It’s been said that “Perception is everything” and although it’s not completely true is has some grains of truth. What is the perception of an introvert and can it be altered? We shape how we are perceived, by our actions and words, so you don’t have to be perceived in ways you don’t want.
A long time ago I overheard two people talking:
“he’s so quiet, sometimes i don’t even realise he’s there!”
That doesn’t sound too bad, until I add that it was my old manager talking about me to my new manager. My first feeling was disappointment, followed by anger and then later I considered pride (it was too late by then though). My initial interpretation was that I didn’t matter and, worse still, my new manager was going to start with that same impression of me. How would you have felt?
Thinking of the the old saying “first impressions count” , my new manager was starting with a weak perception of my, because of a few simple words said to him (words I’d helped create, as we shape the perception others have).
You can change the perception of you, despite the old saying “first impressions count“, although it may take time. Step one was to arrange to chat with my new boss. Who do you need to talk to change their perception of you?
As an introvert some of the introvert superpowers you have at your disposal are:
- Great at listening
- Great at detail
- Great at understanding what’s going on
- Great at summarising and facilitating
As an introvert you probably have these superpowers, even if you don’t yet fully believe me. If you don’t believe me, start to compare yourself with some others. Compare your ability to listen and understand the detail, rather than how much you both talk. You’ll soon realise that most people who talk a lot, don’t listen a lot. Think about how you’d summarise a discussion, and you’ll soon realise how useful your summary could be. Now you’ve started to change your perception, of yourself, you can work on others.
What could you do with these superpowers?
It took me a while to learn that if you have some of these skills, or the beginnings of them, you could be a great asset to your boss, while still being true to your introvert self. “Developing social confidence as an introvert” has tips on believing in yourself.
Team meetings, discussions with the boss and taking a slightly different view on your role will allow you to be a bigger asset to your boss – if you want to be.
I spent a long time getting passed over for promotion and being told I was too quiet, before acting differently in team meetings (taking the chance to summarise, facilitate and keep the louder ones more focused) and then ‘getting naked’ (metaphorically!) with my boss . After he thanked me for helping him in a team meeting I told him about being introverted (that’s what I meant by getting naked), and we talked about how I could help him more and remain true to myself.
Is perception everything?
You can change perceptions and you can deliver value, whatever perception you perceive them to have.
Start with your perception of yourself, it needs to include an understanding and appreciation of your skills, if you’re going to make use of them.
Don’t try to be somebody else
Trying to be something or somebody you’re not will not help you. Stop listening to the extroverts in the room who just say things like “you just need to make more points“, or “you need to speak up” and “just get out there more”. Behaving like an extrovert will leave you tired out, you won’t want to keep it going for long enough. Celebrate your strengths and find your own way.
Do you talk to think, or think to talk? Don’t try doing it somebody else’s way.
I would really appreciate three minutes of your time to understand your views of extroversion, introversion and how (if?) they affect performance in business.