There’s no doubt about it, most everyone in a professional role must distinguish themselves if they want to influence others. But we’ve always found it a little odd that so many authors and “career specialists” so readily accept the idea that being successful means being (or becoming) an extrovert.
In her research, Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, has found that one third to one half of Americans are introverts—this may come as a surprise since so many of us strive to be alpha, outspoken and self-promotional.
Corporate culture, too, seems to favor extroverts—but in doing so they are not only alienating a large percentage of the workforce, they’re also missing out on hidden talents and perspectives that could benefit the company.
Think about it this way:
- Influencing and pleasing clients requires us to listen, reflect and carefully plan our response; most introverts already have these skills down pat. Influence is a process, not an event. It takes time to build trust and respect with clients, and if we think we’ll win it by shouting, chances are that we’re not only going to alienate others, we’re also going to miss out on a lot of opportunities to learn from them.
- The world is a diverse place and many of us find ourselves doing business with myriad cultures and countries on a daily basis. Those with a quiet confidence are more likely to win over cultures that are less aggressive and prefer a reflective, low-key approach to doing business.
- Most professional work necessitates teamwork. Our supervisors are called “team leaders” and our colleagues “team members.” Our work environments are often arranged so that we sit with our teams; we do a great deal of our thinking in “team meetings” or brainstorm sessions—even hiring is done in teams. This may work well for extroverted employees, but for introverts, constant interaction is a distraction that, as Kahnweiler suggests, “takes them away from the physical and intellectual space where they do their best thinking.”
- Workplace culture thrives on immediacy. We receive instant notifications when an email reaches our in-box and are often expected to craft an immediate response. Meetings and impromptu brainstorming sessions also happen quickly, allowing little time for well-thought-out responses to complex issues. Although introverted employees are often the folks with the best ideas, we end up missing out on them simply because we are in too much of a hurry to give introverts the time it takes to fully articulate and flesh out these ideas.
Work culture may be dominated by the louder, extroverted approach, but as Kahnweiler suggests this approach actually “negates the natural tendencies of more than half of the population” and “sets up roadblocks to Quiet Influence” which actually works against the growth and success of a company.