Today's competitive workplace demands that you can influence a variety of situations and people and are effective at getting your ideas across.
Written by: Marijke van Dusseldorp, PhD
Quiet influence - how introverts can make a difference
However, if you are an introvert like me, you might recognise that this is not as easy as it sounds. I can still remember a particular meeting at university. We discussed research ideas in order to pick out a promising one to work out in more detail. I always feel a bit uncomfortable in such meetings, being afraid of the rejections others might come up with. So, I had done my homework and had arguments ready to underpin my idea. At the first possible opportunity I introduced my proposal. However, almost immediately a colleague took over. She was really excited about it and this was the start of a lively and enthusiastic debate which I didn't manage to join. In the end, my boss congratulated her with this promising idea and asked her to work it out.
In her Ted talk on introversion, Susan Cain pointed out that although there is no link between the loudest or most charismatic person and the person who has the best ideas, our first instinct is to think of people who are more “out there” as leaders and subject matter experts. Extroverts seem to be advantaged due to their outgoingness and enthusiasm.
It is good to realise that extroverts and introverts behave differently due to neurophysiologic differences. MRI scans have revealed that in the brain of introverts signals follow different and longer neural paths compared to brains of extroverts. Introverts have more activity in the frontal lobes of the brain involved in planning, remembering, and in-depth thinking. The flip side is: in interaction they need far more response time than extroverts. Furthermore, extroverts prefer the neurotransmitter dopamine which stimulates talkativeness, alertness to surroundings, motivation to take risks and exploring the environment, whereas introverts prefer acetylcholine which stimulates them to take quiet time alone. Extroverts are like windmills, they get energised by experiences and interactions with other people, whereas introverts lose energy in interaction and replenish their energy with time spent alone, like battery's do.
Since introverts spend more time focusing on their own thoughts, feelings and ideas, they often come up with innovative and creative ideas. Today, this is a real asset for companies and research institutes who have to face strong competition. Also, they take care of thorough and extensive preparation, because of their drive for understanding and a fear of not knowing enough. So far so good: great ideas and good preparation. For introverts, the difficulties start at the moment they need to communicate and share their ideas with others.
So how can introverts get their message across? This is exactly the focus of our training on personal efficiency for introverted professionals, a co-production of Mimicri training and ‘Een wereld van verschil’. It begins with being selfconfident and self-conscious about your own qualities and contribution. Introverts tend to be very modest and really need to acknowledge they are reliable and independent, good at listening, problem solving, structuring and making well-considered decisions. It is of great help to understand the differences in behaviour of introverts and extroverts and to value the qualities and needs of both.
From these starting points, introverts can learn how to manoeuvre on the axis of introvert extrovert behaviour in order to connect and influence. We are all capable of introvert and extrovert behaviour; it is just that due to our personality and how we are wired that we feel more comfortable with one side of the spectrum. Of course it takes courage and practice to go beyond your comfort zone, but if you dare, you will get the benefits too.
I am convinced organisations badly need the input of introverted people at the workplace in order to be inspiring, successful and competitive. And I am sure you will be able to flourish in a world still dominated by the extrovert viewpoint. Since I realised that I am an introvert, I have learned to stay calm, to neglect the limiting thoughts that instantly come up when someone takes over, to come back into the discussion by summing up, asking questions and repeating my own ideas. I profit from the fact that I am a good listener and I now realise that extroverts do not bother about being interrupted. Also, I take advantage of one-on-one discussions before and aftergroup consultations, and use my skill of clearly writing things down. I hope you found this article helpful!
“I am the life of the party.”
“I get energized eing around people.”
“I don’t mind being the centre of attention.”
“I tend to speak before I think.”
“At parties, I tend to listen a lot.”
“I need time alone to re-energize.”
“People view me as calm and reserved.”
“I tend to think before I speak.”
Are you an introvert? Are you curious to know how you can increase your personal efficiency? Have a look at our full day training programme on www.eenwereldvanverschil.nu/en or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Dr. Marijke van Dusseldorp (Mimicri training): Marijke works as a coach and trainer with specific focus on personal development and effectiveness of introverted professionals. She has an academic background in nutrition and health.
Marijke van Dusseldorp and Geraldine Sinnema developed the training on “Personal efficiency for introverted professionals.” Geraldine Sinnema (Een wereld van verschil) works as career coach and trainer for igher educated professionals. She studied at Wageningen University.