Learning to be the quiet voice of leadership

Mountain Hiking. Royalty Free Stock Image - 39901316

Loud is the rule in today’s workplace. Employees are encouraged to speak up, collaborate and be a team player. Being an introvert is hard in this kind of environment, with it’s constant stimulus and incessant noise. We’re constantly asked to step outside our comfort zones. In my role as a manager in a park I’ve had to learn to mold myself to this role in many ways.

A third of my day is spent answering phone calls and helping in-person customers. This can take it’s toll. Even positive interactions, with happy customers, can leave me feeling drained. And it’s even more heightened on days when I expected to be alone in my office but instead am called to the front to fill in for a coworker or deal with a challenging customer. Faced with unexpected interactions when we had set aside time to be calm can be difficult for many introverts. One of the toughest lessons I’ve learned is that it’s okay to feel frustrated, or overwhelmed, or like I need to step away for a few minutes. Often doing just that, stepping away, can make all the difference in dealing with the “too much” feeling of interacting with other people for extended periods of time. When things get a little overwhelming step outside, escape to the restroom or take a trip to the break room to fill up your water bottle. Often just getting briefly out of the situation can reset your ability to deal with the next wave of interaction.

Another big part of my day is cooperating with my coworkers. I don’t always have the luxury of shutting my door and tuning out the world. Being the supervisor others turn to for guidance, in a sometimes fast-paced setting, I have to be available to answer questions and deal with difficult situations as they arise. This can be a strain on my introvert need for peace and quiet and structure, especially when working on things requiring attention to detail. One particularly difficult day I timed how often I was interrupted during the day. The longest I went without a coworker walking in my office or my phone ringing was 2 minutes! I was frustrated and tired and my nerves were frayed to their limit. I finally, needing to vent, I spoke to my supervisor about it. She encouraged me to shut my door, and really mean it, when I had attention-heavy tasks. Now, after some ups and downs, and a little good natured jokes from coworkers, they know if my door is shut and my head phones are in, to interrupt me only for the essentials. I wasn’t able to do this on my own, for fear of seeming selfish or too removed, but having that encouragement from someone else to allow myself to meet my need for quiet made all the difference. Setting boundaries can be difficult, but it can also make happier.

Another aspect of my job that I thought would be the biggest challenge yet, was presenting educational programs to park visitors. Surprisingly, stepping in the role of group leader has been fairly easy. There are moments of nervousness, but overall, I seem to step outside of the role of myself and step into the role of presenter. Having these two selves may seem odd, but the defined role as presenter with a set program takes away much of the awkwardness found when having a one-on-one conversation. I’ve found that the experience of leading these talks has made it easier to talk to visitors in other situations too, I just put on the program leader hat once again.

I’m still learning, but I’m finding that even in a position that is not ideal for an introvert, adaptations can be made. Ask for help, take people breaks, and give yourself permission to feel the way you feel. No reason necessary. It’s okay to prefer to work alone in an office, but it’s also possible to step outside that comfort zone if you give yourself the necessary care before and after.

Feel free to share any workplace tips you’ve found for dealing with customers, co-workers or anything else that is a unique challenge for the introverts among us.

 

Thoughts for Extroverts from the Introverts of the World

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There are many wonderful things about having friends who are different from you. They can make you see the world from a different perspective and bring you out of your comfort zones in wonderful ways. However, sometimes it can be difficult to understand the needs of someone with different ways of experiencing that world. I’ve struggled throughout my life with helping my more extroverted friends understand why I don’t call as much as they do. Or to explain that I really am okay with staying in on a Friday night, I’m actually happier not joining you at that loud party with all those strangers. Before you write off your introverted friends thinking that they don’t care about you, keep these things in mind.

We value your friendship but sometimes need our space. Extroverts often find energy among groups of people, Introverts don’t. Even people we love and enjoy, can make us feel drained of energy and we need time to recharge.

Please don’t guilt trip us for leaving a party early or taking a few minutes outside and take a people break. Sometimes a few moments away from the noise and demands of people can give us the time needed to jump back in to the fray.

Understand that sometimes we may ignore a phone call but immediately answer a text. We want to connect but talking can be more difficult than texting. In text we can collect our thoughts in ways that are not possible when chatting. You may even find that we open up to you more in a text or letter or email than if we’re with you in person.

If you draw attention to our quietness (especially in a group) we may seem okay with it on the outside but it will sting. We speak when we have something to say. If the silence makes you uncomfortable ask questions, change the subject, do some of your extrovert conversation tricks to keep things rolling. And keep in mind that many introverts have more to say if the topics are deeper, rather than shallow small talk. (Ask me a random question about difficult ethics or a new book that just came out or the difference between zombies and mummies and I can talk for hours.)

We often take longer to respond to questions because we’re thinking about the response, and yes, sometimes overanalyzing that response. Try to allow us a pause to answer and don’t jump ahead trying to fill a void, if this happens too many times we may stop replying all together and withdraw even more.

Thinking about the ways that we differ in social situations will help us have deeper relationships and a greater understanding of the people around us. More extroverted friends can help us grow and come out of our shells a little and we can be that friend for extroverts that helps them slow down and find small quiet moments. Be kind, be understanding, love and appreciate each other for all your wonderful uniqueness.

 

Finding Quiet in a Loud World

Today’s world seems to reward the loudest talkers and the people who get things done the fastest. We’ve forgotten that there are benefits to speaking with quiet conviction and taking care with a task.  Finding quiet moments to reflect on life, have deep discussions and be creative is hard. On top of that sometimes caring too much about something is somehow looked down upon.

I want to take the time to create, to listen to the crickets, to do a task once and well, rather than quickly. That’s hard to do in the midst of quick turn around deadlines, cranky folks in lines at the store and a sense that if something can’t be fixed immediately then it’s not worth the time. Some of my fondest memories are those lazy afternoons spent writing angst-filled poems as a teenager, or tinkering around on a project that never quite got finished. Most would see this time spent as wasted, a useless effort on things unaccomplished. But there is beauty to be found in the poems, and silent moments spent working beside someone, in the messed up workings of your own mind and in reading a really excellent (or even a really terrible) book. Find some time today to step outside the chaos of deadlines and the noise of the television. Listen to nature, talk one on one with a friend, read a book, work on that crafty project, take the time to learn something new, do something that feeds your soul and not the sound of the loud, loud world.

 

Little Happy Things

Sometimes it’s a struggle to see the good in the world. So today I’m taking time to celebrate the small happy things that make the day seem better bit by bit.

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-The printer settings sorting themselves out.

-A good giggle with a friend.

-Two fawns in a field.

-The taste of a good meal.

-The frogs that have taken over my carport.

-A goofy text from my Mom.

-Finishing a good book.

-A gentle reminder from a wise person in my life to focus on the positive qualities of others and not the bad.

-The possibility of a new training opportunity at work.

What has brightened your day today?

Connection Disconnect

Phone PicMost days I crave my alone time. The best part of my day is when I drive away from the pressures and people of work and get to be blissfully silent. My job involves dealing with coworkers and the public almost constantly and as an introvert I need my down time to recharge and build up my defenses against the onslaught of the world’s demands on my energy.

However, some days, like today. I crave a connection. Just a voice on the other end of a phone call or a cuddle on the couch. The problem is that even though I crave this it is so difficult to reach out. And when I do and the phone isn’t answered or my friends are too busy I feel such rejection that it just reinforces that hermit desire to hole up again and not need people.

What do you do when you need to reach out or once you do you immediately want to retreat again? Even from people you absolutely love and enjoy. This is a continuing struggle for some of us. If you know someone like me please don’t mistake the withdrawal for a lack of caring and if you are someone like me, well, let’s keep trying.

Introverted gal in an extroverted world

I’m new to the idea of sharing myself in any way. My thoughts, feelings and beliefs have always been held closely in my mind and heart and I’m terrified of sharing them with the world in any way. Recently however, I have discovered a community of people online who support each other in the unique challenges that come with being an introvert. I’d like to be a part of the community. We’ll see how it goes.

There is a wonderful website called Introvert Spring (http://introvertspring.com/) which has provided me with much encouragement and has inspired me to embrace who I am and meet the world on my own terms.