Being an introvert in a world that demands us to be sociable and charming is no joke.
As an introvert myself, I’d say it can be downright overwhelming. Especially in the workplace.
Day in and out, we’re expected to collaborate, make small talk, and be bright and sparkly while we’re at it.
And because we value our jobs, we try and do that to the best of our limited social energy. But deep inside, such things can make us scream in pain (only silently, of course, we’re introverts!).
I’m not being dramatic here. Ask any introvert what aspects of work they dislike, and I’m pretty sure they’d rattle off most, if not all, of the items on this list.
Here are 9 work-related struggles that cause silent pain for introverts:
1) Small talk, networking and meetings
Basically, any prolonged social interaction.
Look, introverts aren’t loners or anti-social people. Introversion simply means that social interactions drain us, as opposed to extroverts, who get energized by social interactions.
We love connecting with people, too. Just not for too long and too often.
At work, where there’s constant interaction throughout the day, we typically feel completely zapped by the time we get off work.
So, small talk? We hate to be rude, but we’d rather not.
Networking? A necessary evil.
Long, back-to-back meetings? Please, have mercy on us!
2) Open-office environments
Given that all of the scenarios above cause us silent pain, you can imagine just how much an open-office layout can drain us.
That right there is a work model designed to suck the life force out of introverts. I remember when I once worked in an office with this kind of setup, and it was incredibly hard to focus.
People would stop by all the time. Sometimes, they’d exchange stories while standing at my desk.
I’d do my best to zone out and type away, only to get interrupted by a chatty colleague.
Even with noise-canceling headphones, it was hard to ignore the constant movement around me.
That’s why I rejoiced – as I’m sure many of my fellow introverts do – when the remote work setup finally came to stay.
Introverts thrive in such an environment better than in offices. Especially those with open-office layouts.
3) Group brainstorming sessions
I might have sounded like introverts aren’t team players. On the contrary, not to toot my own horn, but research shows we’re better team players than extroverts.
Because we have these in our toolkit:
- Good listening skills
- A desire for peace and cohesiveness
- A desire for constructive and meaningful discussions
- The ability to choose our words wisely
- A great sense of timing – we speak up only when it’s necessary!
So, why do group brainstorming sessions cause us silent pain then?
Well, think about a typical brainstorming session…isn’t it a lot of people throwing out all sorts of ideas in real-time?
A lot of noise. Chaos. People talking over one another. In some cases, arguing. It’s all rather overwhelming for us.
Plus, we like taking our time when we think. Our best ideas come out when we have time and space to breathe.
4) Team-building activities
Oh, dear Lord. Nothing like forced fun activities to stress an introvert out.
Team building has a noble intention behind it – to get employees (willing and unwilling) to work better together.
But the reality is, it’s geared more towards extroverts, towards people who enjoy interaction.
So where does that leave the introvert? Cringing in silent pain.
5) Office politics
Just like team building, office politics can make introverts cringe in pain, too.
The office can sometimes feel like high school all over again, complete with cliques and drama.
For someone who values genuine, straightforward interactions, this is a drain on our emotional battery. I just couldn’t understand why people would spend so much energy on drama, for example.
Especially in the workplace. Our jobs already come with problems to solve, why add more to that, right?
6) Public speaking or presentations
This may not apply to all introverts, but many dislike presentations or anything that involves speaking in front of an audience.
It has to do with a fear of being judged and criticized. And it has to do with the introvert’s low-key nature, which includes a hesitation to be in the spotlight.
The irony is, introverts are probably among the most thoughtful and well-prepared people in the workplace. So, technically, they should be the most confident when it comes to public speaking.
Fortunately, that ability to prepare is also what can help overcome the fear. That’s how I managed to overcome mine.
I rehearse my speeches or presentations multiple times in an environment that feels safe (my bedroom). I visualize myself speaking confidently on the day of my presentation.
And most importantly, I pull all my focus towards my material. I think about this: “It’s not about me. It’s about the material and message I need to share.”
Here are some other strategies that might help:
- Record yourself and play it back to pick up on distracting habits or mannerisms
- Add interactive elements like polls or Q&A segments to divert attention away from you every now and then and give you a few breaks
- Take advantage of presentation software with aids for speakers
7) The lack of alone time
As an introvert, alone time is a necessity for me. And that can be hard to find at the office.
Even on lunch breaks, there’s bound to be a colleague inviting me along or sitting with me at the cafeteria.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the gesture. And on especially good (read: less draining) days, I appreciate the company.
But the fact of the matter is, not having a moment to myself in the middle of the work day can leave me feeling even more tired.
Our social battery is much like a phone battery, only what recharges us isn’t electricity; it’s solitude.
Skipping these recharge moments means going back to work already running on low, which isn’t great for productivity or well-being.
8) Overthinking communication
I know I’ve said that remote work offers introverts a lot of freedom and space. But just the same, it’s not completely struggle-free.
Take emails, for instance. You’d think that introverts can just type away and hit send just like that.
Nope. Even in written communication, we kind of hem and haw. We could spend 30 minutes crafting a two-paragraph email. We double-think punctuation and word choice.
I suppose there’s a touch of perfectionism there. But mainly, it’s because we want to deliver the message with just the right tone. To be as clear as possible.
We fear being misunderstood or misinterpreted, so we put a lot of thought into how we express ourselves.
It’s a double-edged sword – on one hand, it means we often communicate in a thoughtful, precise manner.
But on the other hand…it can be incredibly time-consuming and emotionally draining.
This can be especially challenging in a remote work setting, where written communication is often the primary means of interacting with colleagues and superiors.
9) Dealing with misunderstandings and stereotypes
Speaking of misinterpretation, being labeled as “quiet” or “reserved” often leads to assumptions. In an office setting, this can put you at a disadvantage.
Coworkers could see you as disinterested or even standoffish. Bosses and managers might not see how much you’re actually contributing, as quiet as you are.
Like I said, it’s hard to be an introvert in an extrovert world.
Aside from that, introverts dislike confrontation. So if there’s a misunderstanding, it’s absolutely painful.
So forgive us if we take too much time to think (and write an email). We simply want to avoid being misinterpreted.
If you’re an introvert in the workplace, chances are you’ve experienced at least a few of these struggles, if not all of them.
The good thing is, your introverted nature gives you so many valuable qualities that make you excel at your job.
Thoughtfulness, sharper focus, attention to detail…that’s just to name a few.
You just have to know how to leverage your natural strengths and let everyone know just how much you bring to the table.