5 Tips for Introverts to Survive in an Office of Extroverts

UPDATED: October 19, 2015
PUBLISHED: July 15, 2015

Living as an introvert in an extroverted world is difficult, in every aspect of life—but also in the corporate environment where more outgoing co-workers often overtake meetings and projects. 

With creative thinking and preparation, though, even the quietest of employees can survive and succeed within any organization. How?

1. By hosting team meetings

Groups of people often bring fear to the forefront of introverts who prefer a more independent style of work. But with any company, team meetings are an inevitable reality. So to combat feelings of nerves, offer to host the meeting.

This may sound daunting to those who prefer to remain silent, but this puts you in full control. You write the agenda and make any assignments—all you need to do is welcome everyone and keep the meeting moving from one agenda item to the next. This will demonstrate to your supervisors that you take initiative and bring leadership qualities to the team. The secret is this offers a huge payoff without much work.

2. By joining a speaker’s group

Organizations, such as Toastmasters, provide opportunities to practice public speaking in a controlled, friendly environment where you will receive constructive feedback.

Surprisingly, introverts are often strong speakers because they put in the necessary practice and construct speeches ahead of time with well thought-out words. Their struggle lies in thinking and speaking off the cuff.

In every Toastmasters’ meeting, a portion of time is devoted to “Table Topics”—members are called upon to answer questions without any time to think ahead. They also must abstain from using filler words such as “um” and “so” and include a special “word of the day” given at the beginning of the meeting. It sounds challenging, and it is, but this builds speaking skills in introverts and boosts their confidence, allowing them to answer questions at work with greater ease.

3. By arming yourself with ready-to-go responses when presented with confrontation

Certain personalities thrive in a drama-centric environment. Introverts prefer a calmer and more diplomatic manner of handling disagreements.

When faced with a confrontation in the workplace, it’s best to already know what to say to diffuse the situation. As hard as it may feel, come from a good place and show that you value their opinion. A response such as, “I understand you are upset, and thank you for bringing this to my attention,” will demonstrate you acknowledge them rather than sounding argumentative. Follow this with, “Let me process this, and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Perhaps we can get together later (in an hour, tomorrow morning)?” This bides you time to formulate your thoughts and return to them feeling composed. Be sure to give them a concrete time you will meet with them again to show you take this seriously and will not brush them off.

4. By establishing a workflow process with co-workers

Introverts work better in more regulated workplaces. If your supervisor micromanages, you should establish a schedule with him or her. Set up a weekly or even daily meeting with your boss occurring at the exact same time. You are being inclusive and proactive, but you maintain control.

Also, if your company uses an internal meeting scheduling system, such as Outlook, block off a couple of hours a day to show you are busy during this time. This gives you the hours you need to recharge from your co-workers and concentrate.

If it helps, invest in noise-canceling headphones. Your company may even pay for it—if you say they will help increase your productivity.

5. By setting up a comforting cubicle or office

Introverts often need time after work to decompress from the day and recharge their energy. You can do this in your work area as well.

After meetings with large groups, set up your cubicle or office to make returning to it feel relaxing and bring your energy back. Add a lamp with a soft light, photos of family and a drawer with your favorite healthy snacks. After a draining meeting, you can return to your work spot and give yourself a reward.

Although it may seem difficult, introverts can seamlessly weave themselves into an organization and survive even the most social of workforces. Start with one or two of these ideas, and see if they can help make you feel more at home while at work.

Today’s world is built for extroverts. Watch a TED Talk about the power of introverts—and how society’s attitude toward them should change.

Jennifer Purdie is a freelance writer for Los Angeles Times, Running Times, Purple Clover and other publications.