, introverts need to learn to be comfortable working the outsides of a room. That is where they are most likely to find all the people like them.

While Extraverts are generally up on all the latest bits of pop culture gossip and news, introverts are more likely to be deeply engrossed in a long-running series or two.

One rather amusing notion about Extraverts vs. Introverts is that Extraverts are not comfortable with conversational depth until they get to know someone, while Introverts are not comfortable with superficial chatting until they know someone well.

The point is that while Extraverts may make a dozen or more contacts in a single event, they are less likely to remember them all at the end of the evening. Introverts working the edges of the room may only have one or two deep conversations with a few individuals, but the bonds they build in that short time will be far deeper. Not only will they remember every person they talked to, but everyone they talked to will also remember them.

Public Speaking

Public speaking remains one of the top fears for most people, not just Introverts. There’s something truly jarring about being in the spotlight, presenting data and findings that are being judged and mulled over by the crowd.  

Ironically, however, many Introverts are not only excellent public speakers but may also find they actually enjoy public speaking in a way they do not enjoy socializing. In fact, the skills required to be an excellent public speaker are those that may come more naturally to an Introvert than an extrovert. Conversely, the very things that Introverts find most uncomfortable about social interactions are not an issue in public speaking.

Good public speaking skills include the ability to quickly develop a rapport with an audience and be able to consistently gauge how well the audience is keeping pace with the material a speaker is delivering.

Introverts tend to be very empathic and have a strong ability to feel and sense the emotional state of others. This skill is exactly what makes them naturally good public speakers. The ability to feel and absorb the emotions of others that often makes being around large crowds exhausting for an Introvert.

A keen awareness of others is also of great advantage. The empathy that Introverts often exhibit helps them understand what types of material audiences are looking for and even to adapt their own speaking style to their audience.

Meetings

Large meetings and gatherings have become the norm for many businesses in the US. This is one more practice that we generally have Extraverts to thank for. There is ample evidence, however, that these large meetings waste more time than what they accomplish. This doesn't necessarily mean that meetings in and of themselves are a waste of time, but more often than not how they are conducted is what makes them wasteful.

In fact, "meetings" are often simply one more social event for Extraverts than they are a meaningful way of moving the business forward. While Introverts who are subordinate to someone else have little control over how much time is spent in meetings or what is accomplished, managers and supervisors who are Introverts do.

In addition, when an Introvert chooses to conduct meetings in accordance with their skill set, they might just show how effective they are, which might change how meetings are conducted throughout the company. Here are three tips to holding meetings as an Introvert:

  • Limit meetings to one topic and only the people that topic pertains to - Extraverts might hold one meeting for 20 people to discuss three different topics, while only a few people in the meeting are affected by each individual topic. Instead of tying up an hour of everyone's time, you can hold three 20-minute meetings to discuss each topic individually that only includes the people the information pertains to.
  • Eliminate "informational" meetings - Extraverts may have difficulty separating what is legitimately necessary in business from their own social needs. On the whole, Extraverts tend to love meetings because they are essentially a social gathering at the office. This means that in many cases, an extrovert can never hold too many meetings and holding meetings may be one of their favorite things to do all day. Not only is this painful for Introverts, but it is painful for subordinates of all types that have work they need to accomplish. Most information can be dispersed without holding a meeting, so feel free to do so.
  • Keep large meetings on track - There may come a time when you need to hold a large group meeting. Always keep in mind that large group meetings are an Extravert's playground, so Extraverts will often try and hijack and derail the meeting into the more pseudo-social territory. In other words, Extraverts are masters at turning business meetings into social events that still operate under the guise of business. You can help keep things on track by creating a printed agenda and consistently direct attention back to it when the topic of conversation starts to stray.

Open Office Plans

There may be little in the corporate world that is more the bane of all Introverts than the open office plan. On the whole, Introverts tend to carefully plan and measure their social interactions because they tend to be draining and exhausting. In open offices, Introverts often feel at the mercy of anyone passing by who wants to chat. While the nature of open offices requires people to keep their voices down and should discourage conversation in general, many Extraverts are not to be dissuaded. While introverts used to be able to isolate themselves in offices or at least cubicles, open offices offer no such protection. Still, there are ways to thrive even if you are stuck in an open office plan as an Introvert.

  • Take advantage of private spaces - In theory, most open offices have some type of private space that you should be able to avail yourself of. Many employees are often prohibited from using these spaces based on a range of factors. If they use a desktop rather than a laptop, they can't exactly move their desktop. If they need to be available to be reached by phone, this also presents a problem. If there is a reason you cannot use a private space on a regular basis, do your best to communicate your needs to your boss to have them help you find a way to make this happen.
  • Communicate with the Extraverts - An open office plan is quite unconducive to Introverts when trying to get any work done. In fact, it is not actually any more conducive to extroverts getting work done, but extroverts often view business "socializing" as being productive in and of itself. Extraverts love collaborative activities of all kinds and can spend their day "collaborating" even if they don't actually achieve anything through it. Introverts are more likely to actually need to achieve something to feel like they have accomplished something, so it is important to communicate your needs and why they are important to Extraverts if your boss or the majority of your coworkers are Extraverts.
  • Try and arrange remote or telecommuting opportunities - The same way open office plans are almost made specifically for Extraverts, telecommuting and remote work may be absolutely heavenly for Introverts. Setting this up may be difficult if you are on a team of extroverts or if your boss is an Extravert, but it might be important for you to try and make it happen. If your boss is resistant to the idea, you might try seeing if they would at least be willing to give it a try for a few weeks just to see if it can work. There might be some bumps and hiccups, but you definitely have the incentive to try and make it work.

Extraverted Corporate Culture

Some fields that just seem to draw Introverts more strongly while others are a more natural fit for Extraverts. If you are lucky enough to be an Introvert that works for a company whose corporate culture favors Introverts, this might not be an issue for you. If you are an introvert who works for a company with a decidedly Extraverted corporate culture, however, life can potentially be hell - but it doesn't have to be.

Budget your social interactions carefully - If you are part of an extraverted team, chances are good they socialize regularly outside of work. Choose which gatherings you’ll attend, and which you would rather skip. Always make sure to attend at least some, but you’re not obliged to show up every single time. Remember that.  

Be firm with your "do not disturb" - Introverts are more in need of undisturbed time, which Extraverts cannot always understand. Don't be afraid to put both your phone and computer on "do not disturb" and if you need to, you can even hang a "do not disturb" sign on your chair if you can't work in a private space.

Make sure and get personal time - Introverts already have a difficult enough time being around people all day, but life can be even more difficult for them if they have a family - particularly if their family is also Extraverted. No matter how difficult it may be, it is highly important to make sure you get the time you need each day to recharge your batteries. This might be cleaning the kitchen alone after dinner, folding laundry or closeting yourself away for a few hours in the evening, but whatever it is, make sure you do it.

Being an Introvert does not in any way, shape or form mean you will be less successful than an Extravert. It does if you try to navigate business like an Extravert, however. By understanding the innate strengths and unique skills an Introvert brings to the table can help you navigate the world of business more confidently. There is no doubt that confidence breeds success.

Jen McKenzie

Jen McKenzie is an independent business consultant from New York. She writes extensively on business, education and human resource topics. When Jennifer is not at her desk working, you can usually find her hiking or taking a road trip with her two dogs. You can reach Jennifer @jenmcknzie

Comments

Bianca Ilmark says...

The meeting section hit really close to home! As an INFP, I can attest to its success. At one point in a project, I was having meetings with lots of people, trying to get input on different topics but going mental when the sales and marketing people hijacked the agenda while the 'geek squad' was crouching in the corner. So I regrouped and devised a plan to target all the stakeholders in one-on-one survey meetings and made some real progress. Ironically, I felt I was working the wrong way because you're sort of expected to hold large meetings, but after reading this article, I can rationalise and appreciate my actions. The funny part though.. is that extroverts and introverts alike want to be heard, and by giving them your undivided attention, you both get what you want.

Jacob M Engel (not verified) says...

I have devised a 2 minute business meeting plan for both extraverts and introverts. Extraverts cannot speak for more than 2 minutes, Introverts must speak for 2 minutes!

Terence Ennis (not verified) says...

Jennifer@jenmcknzie     Hi Jen.

I loved your article.It 

Was my life.One to one

One or two friends.

Selling and training waseasy.Had a crystal ball it was like future viewin

g.Married 50 years and 4 children .

2 like me, 2 more chilled.

Love your stuff,

INTJ..Terence

75.retired for 25 in Spain.

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