How to Succeed at Work If You’re an Introvert

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You’re amazing at your job, and you really love your co-workers. But as an introvert—someone who is focused more internally and needs alone time to recharge after spending time in big groups—you often feel so drained, you wish you could work from home. “In the workplace, introverts often try to mask their introverted qualities to fit in,” Liz Fosslien and Molly West Duffy tell us in their new book, No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work. “But if they don’t talk openly about their differences, extroverts and introverts drive each other nuts.” Luckily, there are four tried-and-true ways for introverts to be more productive, happy and calm in the office (and even get along with an extroverted boss). 

1. Avoid sending extroverts long emails

As an introvert, it’s probably much easier for you to get all of your thoughts and feelings out in an email than it is to march up to your project manager and tell them everything that’s on your mind. But you know how your emails tend to get…long? “Extroverts, who often prefer to discuss issues or ideas in person, might skim through only the first paragraphs,” Fosslien and Duffy tell us. Write out everything you want to say, then edit it down into concise bullet points—or even better, bring your notes over and chat it out in person. 

2. Find a quiet place to recharge

More than 70 percent of offices reportedly have an open floorplan. But for introverts, working in a sea of other people (who are also talking and eating and making calls and trying to get work done) can be extremely distracting. That’s why it’s imperative that you find a quiet spot—whether it’s a little-used conference room, a corner of the hallway or a bench outside—to decompress. You’ll be surprised how much more rejuvenated and energized you’ll feel after only a few minutes of quiet time.

3. Let your co-workers know when you need space

Your extroverted seatmate would gladly spend the whole day working while simultaneously telling you about her weekend plans, the guy she went on a date with last week and the new guy in HR that she thinks hates her. She doesn’t realize that as an introvert, it’s extremely difficult to concentrate while she’s performing a four-hour monologue. It’s up to you to set these boundaries. Maybe tell your chatty colleague something like, “I need to hear the rest of this story, but I can't multitask. Can we go on a coffee break in like ten minutes?” Of course, if you’re working on a group project, you’ll probably have to interact more with your co-workers—but otherwise, knowing how you work best and communicating it to your seatmates will make a huge difference in your ability to get productive work done.

4. Chime into a meeting in the first ten minutes

For introverts, big meetings can be a minefield. Do I have something valuable to add? When do I say something? Is everyone thinking I’m slacking off and not paying attention because I haven’t said anything yet? Set your mind at ease by making a goal to speak up within the first ten minutes of the meeting. “Once you’ve broken the ice, it will be easier to jump in again,” Fosslien and Duffy advise. “And remember, a good question can contribute just as much as an opinion or statistic.” (Although those stats about baby pandas you memorized in high school might be a hit, too.)

The 3 Best Ways for Introverts to De-Stress, According to Science

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Freelance Editor

From 2015-2020 Lindsay Champion held the role of Food and Wellness Director. She continues to write for PureWow as a Freelance Editor.