THE WORKPLACE IS, OF COURSE, a war zone. It’s not hard to figure out that everyone likes a coworker or a subordinate with a sunny and open disposition, someone who’s witty and a savvy talker. People with these qualities have a much easier time blending in with others. It often appears as if they’re also better suited for more important work that showcases the company. On the flipside, people with quiet and calm personalities are often put in the back of the house to work on internal company duties. Introverts who have professional capabilities are able to get involved with professionally skilled work, otherwise, they are very likely to be assigned administrative work, regardless of whether they like it or are adept at it. When people with different personalities coexist in the workplace, what happens? Extroverts like to be lively—they like doing things quickly; they can make prompt decisions; they are willing to take risks; they pursue stimulation or pleasure; they like to lead; they aren’t afraid of conflict; and they don’t enjoy doing things alone. Introverts, on the other hand, often ponder things deeply; they can only handle a small number of stimuli; they’re circumspect and prudent; they like listening to others; they tend to avoid conflict; and they don’t mind working alone.
At a glance, extroverts seem to have more advantages. Even to this day, these roles are a major part of me. Whether in the workplace or in school, the phrases I most often heard were “Oh . . . you’re really nice/smart/mature/great at getting results, but you’re just too quiet!” (None of the statements are real complements though . . . the most telling part of these phrases is the backhandedness of that last statement). However, my path has been far different than the paths of most people who are shy and quiet. My career has always been related to marketing. The products I market include people, concepts, and projects. Sometimes, my objective has even been to sell an entire country! As a result of my chosen career, my introverted self had to stand out. I have had to build relationships with others, even to the extent that I have to stand in the spotlight. I have had to make myself obvious and likeable . . . each time, in every little thing, for every goal. A lot of the time, these tasks are diametrically opposed to who I really am deep inside. Here’s an example that helps explain what I deal with regularly. Wherever I go for an event, the first thing I do is check the location of the restrooms. Why is that? It’s because that’s where I go to calm myself down when I have to attend conferences or social events. I’m certain to be nervous for a full three days and nights before such events, and if there’s a recording, filming, or interview component associated with these, my anxiety skyrockets. Even during regular office meetings, when I’m asked questions by the senior staff, it doesn’t matter how well I know the answer, my mind will go blank in an instant. It usually takes two days after the meeting for me to actually think up a proper, expansive, and perfect response to whatever questions were asked.
People often believe that we introverts think too much, that we’re often overwhelmed and get anxious easily, that we respond too slowly, that we’re shy, that we’re unsociable, that we’re incapable of working in teams, and so on. But the truth is that the only way in which introverts and extroverts are different is in how they recharge. Introverts need to be alone to regain their energy. We’re not like extroverts, who can use external stimuli to recharge themselves. I have seen introverts who can shoot out words like a machine gun, who have the right word for every occasion, who have limitless vitality. After they’ve finished a full day’s work, though, all they want to do is stay home, lie in bed in their pajamas, binge- watch something on Netflix, or read a book.