Many introverts in the workplace are playing out a drama with thousands of acts and scenes in their heads and are always getting tangled up inside: “Why am I incapable of being like so- and- so who can start a conversation effortlessly?” they might think, or “Why do I have to think of the answer to that question from a moment ago now? It’s already too late!” or “My host partner said he wouldn’t be able to attend for the time being; did he just leave me standing here holding the bag?”
All of this internal drama might make you think that introverts are at a disadvantage, but in fact, introverts have many unique advantages, which we cover in the next chapter. Remember, instead of thinking about how you can’t beat people with wonderful forehand swings, it’s better to just work on your backhand swings and agility so nobody can beat you.
There are unique advantages that may help introverts to shine in the workplace:
1. Introverts are deep thinkers.
In the evolution of biological life, the fittest survive—the genes that can precisely respond to the environment and adapt. Introverts seem to be wired differently than extroverts. Whereas extroverts are oriented toward rewards, introverts have developed survival strategies to avoid danger, save on energy, and reduce instances of failure. Introverts often can’t talk about anything on the fly that they haven’t already spent some time thinking about. They dislike impulsive behavior. They think a lot before they express their ideas. The benefit of this behavior is that when they do speak, their thoughtful dialog can make the listener feel good; they might think they are being given the proper consideration and attention they deserve, and this resonates with the listener. This kind of special trait allows introverts to fully prepare before they act. You won’t see introverts being late for an event; they already carefully calculated the time they needed to get there three days ago. Nor will you see them rushing to meet a deadline at the last minute; they’ve planned out their time and have been working to meet it methodically.
2. Introverts are good at listening.
Being able to listen closely is one major element of successful communication. Introverts are expert observers and are adept at reading between the lines. Because they can absorb and understand information and think deeply, they’re better able to understand what’s important to others, they can sift through information to find what is meaningful, and they have an easier time looking at that information in light of its background context. The main actor in the movie Life of Pi, Adil Hussain, describes Director Ang Lee this way: “His directing style is very sensitive and quiet. When he’s talking with you, it’s almost like he’s whispering. He’ll never yell over from the director’s chair or get an assistant to tell you. He’s always communicating, himself. His communication isn’t just speech—it much more resembles a kind of energy exchange, giving people a way to act. So, even a novice like Suraj Sharma has a way to perform so remarkably.” However, introverts who like to watch and observe tend to overinterpret other’s thinking. Although sometimes they end up stressing themselves out because of it, according to others, introverts often know what others’ thoughts and needs are. In the workplace, this kind of ability is crucially beneficial to sealing the deal.
3.Introverts excel at having single- minded focus.
Compared to extroverts, introverted people are more capable of maintaining focus on whatever they do: and important goals, deadlines, and duties they are given. They can carry out their tasks for a long time with great concentration. Psychologist Hans Eysenck, often quoted in academic research papers, says that introverts can “focus on the work at hand and avoid wasting their efforts on unrelated social interactions.” In addition, because introverts crave stability, they won’t only focus on short- term goals. Compared to extroverts, who are comfortable with the short- term results, introverts are advocates of waiting to see success.
4.Introverts have perseverance.
Introverts aren’t easily discouraged; instead, they focus on their goals and persevere. Psychologist Angela Duckworth calls this trait grit. She believes that grit is a much more capable sign of future success than natural talent, IQ, family income, or other factors. This characteristic is especially important and requested as we climb the corporate ladder and pursue senior management positions. What Georgetown University Associate Professor Carl Newport calls “deep work,” is a similar concept. He writes that being able to create deep and rare results fearlessly with single- minded devotion is an ability that can create values. Whether senior managers can succeed depends on whether they can lead and whether their long- term projects have meaningful value; they won’t get anywhere just by replying to a bunch of emails and holding several meetings every day. This skillset is actually an introvert’s area of expertise.