How Introverts Find Their Voice in the Midst of Chattering Extraverts
by Jane Finkle, author, The Introvert’s Complete Career Guide
When faced with a classic extrovert, you may find the flood of information so overwhelming that you have difficulty finding a space to inject your own thoughts and ideas. Even though you may be working at home these days, you may find yourself in a position that demands virtual client, customer, or team meetings or scarier yet, lengthy formal presentations. But recognize as an introvert your natural tendency to listen; focus, and pose questions can further a conversation or discussion in a meaningful direction. With some careful reflection and planning, you can jump into a virtual discussion or meeting with confidence and ensure that your valuable voice is heard. Here’s how to deal with those chattering extraverts.
What’s on your mind? Jot down some notes or create an agenda in advance so that you are prepared before the meeting begins. Pose direct questions on issues for which you need answers. This will prevent a mind freeze from the avalanche of an extravert’s verbiage and keep you from disappearing into the depths of the discussion. Your boss or clients will appreciate your readiness by your thoughtful commentary and questions. In the extraverted work world, it’s your proven results that get the most nods. So don’t be modest. As part of your preparation for a work meeting or event, have one or two accomplishments related to a project or task ready to intersperse into a conversation when it’s relevant. This will enrich the conversation and place you in a glowing spotlight.
Even with advance planning, you may still feel cowed by the extraverts in a meeting as they dive off the high board full force into any discussion. But sometimes a whisper is more impactful than a shout. Use what I call “diplomatic interruption” so you don’t get lost in the crowd. You might interject: “Excuse me, but something you just said triggered an idea on how to expand the program.” Or you might be polite and bold after a lengthy discussion: “Sorry to interrupt but I want to make sure there is enough time to discuss the survey results.”
Sometimes with all the chatter at a meeting, you may discover you can’t find an appropriate time to jump in. But do not allow that lost moment to defeat you. If you have a pertinent comment or suggestion regarding issues discussed, follow up with the leader or team group by e-mail or phone. You can also volunteer to write a meeting summary and forward it to all the attendees. An afterthought with a fresh idea or approach can win you some praise too.
A phone meeting is generally not a favorite scenario for introverts. You prefer seeing a face, where you can zoom in on nonverbal cues. Despite what you may think, a phone interview can actually work in your favor. Remember that all your key points are immediately at hand, ready to be referred to at just the right time. So, follow your notes and not your fears.
• If you end up with a non-stop talker, interject with comments such as “I understand,” or “that’s interesting,” or “very encouraging.” This kind of reflective listening will signal that you are fully present and paying attention and can save you from a deep freeze of long silence
• Speak with enthusiasm about your work, specific achievements and skills.
• Follow up after the meeting with any additional comments or ideas via phone or email.
Introverts tend to thrive on face-to-face contact, so using FaceTime, Skype, and web conference tools will allow you to see each other’s faces and get a better idea of who you are working with.
• Select a room in your house or office that’s uncluttered and has a professional appearance.
• Do a trial run checking all equipment, especially sound, well in advance
• Dress as if you were meeting your colleagues or clients in person.
• Watch out for tensional outlets, such as tapping a pen, shuffling papers, and clearing the throat. The microphone will not cancel out these intrusions.
• Don’t get distracted by the appearance of your image on the screen; instead, make eye contact with your client or colleagues.
It’s not a matter of getting fired up about a meeting or presentation. You just have to jump in and do it. To ease into a relaxed state, consider exercising before a meeting to release tension and keep your mind and spirit focused in the right direction. Clinical studies support the physical and mental benefits of deep breathing and meditation. This technique can help you remain calm and alert during meetings and presentations.
Try creative visualization. This is a simple but effective approach that invites successful results by conjuring up positive, reinforcing images. The unconscious is a powerful entity, and when you communicate with it harmoniously, what you imagine can unfold in surprising and positive ways.
Appreciate The Introvert’s Advantage
Recognize that your introversion can be an asset. Use your sharp listening skills to generate thoughtful answers to questions make connections. Your creative, thoughtful, and observant mind can equally impress colleagues, clients, and senior leaders.
With some preparation and simply imagining yourself sailing on that breeze, you may find that you get swept away in the spirit of things.
Jane Finkle has 25 years of experience as a career coach for universities and has run her own career counseling firm since 2002. She also created and led the Wharton Career Discovery seminar, a program still offered today. Finkle has written a weekly column, “Career Blueprints”, for Abington Patch and has been published in the Huffington Post and Adirondack Life. She resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.