In Fall 2017 we were honored to have Nancy Ancowitz who provided a workshop for students, faculty, staff and alumni on “Career Advancement for Introverts” In this feature she answers our questions and shares ways for introverts to communicate effectively. Nancy Ancowitz is a presentation and career coach specializing in career advancement and presentation skills; she is the author of Self-Promotion for Introverts®.
How do you distinguish between an introvert and an extrovert?
Introverts typically get energized during their quiet time, while extroverts do so by socializing. However, we’re all complex human beings. One useful analogy I’ve heard is to think of your personality type as the neighborhood in which you live. You may be most comfortable there, but can enjoy visiting other neighborhoods, learning their languages and customs. Introverts tend to enjoy quiet activities like research, reading, and writing, while extroverts are more action-oriented, relying more on the outside world for input and stimulation.
Acknowledging the differences between the two types, how should introverts communicate well with extroverts?
If you’re an introvert, be prepared to discuss a few light conversation topics at meetings and other interactions as a way of connecting with your extroverted conversation partners. Arrive well rested and refreshed to help prevent sensory overload. Keep in mind that just as you prefer to think through your ideas before you talk about them, extroverts often like to work through their ideas out loud and bounce them off others. So expect to do some brainstorming at meetings with extroverts. It can help to ask for an agenda prior to a meeting so you can mull over the topics in advance.
While you may normally prefer to wait for your turn to speak, be prepared to jump in when speaking at a meeting of extroverts. If you’re stumped by a question, respond that you need a moment to think about it or that you'll follow up with an answer later. You can also ask for clarification on the question, which buys time. For example, “Would you say more about what you mean by…?”
Recognize extroverts' needs to have plenty of varied activities and people to talk to; an extrovert may be bored by an in-depth discussion behind closed doors with one person on a single topic. Just as you may know a few topics well, appreciate extroverts' breadth of knowledge on many topics.
When it comes to e-mailing and leaving voice mail for extroverts, keep your messages snappy. (Many busy introverts will appreciate this too!) Extroverts may skim or only focus on the ﬁrst few words.
What are the advantages of being an introvert in the workplace?
Introverts bring many natural gifts to the workplace, including an inclination to do a deep dive into topics that interest them. That goes hand in hand with acquiring expertise. I think of introverts as deep sea divers to extroverts’ snorkelers. So introverts tend to be more detail oriented. And if you spend more time listening than talking, you may have fine-tuned your skills at listening attentively – a valuable skill in many a workplace.
An introvert usually finds it overwhelming when surrounded by many people at a networking event. What should an introvert do to minimize shyness and hesitance to talk to other people?
First, let’s distinguish between introversion and shyness. Introverts are half the population – and a subset of introverts as well as extroverts, to a lesser extent, are shy, or suffer from social anxiety.
A few quick tips:
- Arrive at social events with a few opening lines and easy topics of conversations ready. Attend networking events with a more social companion, and aim to introduce one another around.
- Break the ice by smiling, extending your hand, and simply saying who you are and asking about the other person. Keep it simple.
- Practice socializing in “safe” role-playing situations with a trusted friend or colleague.
Lastly, if your shyness holds you back in serious ways, consider getting professional help, like from a psychotherapist, who can help you explore ways to remedy it. In contrast, in the case of introversion, there’s nothing to cure!
If someone wants to learn more about speaking in public or facilitating a meeting effectively, what would you recommend?
Take a public speaking class, attend a local Toastmasters International meeting, or hire a coach who specializes in presentation skills. You can also join or start a public speaking Meetup. Most important is to seek out opportunities to practice. Look for opportunities to speak, teach, and facilitate. To brush up on some basic skills, see the following stories about different aspects of public speaking, with particular tips for introverts:
- “Cool Tool for Public Speakers”
- “Presentations for Introverts: Interactive is Easier”
- “The Collaborative Art of Public Speaking”
- “Improv in the Workplace”
- “Presenting to Clients: To Know Them is to Wow Them”
- “How to Find Your Inner Cary Grant”
How can an introvert speak up and contribute ideas at a meeting more often?
As a corollary to my earlier suggestion to request an agenda for a meeting in advance, it helps to actually have a spot on the agenda, so others expect you to speak. Regardless, prepare to address a few topics and do so as early as feasible in a meeting.
Also, practice interjecting, since some meetings get boisterous and it can be hard to get in a word edgewise. It’s a great idea to take the role of facilitator whenever possible – this way, you have a hand in how the flow of the conversation goes, including who gets to speak and for how long.
With all of these things, practice is key. If you don’t have a lot of opportunities to attend meetings, create mock meetings with trusted friends and colleagues to practice key skills like interjecting and concisely sharing your ideas, building on those of others, and brainstorming – an activity that extroverts particularly enjoy. Follow up on meetings with a summary of your key points, or even additional thoughts, via e-mail.
What are some exercises/tools that introverts can practice for their career advancement?
One of the most important is the elevator pitch. The idea is often unfairly maligned. I believe it’s a great idea to think through some basic language in reply to common inquiries like, “Tell me about yourself,” or “What do you do?” This is especially important for introverts – not to mention speakers of English as a second language, given their inclination to need time to think before replying. So take the time to craft some snappy language as an antidote for brain freeze.
What resources about career advancement for introverts that you would recommend to our readers?
I welcome readers to check out my blog for Psychology Today, which is also on the topic of my book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®.
Below are links to a few webinars I’ve given specifically targeting career advancement for introverts, available for purchase on demand:
- “How to Deliver Powerful Presentations as an Introvert”
- “Essential Management Skills for Introverts”
Here a few more resources that boost careers for introverts and extroverts alike: