Thursday, January 21, 2010

Workplace Challenges Being an Introvert

As an introvert, I live in my head a lot. I don't smile much and I am quiet by nature. At meetings I hang back, listen to various views, and only then do I speak.

I have had people ask me if I was OK, if everything was alright, if I was upset with them, and so on. Others have thought, because I don't jump into conversations forcefully or frequently, that I am not always with the program.

Other times I have been viewed as uncaring, distant, too serious, angry, pensive, detached, aloof, fussy, inflexible, picky, pessimistic, hesitant, name just a few of the words I can find to describe how my introvert nature has been interpreted.

Yet from my perspective, I am just listening at a deep level, being thorough, diplomatic, precise, "anchor of reality", and working towards making good decisions, so everyone benefits.

I can't help but wonder, in our business culture, to what degree extroverts and type A personalities are more highly valued and as a result, we introverts are overlooked and misunderstood, especially when it comes to moving up to leadership positions.

If you're in an introvert, have you faced similar challenges? If so, what have been your challenges and how have you dealt with them?


Shelby Truxon said...

I recently subscribed to your blog and identify 100% with your postings on introverts. In reference to this article, I have received the same comments. In a way I feel it has kept me from advancing as quickly as I should be. My yearly reviews usually start with how talented I am but end with how I need to engage more in meetings or with clients. Meanwhile, I think I'm just listening to them in order to give good feedback or carry out a specific task the way they want.

One thing I try to do is be as prepared as possible before meetings. I make a list of items I want to touch on or questions I have. With clients I've learned to schedule phone meetings with them versus doing impromptu phone calls. So far things have gotten a little better.

Vinay Kumar said...

Hi Shelby,

Thanks for subscribing to my blog and for sharing your experiences being an introvert. I can so relate to them. About 25 years ago, I was passed up on a promotion, cause I didn't "have the energy". And those who are extroverts who talked a lot were somehow perceived as more talented, more able. Can you believe that? And there was a time I actually started to question my own abilities as a result of such incidents.

I have come to realize we introverts do have lot of talents and abilities, e.g. ability to deeply listen. So honor your gifts and leverage them as much as possible. And prepare, etc. as you are. Good for you.

Btw, how did you hear of my blog?

Raphra said...

I agree with you. Being an introvert is like quicksand - you feel you are thinking deep, observing everything, making right decision and so on - but the process does not stop there, it has never stopped for me. It not only cuts you off from the outside world, but the habit pulls you back from reality.

I see so many extroverts and people who live in the moment, and felt so jealous about them and angry about myself. I find it so difficult to face impromptu situations, and they do it with ease.

Vinay Kumar said...

Thanks Raphra for your comments. I completely understand. At the same time, perhaps it might be helpful to focus more on what your unique strengths are and then find the right organizational culture and role where you can leverage your innate talents and abilities. As I see it, everyone adds value and often it's just a matter of finding that right fit.

So don't be jealous for extroverts have their own struggles. And don't be angry with yourself. Focus instead on your goodness, your unique strengths, your ability to dive deep and things that others may miss. I am sure you are special in your own unique way so focus on what you have to offer rather then on what you don't.

Hope this helps.

estevan carlos benson said...

I'm facing the possibility of being fired for this very issue. I'm somewhat dumbfounded. On one hand I'm being told that I'm doing a good job but I don't come off as a "team player". It' awful.

Vinay Kumar said...

Hello Estevan,

Thanks for writing. What you shared is most unfortunate, especially given your boss is happy with your results. Appears to be a simple misunderstanding in how you approach work and how he/she approaches work.

As a thought, you may consider sharing my post with your boss. In add'n, you may consider asking him what would he see you doing and hear you saying that would demonstrate you are a team player, as well as ask where he feels you are falling short.

I encourage you to have such a conversation. In the process, I am confident both of you are likely to benefit.

Hope this helps. If you want to chat further, feel free to call me at 703-851-9466, or write to me at Happy to help you anyway I can.

Take care and wishing you the best,


PS Have a great Thanksgiving.

Vinod said...


I just saw your blog and its completely true in my case. I am facing a lot of problem in my personal life and professional as well.I am trying a lot to come out of this but still don't find any effective way.Please guide.

Vinay Kumar said...

Hello Vinod,

Thanks for reaching out. I am happy to guide you. Before I can do that effectively though, please tell me more about what problems you are facing and what do you mean by "coming out of this". You can write to me at I hope to hear from you.


Reeba said...

I LOVE THIS... I'm such an introvert, and recently was told by my brother that I'm "wrong" for not talking to my relatives the way he does...I'm just not talkative, but of course that comes off as "bitchy".. I've been criticized for being quiet for a decade (I'm 21), and it's terrible to have to go through that, feeling like something is "wrong with you"..when actually, I'm a nice, friendly person with deep, meaningful thoughts... sometimes I don't know what to do with myself. It's so great to read articles/blogs like this though. Just to know I'm not alone in this is so comforting...thank you so much for blogging this. You have no idea how grateful I am just to come upon your website!

Vinay Kumar said...

Hello Reeba,

Thank you for writing. Rest assured there is nothing wrong with you. This is how we introverts are wired and as a result we come off as we do.

Having said that, we have choice to make. Do we want to continue to go through life being misjudged, remaining silent, and "hiding" behind "that's how we are"? Or do we want to do something about it? If you choose the later, here's something to think about.

Given that you are a nice person, next time your brother or others critizie you, why not take the bull by the horn and first thank them for their valuable feedback (and feedback is a gift truly) and then ask them: "What's the one thing you could say or do differently, so you don't come off as "bitchy"? If you ask for guidance, I am sure they will provide to you, from a good place. It's takes courage to do this and that courage I am sure you have.

By doing so you'll get some valuable insights and then you can adjust your behavior accordingly, that doesn't negate who you are and at the same time communicates to others the nice person that you are.

If you did this, and you can if you choose to, what would your relationships and your life look like then? What would be possible, for you?

Do share with me what you learn, what you do, and how that impacts you. I would love to hear. You can write to me at:

All the best to you,