The Quiet Interviews: Holly

In today’s post we hear from Holly who is a freelance software developer. I want to say a big thank you to her for sharing her thoughts with us. 

How do you form networks and connect with others as an introvert?

I have a small circle of people I hold dear. Sometimes I find myself listing them as the list can  change over time, but the list is rarely more than 10 people. Sometimes it is hard as they are extroverts and don’t have as much time for me as I have for them. But I don’t need much of their time, once a month is good for most of my friends. I have a spouse who is a little less introverted. I spend a lot of time with him and enjoy it. When he goes away I look for more company from my friends but on average I like one social commitment per week in addition to spending a lot of time with my spouse.

I am particularly bad at social media. I will look at it but feel uneasy about posting things. It feels like a public broadcast, which is not aligned with how I like to communicate. I have started using Instagram with a smaller circle of friends and family members, but people keep following me which makes it less appealing. I am not sure how to manage this. 

I enjoy seeing friends in small groups, a maximum of six people. More than that feels tiring at best. I like seeing family in the same way. Right now my family wants to do everything as a big loud group! I find that less enjoyable and would prefer to see them in smaller groups.

When I first moved to my city I made lots of effort. I joined a few volunteer and non-profit groups and made friends through that. I have an “on/off” mode that I use so I can be friendly and outgoing when needed, and I often use this to make friends. I enjoy female company and have a collection of “girlfriends” that I like to see for one-on-one dates. I love animals too. I wish I had a dog and am working on getting one!

Which of your strengths as an introvert do you value most and how do you use this in your work?

I have strong intuition and an ability to read social situations. I am perceptive and this helps me understand social dynamics. In my work this can help me navigate difficult social situations and stay ahead of conflict. 

I work well independently. This skill allowed me to transition from a government job that was very busy, social and stressful, to a job where I work on software from home. 

I have strong organisational, problem solving and analytical skills and can see relationships between different concepts. This helps me in software but I am also looking forward to working in professional organising. I have helped my friends organise their spaces and enjoy the combination of using my intuition/perception and organisational and problem solving skills all at once. This is also typically a one-on-one job which is also great for introverts!

What is your number one tip for succeeding as an introvert?

Find a remote job! There are more and more remote jobs and not just for people in software, although this is a good field if you are choosing a field or looking for a career transition. As an introvert working from home you have control over your space, are protected from office politics and the stress of working with others directly, and feel recharged so that you can enjoy seeing your friends and family. If you can’t find a completely remote job, maybe you can find one that is sometimes remote. 

Advertisements

The Quiet Interviews: Christy Tending

In this post we hear from Christy Tending. I am delighted she agreed to take part in this series of interviews and share her thoughts with us all. Christy is a self-care mentor and you can find out a lot more about her and her work at the end of this article, so please do scroll down and take a look.

How do you form networks and connect with others as an introvert?

I recognize that introversion doesn’t always look one way. There are a lot of facets to being an introvert. In my case, I appear very outgoing, and I’m a confident public speaker, even though I identify strongly as an introvert. For me, the best ways to connect with others are in small doses and in small groups. I know that an all-day networking event or conference exhausts me. I prefer to interact in smaller chunks of time and in more intimate settings.

I also need a lot of time to recharge after I’ve spent time connecting. It takes a lot out of me, so I always need to build in a buffer so that I can recover afterward.

That being said, as an introvert, I’m really comfortable being by myself. As a result, I think my introversion makes me more confident and authentic. Because I’m so at ease on my own, I feel less pressure to impress others and tend to get to the heart of the matter quickly. This kind of real talk helps me connect with the people I’m meant to connect to.

Which of your strengths as an introvert do you value most and how do you use this in your work?

There are a number of facets of my introversion that I see as real assets in my life and work. The first is that I’m very internally-motivated. I don’t need lots of external validation. Instead, I’m driven to create and make an impact from a purely internal place. I don’t thrive on others’ energy, so my motivations aren’t contingent on others’ opinions either.

The second is my intuition. My mom likes to say that when I was a baby, I didn’t interact much, but she could tell I was absorbing everything. I’ve been really quiet my whole life, but as a result, I’m highly intuitive. This other kind of knowing has served me really well.

What is your number one tip for succeeding as an introvert?

Respect yourself and don’t try to be anyone else. I agonized for years trying to be an extrovert, and I could have saved myself a lot of time and agony if I’d just allowed myself to be who I really am. Introverts are awesome, and we bring a lot to the party of life. It might be cliche, but the best way to succeed is by allowing yourself to be exactly who you are, without apology.

About Christy, in her own words:

Christy Tending is a self-care mentor and activist who helps world-changing people develop amazing self-care. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband, their feral cats, and their son, Arlo; she makes her online home at ChristyTending.com

Learning about leading introverts from the expert

Last month I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Susan Cain organised by the London Business Forum. I have been a fan of Susan’s work ever since I read her book ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ which helped me understand myself a lot better and see myself in a completely new way.

So when I heard she was coming to the UK to speak about leading introverts I knew I had to go. Although the thought of attending the session on my own felt somewhat daunting, my interest and passion for the subject helped me get over that quickly.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived was how well-attended it was. I hadn’t been sure what to expect in terms of numbers as it’s a fairly specialist topic, but there were a lot of people in the audience reinforcing how important this area is.

The talk itself covered a number of areas, from attending meetings to being an introverted leader. Susan started off by asking the audience to consider whether a great leader or thinker needed to be gregarious or dominant, stating that she wanted to challenge this concept. As soon as those words left her mouth, I knew this was going to be a great session!

I learned a lot, but the biggest thing I took away was this – whilst we may need to stretch our comfort zone at times, that is completely different to being someone we are not. I took great comfort in that because for me it’s so important to remain true to myself. That is something I’ve only learned in the past couple of years. Before then I would often be two different people – I thought being quieter meant I wouldn’t fit in or wouldn’t get ahead so I tried to hide that part of me. It was exhausting.

One of the things I am personally going to try after attending the talk and which Susan herself suggested is to think about what I want to say before attending a meeting and to make myself speak up early. Apparently, the idea that is put forward early in a meeting becomes the one that others centre around, and comments and ideas are more likely to be directed to that person. Also, I know from painful experience that the longer I wait to say something in a meeting the more difficult it becomes.

It was a great session and I came out feeling energised. And I left with a signed book!

The Quiet Interviews: Alauna Whelan

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of interviews with introverts. The format is simple, just three questions that I hope will help other introverts to connect and thrive. I am thrilled Alauna agreed to go first and I cannot thank her enough for taking part. 

Alauna is passionate about cultivating community and supportive sisterhood and as a creative, works extensively with crystals. Please do take the time to scroll down for Alauna’s details and to find out more about her work.

How do you form networks and connect with others as an introvert?

I do quite a bit of in-person group work through monthly women’s circles. As an introvert this allows me to connect with multiple people all at once for a few hours. I am quite passionate about building community and connection amongst women, but I don’t have the capacity for one on one work. Offering group sessions allows me to prepare and be engaged for a few hours without having to maintain an ongoing practice of engaging with people for hours everyday.

I also think that the power of the internet and social media has allowed many introverts to build and engage with their communities on terms that better suit our need for solitude and downtime. For me, it has permitted me to share from the heart and connect with people online. If I am having a hard day, I can simply put my phone down or shut off my computer and come back to things later on when I am feeling more settled. Having flexibility and freedom are extremely important for me.

Which of your strengths as an introvert do you value most and how do you use this in your work?

I feel that I am continually reflecting and contemplating my own feelings and thoughts. I am a deep thinker and sharing my own challenges, quirks, wounds, and how I try to assimilate them creates a lot of self-awareness. We are all just trying to make sense of this crazy world and it can feel so daunting. If we can begin with ourselves, that feels much more empowering to me. It feels so much more doable to implement some small changes in my inner world than attempting to influence the greater outer world. I feel that this quote sums up so much of what I try to do in my work “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

I deeply value integrity and authenticity. This is often the foundation and commonality that is woven into my work. Doing the right thing and being open about my struggles has been imperative for my own personal growth and that of my business.

What is your number one tip for succeeding as an introvert?

I think the biggest key is self-awareness. Know yourself and your needs. For me, I have to balance my workshops with something creative. My creative work fills my cup and is really fluid. I completely go with the flow when it comes to my creative offerings and work when I am inspired. My group sessions are more structured and can sometimes have me feeling a bit depleted. It’s vital for me to carve out adequate downtime and solitude following events where I need to interact and engage. 

Alauna’s details:

Website: alaunawhelan.com

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/alaunawhelan

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alauna.whelan

Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/thecrystalmystic

Sorry

This weekend I’ve been learning how to do more things on my website and making some improvements. A friend has been giving me lessons on things that I don’t even understand, although I know a bit more now than I did a couple of days ago! I’m not very technical and I decided I needed to be so that I can make this website as good as it can be.

Anyway it has meant that followers of this blog have received a few notifications in their inbox each time we’ve posted a ‘test’ blog post. I just wanted to say that I’m really sorry about this. I never meant for this to happen and it must have been very annoying.

I have finished my testing now so this will no longer happen. But it means that there will be some new and exciting things to watch out for in the future on here.

Again, I’m really sorry to those who have received these notifications. I’m still learning, but thanks for putting up with me!

How Learning About Being An Introvert Has Helped Me

Several years ago I was asked by a line manager in a previous job why I didn’t speak up more in meetings. I thought about this and genuinely didn’t know the answer. The only thing I could put it down to was a lack of confidence, which funnily enough I didn’t have the confidence to admit to!

I took the comment quite hard. I desperately wanted to be successful at my job. I worked really hard every single day and I wanted to progress. I knew that I was quieter than my colleagues but I never realised this would present itself as a problem.

I had to do something about it. I didn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to say I wasn’t good enough. I found myself a great mentor, I read several self-development books and I made myself speak up in meetings. I did everything I could to ‘fix’ this and prove to people this wasn’t an issue.

However it didn’t work out in the way that I’d hoped. I contributed more in meetings but I found myself speaking up when I wasn’t adding any value. I was speaking just to show that I could. I spoke over others in my need to get myself heard and to prove myself. And the worst thing was that I could see what I was doing.

It went completely against the way I like to do things and rather than make me feel better about things I ended up feeling worse. I felt tired, exhausted and annoyed with myself. I didn’t like my new approach.

It is only recently that I’ve learned about being an introvert and what that means, and to fully appreciate how this presents itself at work. If I had known this back then I would have dealt with the situation very differently:

1. I would have been able to explain that as an introvert I like to reflect on things. I would have understood that there might be ways to prepare for a meeting and to make my contributions effective – because the important thing to know is that I did want to make a contribution and felt I could make a good one. This could be knowing the topics for discussion beforehand or working out a way to follow-up afterwards.

2. I would have understood that there was nothing wrong with me and it wasn’t something I needed to ‘fix’. Yes I would perhaps need to stretch the edges of my comfort zone, but not change myself completely as I did at the time. I would have felt more confident in myself as I was and as a result, given myself much less of a hard time.

3. I would have focussed on my strengths, because I had lots. I would have considered how I could build on those. Could I make more use of my writing skills to share my thoughts or to encourage an alternative way to share ideas amongst the team? Instead my attention was only on what I had been told I wasn’t doing, and I ignored all the great things I was doing.

4. Most importantly I would have had the courage be myself.

And that’s the reason I now write about this. Because I have learned a lot since the day I was asked that question about why I do things the way I do, and I realise how much that knowledge would have helped me had I known it earlier. By sharing what I’ve learned, who knows, it may help someone else.

Six things you can do if you work with an introvert

I’m an introvert and wherever I’ve worked in the past there have always been challenges with being based in an office environment, quite apart from those typically experienced by the open plan office. However along the way I’ve learned there are a few things I can do to help myself. But that’s for another blog post! Instead, in this article I’m going to suggest six things, based on my own experiences, that others might consider doing if they know they work with an introvert.

1. Allow space for reflection 

Give introverts the opportunity to think without interruption. I find that when someone asks me something it helps if I can get a few seconds to reflect on the question, and silence works best for me rather than filling the space with more questions. Sending a query by email rather than calling also helps. The result will be that when I do respond it will usually be well thought through and considered. 

2. Help colleagues connect with others

Try bringing introverts into social conversations too where you feel it is appropriate. I sometimes find it hard to join in office chat particularly half-way through, finding it easier to listen rather than participate. However when someone includes me by asking me what I did at the weekend or whether I watched a particular TV programme for example, it makes it easier to join in and connect with colleagues.

3. Share a meeting agenda in advance 

When I have to go to a meeting, which is quite often, I really appreciate knowing what is going to be covered in advance. Having a meeting agenda helps, and if this shows information about who else is attending, then that’s even better. Having this information helps me prepare and reflect on things beforehand, and knowing who else is going to be there gets me thinking about the discussions that might come up which are not on the agenda. 

4. Meet one-to-one 

Consider whether you could have a one-to-one conversation instead of a large meeting. As an introvert I find it much easier to speak up in small groups or with individuals and that’s when I’ll share some of my best ideas. 

5. Understand introverted colleagues 

Understand that being quiet doesn’t always mean a lack of confidence. When I reflect on something it can make me seem indecisive or hesitant which isn’t the case. I am simply considering things and thinking them through. In addition, I might be quiet because I need to concentrate on a specific piece of work without interruptions and not because I’m ignoring my colleagues!

6. Value quiet colleagues 

Take time to recognise and value the quiet ones and all they do. I’m not at all comfortable with promoting myself, drawing attention to myself or putting myself forward, which means there is a chance that me or my work will get overlooked. However it still feels great to be recognised for a piece of work.