You think things through before speaking. You work best alone or in a small group. Though you may not be shy, you wouldn't describe yourself as a crowd-loving Chatty Cathy. When your co-workers invite you to happy hour, you think up every excuse in the book to get out of it (does Netflix and ice cream work?!).
If you're an introvert, it can, at times, feel difficult to get ahead in the workplace — especially because that usually constitutes lots of socializing. Cast aside your anxiety, dear introverts: here's how to overcome your fear of awkwardness and do the most brilliant job possible.
1. Challenge yourself.
Practice makes perfect, with everything — including mingling at work. "Every day, make it a point to break out of your comfort zone," says Jill Jacinto, a millennial career expert for WORKS. "Whether that means heading to the pantry to make small talk with your co-workers, asking a teammate to get lunch, offering to attend a conference, or presenting at a meeting." If you begin taking big strides past your boundaries now, it will feel like a breeze a year from today.
2. Set up a one-to-one coffee or lunch date with a co-worker.
Take a trip to Starbucks and sit down together with a cup of joe — it's less uncomfortable than engaging in a conversation across cubicles. "When asking for this time, indicate that you would like to learn more about his or her experience at the company," says Jane Miller, CEO and founder of JaneKnows.com, which provides career advice to millennials. "People love to talk about what they have done and share their advice! While in this situation, it is easy to segue into learning a bit more about them personally, and vice-versa."
3. Read a couple of books.
Hallie Crawford, career coach and founder of HallieCrawford.com, recommends The Introvert Advantage and The Introverted Leader. "These can help you educate others, if needed, about your strengths as an introvert," Crawford says. "[They also help you] manage your energy effectively in a more extroverted department or organization, and be more extroverted when needed (such as in networking events, or in meetings where you need to report or present)." Hey, we all know books can change your life!
4. DO attend that after-work happy hour.
Agree to go if your team invites you to a post-5 p.m. cocktail — gatherings like this are key to work success. Bonus: you don't have to do all the talking! "The beauty of this strategy is that in a group, you don't have to be the center of attention," Miller says. "Instead, you can learn a lot by observing others. Listening more than speaking is a tried-and-true technique at work (and life)!" And what could be easier than sitting at a bar, sipping a vodka while nodding your head?!
5. Research people you'll be interacting with.
Knowing a little bit about everyone you'll be talking to at an event is a surefire way to avoid social blunders, such as name mix-ups. "Before going to a networking event, study the guest list," Jacinto says. "Learn about the hosts, speakers, and other attendees. Arming yourself with information is a great way to open the line of conversation."
6. Bear in mind the loudest person in the room isn't the only one heard.
"I know it can seem that way when you're sitting next to the bull in the china shop who takes every opportunity to open up her mouth," Miller says. "Your best strategy is to always be prepared when you go into a meeting. That way, you can feel confident that you are armed with the facts if the opportunity arises to add commentary. Facts are an introvert's friend!" Remember: loudest does NOT always equal smartest.
7. Just be yourself.
No matter what, always remain genuine. While faking it works in some instances, other times, it's painfully obvious you're acting out of character. "If you are totally uneasy in social settings, don't constantly put yourself in those situations!" Miller says. "It will make you and your co-workers uncomfortable. Don't be afraid to represent your great work — just do it in a way that makes you comfortable and lets you shine!"