The dichotomy between introverts and extroverts was once thought to be straightforward, with introverts directing energy inward, and extroverts outward. Recent behavioral science has found that the differences may be more nuanced. People can display traits from both sides of the spectrum and many individuals today self-identify as ambiverts—or someone whose personality lies somewhere in-between introversion and extroversion.
In life, and at work, those who lean more toward the introverted side of the spectrum face different challenges than people who lean more toward the extroverted side. They also possess different and unique strengths which can be developed and accessed to build resilience. For example, because they can feel worn down by certain types of social interaction, introverts are sometimes mislabeled as shy, absent, or not team-players. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as those who lean towards introversion also tend to be more empathetic, sensitive, meditative, and calm—all of which are valuable traits in any teammate.
To help employee teams benefit most from introverts’ unique strengths, it helps to recognize, accept and value different personality traits without judgment. When a team represents a safe place for all employees to apply their unique strengths, everyone wins.
Employees who lean more toward introversion often excel at:
Keeping Calm, and Carrying On: An introspective, steady attitude can have a calming effect on individuals and the entire team. This skill is particularly valuable in high-stress situations when introverts can help a team mellow and focus on accomplishing the task at hand.
Building Deep Relationships: Introverts often take relationships very seriously, eschewing superficial interactions for more meaningful, intimate, and deeper ones.
Listening: Active listening requires empathy, attention and, most importantly, staying quietly focused—all things that can come more naturally to the more introverted.
Creative and Detailed Tasks: Because those inclined to introversion thrive in solitude, they often excel at independent, creative tasks like writing, coding, and graphic design.
Staying Resilient, and Recharging When You Need To
It’s important to remember that the term introversion, like extroversion, isn’t a diagnosis, but rather a way of thinking about what makes us comfortable, and in what situations we thrive. For instance, people who lean towards introversion may enjoy socializing, but simply need more alone time to recharge after.
If intense social interactions—a business presentation, a work party, a reunion—leave employees feeling particularly drained, here are some strategies you can offer to help them recharge their resilience engine:
- Mind the Noise: If you find too much noise (lots of talking, ambient sound, or certain kinds of music) distracting, try using noise-cancelling headphones at work if you’re able. And, if you work in a bustling open workspace, your company may provide access to quiet spaces like conference rooms or rotating offices that you can book for critical work time.
- Set Boundaries: Whenever possible, try to set boundaries on the kinds of communication and social interactions you want to have. Sometimes email is preferable to a phone call, and maybe the public library is a better place to do your work than a bustling coffeehouse.
- Embrace Rest: If, after a certain amount of time at a social gathering or in a meeting, fatigue starts to set in, give yourself permission to take a break and recharge. Schedule solitary time in between social events, and excuse yourself for a breather when you need it.