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Being Introverted – You’re at A Disadvantage

introvertedI’ve wanted to be an introvert my whole life. It’s going poorly. Introverts think, then speak. What an amazing quality. Extroverts, like me, wake up talking and then spend much of the day apologizing for what we’ve said.

While I covet introverts’ thoughtful communication style, they are at a disadvantage. The people we work with are busy and have limited exposure to coworkers. As a result, others judge us very quickly. If we don’t speak up in meetings or find another way to express our thoughts, people are likely to think we have little to offer. Regardless of your communication style, if you want people to know the value you provide, find a way to share it.

You can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t become a different person to get ahead at work. You have to be yourself. Trying to be someone you’re not, will be painful, frustrating, and short lived. Rather than trying to become someone or something else, find ways to express yourself within your natural style.

Here are four tips to communicate powerfully as an introvert:

Being introverted communication tip one: If you know you’re hesitant to speak up in a meeting, perhaps share your views with the meeting attendees individually – verbally or in writing – before the meeting happens.

Being introverted communication tip two: Make sure the people who can impact your career know your accomplishments. You don’t need to wear a billboard advertising what you’re doing, sending a monthly list of accomplishments and priorities to your boss and boss’s boss (clear this with your boss first) will do the trick.

Being introverted communication tip three: Find your own way of talking about what you think is important. Maybe your conversations will be over lunch with one or two people. Perhaps you’ll periodically email key people with ideas. The point is to find a way to express yourself that resonates with your personal style. Don’t keep all your ideas to yourself.

Being introverted communication tip four: Push yourself to speak up in meetings more than you might naturally be inclined to do so. Being prepared will help you speak up.

Know what’s on meeting agendas. When you feel strongly about a topic, prepare what you want to say. Take notes and consider practicing out loud. Do whatever you need to to feel comfortable expressing yourself in front of a group. And if speaking up in a meeting feels too uncomfortable, remember, people who don’t get a lot of exposure to you are evaluating you based on your contributions during meetings. Find a way to make your views known.



Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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11 Responses to “Being Introverted – You’re at A Disadvantage”

  1. Sue Marcott says:

    I am an introvert, always have been. In school the answers rolled across my mind, but I was not confident enough to speak. It was interesting to me when it would take three or four spoken replies before the answer that I was thinking would be the response from one of my classmates and it was the answer the teacher was looking for often! consequently I was labeled by the teachers as a non participating student.
    I am better now, in small groups or one on one of course. I also lead seminars and do one on one training. At a previous position I forced myself to interview new hires! I was actually very good at listening. Often the people I chose and hired stayed longer and were more successful.

  2. Tammy Gribble says:

    While I am not considered an introvert, our meetings are with 3 other women extroverts who are very skilled at getting their ideas and accomplishments verbally noticed first and foremost. While I genuinely like and admire these women for their accomplishments, I hate these meetings and rarely participate. Bad for me and my fault. I get the best result when I ask to be on the agenda early in the meeting, plan what I want to present, and insist on not being interrupted.

  3. Veronica Smith says:

    One of the things that we’ve done lately in our meetings is to go around the room and ask each person if they have anything else to add as we discuss ideas. This at least gives everyone a chance to speak up if they want to do so.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I’m an introvert, and I’m not afraid to speak up in front of others and express my opinion. What I have trouble doing is getting a word in edgewise when all the extroverts are speaking up and not pausing for breath. Do you have suggestions for how to handle that?

    • Laura Elizabeth says:

      I agree with this comment. I have a hard time getting air-time when I attend meetings/calls with talkative people. They often interrupt each other, and the loudest, fastest-talking person usually controls the conversation. I think they just seem rude, but their ideas are usually the ones that “win.” Help!

  5. Brian says:

    Interesting read Shari. As a Mgr, I think it’s my duty to ensure that I recognize those more introverted individuals on my team and help them with perceptions of “disengagement” or not having anything of value to add. .

    • Shari Harley says:

      Hi Brian, Thanks so much for reading the blog and taking the time to write a comment. Of course, I agree with you. Effective leaders look for the value employees bring, however they bring it. They create opportunities for employees to express themselves in a variety of ways that may not be obvious or overt. I’m hoping the blog provides employees who work for leaders who don’t do these things with some tools to manage their career, regardless of for whom they work.

  6. Shannon Dacus says:

    I am an introvert and I like this list. Being in graduate school has allowed me to form my own ideas quickly as we have weekly assignments LOL!

    I hate going to a meeting and not knowing what the topic is beforehand because I am not able to prepare. When that happens I follow up afterwards when I have had time to gather my thoughts and I email them to the person that called the meeting.

  7. Martha Turner says:

    I have to recommend the book Quiet by Susan Cain. The only nonfiction book I have ever read straight through, let sit in my brain for a week and then promptly read straight through again. She speaks both to introverts and to the extroverts who could use some help knowing how to deal with them.

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