I attended a workshop on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator a few years ago. Something that really stuck with me from that workshop was that introverts think and then speak, and extroverts speak to think. And since that time, I have observed this in action over and over again. As an introvert, I have often found extroverts’ “talking to think” difficult to compete with. While my thoughts are in my head waiting to be articulated, extroverts’ thoughts are being spoken out loud in real time. No wonder there can be issues between introverts and extroverts. With extroverts, everything is visible on the surface and is out there. Introverts are focused inside, thinking and, many times, waiting to make their point.
I am not saying one is better than another. We all have our gifts, but as introverts we need to continue to make our voices heard among the constant extroverted talking and “thinking out loud.” I have found a few different methods useful in having my voice heard when it comes to speaking up:
1) Become an expert in your area. When I am knowledgeable and passionate about something, I can easily articulate my ideas and usually don’t need as much time to think about them, because I already have.
2) Be competent and be someone who gets things done. I have heard the expression “its not what you know, but who you know.” I think that both are important. Who you know will generally only help you in landing the position. Knowing your strengths, or what you know and what you can do, will carry you far, and this expertise can help give you a voice in your organization and chosen field.
3) Insist on an agenda for meetings. I find that if I can prepare for a meeting ahead of time, I can think things through and be prepared to have a discussion, offer suggestions, and make decisions. Sometimes during the meeting, ideas will be presented that I will still need to give some thought to. I need to insist on having that time. It is fine to give me a deadline, but give me some time.
4) Continue to bring awareness to your needs. I have found that explaining my needs to others, such as the need for time to think, has gone a long way. Some people really will not understand unless you tell them. I have also found it very helpful to talk about these things with fellow introverts. It is easier not to go it alone. If you can say with a fellow introvert or two, “we need some time to think,” it can be much easier.
5) Be aware of how you are being perceived. When I spend time alone, I may think I am getting a ton of work done, while someone else thinks I am hiding out. We need to build relationships to strengthen our voice. To do this, we need to be sure to be aware of the needs of both our introverted and extroverted colleagues.
6) Keep your email organized. While introverts often prefer to communicate via email, in this digital age, even email conversations can happen very quickly. We like to take time to think about things, so sometimes if we are not fast we may be left out, even in an email discussion. By staying on top of your inbox and staying organized, you can ensure that you are involved with ongoing emails and the many critical work decisions that are made through this medium. I am continually pushing myself to be better organized, so that I can keep up and have a voice in these discussions.
Sometimes it may feel that the “extroverted” way is the right way, because we are hearing from the extroverts more often. Their thoughts are always out there, while we introverts are naturally thinking our thoughts before speaking them. But, wouldn’t you prefer to hear a well thought out idea versus a haphazard one? Introverts have some great things to say. We don’t have to be extroverts for our voices — our ideas and opinions – to come across loud and clear. Take your time, use your strengths, find your voice and be heard.