How To Use Introversion For Career And Personal Success

Introversion isn’t a flaw. In fact, introverts are powerful players in work and home life. Here, psychologist Alice Boyes shares how to use your natural personality traits towards success.

Picture: ollyy/Flickr

Develop a Positive Overall View of Your Temperament and Personality

Until I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet, I never consciously realised I was ashamed of being an introvert. It was one of life’s “aha!” moments. I personally don’t need to believe introversion is a virtue but no longer seeing it as a flaw has been extremely helpful. Learn to acknowledge things you find difficult without piling on the self-criticism.

Be Prepared to Pitch

Some of my biggest professional successes have come from pitching something I have to offer.

I feel most comfortable pitching when I’m offering something win-win, and when the other party will benefit from accepting the offer more than I will. The more experiences I’ve had of successfully pitching, the more comfortable I have become with it. Once you accumulate some experiences of pitching and achieving good results from it, it will get easier.

Understand Your Variety of Introversion

Introverts come in different stripes. The most fundamental aspect of introversion is being recharged by alone time (or sometimes one-on-one time with someone you’re very close to). Another fundamental aspect is often that your natural tendency is to want to digest information before responding back. For example, an extrovert might read a blog article and want to leave a comment straight away, whereas an introvert likely wants to go away and ponder. Since every introvert is different, you can cherry pick advice you find helpful and ignore anything you don’t relate to.

Distinguish Between Introversion and Lack of Confidence

Confident people are confident in both:

1. their abilities


2. that they will generally be liked by others

If you’re missing one of these types of confidence, you might benefit from working on it.

Understand What Particularly Overstimulates You

Examples: being interrupted and asked to make decisions while you’re concentrating, noisy environments, turning on and off from being in social mode, group socialising or group meetings, and replying to people on social media. Minimise and find workarounds for whatever particularly overstimulates you.

If you have a sense of being very easily overstimulated, you might benefit from reading Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person. Learn physiological self-regulation strategies that will help you recover quickly after you’ve been overstimulated.

Adopt a “Growth Mindset”

A “growth mindset” is a belief you can get better at stuff rather than abilities being fixed. For example, the belief “I can get better at networking”. There is lots of research showing that people with a growth mindset experience more success.

Recognise that you often don’t need to be outstanding at everything. Improving can still be very beneficial. Perfection is typically not required.

Find Ways of Interacting with the World That Don’t Feel Like “Acting Extroverted”

Find ways to collaborate with others that don’t overstimulate you. Take time to digest and reflect, and understand your tendency to mull things over for a long time before taking action.Develop self-awareness of when it’s good to go with your natural tendency versus when you need to override it. For example, when it’s advantageous to push the button on something you’ve been thinking about for a while, rather than do more thinking.

Learn to autocorrect for any tendencies you have to overfocus on potential negative outcomes of taking action and underfocus on potential positive outcomes. Get to know your Behavioural Inhibition System (BIS). Notice if you feel nervous about professional success not just because it brings performance pressure, but also because it tends to bring increased social demands and requests for your time. Self-awareness is key to understanding these types of things without them negatively impacting you.

Cognitive Restructuring [Psychology Today]

Dr Alice Boyes’s PhD research was published in the world’s most prestigious social psychology journal — Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. She is originally from New Zealand but is now a digital nomad. She writes about social, clinical, positive and relationships psychology topics for various outlets including Psychology Today, Women’s Health and on her own blog. Follow her on Twitter @DrAliceBoyes and at Google+ here.

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