Joanna Rawbone looks at how introverts can get back into the swing of the office environment.
With the call to go back to the workplace where possible, conversations are being had and decisions are being made in many households. They include:
- When is the right time to go back?
- Do I need to go back at all?
- What am I going back into?
- How will it work?
- Can I go back full-time?
- Will they let me have a flexible working arrangement?
And more besides.
The ones eager to get back are those who’ve been denied the social interaction, active experiences and social stimulation they need to be mentally recharged. In other words, the extraverts amongst us.
Many introverts have shared what a positive experience lockdown and working from home has been. Some have reported ‘finding their groove’ working from home, especially those living on their own or in introvert-friendly households.
There is still a myth that introverts lack confidence when in reality they are just quieter, because that’s what charges their mental batteries enabling them to focus and do their best work.
The experience may not have been so enjoyable or productive in busier households though. Finding enough time and space for their recharging will have been challenging. Already over-stimulated mentally, they are sustained by their rich world of thoughts, ideas and personal reflections. Pretty hard to come by when its busy.
This enables introverts to generate a peaceful and calm energy from their internal world.
There is still a myth that introverts lack confidence when in reality they are just quieter, because that’s what charges their mental batteries enabling them to focus and do their best work. Those who have been effective with this new way of working, may now notice a dip in confidence though, as they are being encouraged back into the workplace.
Whether it be an open-plan office with all of its disruptions and interruptions, or the face-to-face interactions with clients or customers, concern may have started to creep in. And with over 47% of our UK population identifying as introverts, that’s a lot of potential concern.
So how does an introvert find their inner confidence?
According to Dr Rob Yeung, a definition of confidence is ‘Taking action in spite of how challenging it may feel’. He then explains that confidence comes from doing, not waiting.
In order to be able to take action, congruently and authentically, knowing and owning their strengths is key. This isn’t always easy though as many introverts have spent years feeling not OK because the business world, and society come to that is biased towards extraversion. This includes our approach to education and many everyday processes & practices in business.
The starting point is undertaking a strengths audit.
It’s so easy to lose sight of the gifts and the talents that we do bring to any situation. We can find ourselves asking that question, what do I have to offer? Especially if we look around us and see others being promoted or being given opportunities that we’re not.
We now know that strengths are more than what someone is good at; it is what lights them up, what strengthens them. That means they can do it consistently to a near perfect standard and without much effort because it resources them in some way and gives them energy.
Action: Spend some time reflecting on and noting strengths realised during lock-down.
The next step is to work out how to play to those strengths
This is a time for a conversation, and maybe negotiation, with the employer, manager or leader. Which ways of working can be continued post lockdown? Employers are looking for flexible solutions here, so you may be helping them out.
We are in the unusual position of having to redesign the way we work as the pre-pandemic ways won’t be suitable for quite some time to come yet.
This is what will enable the necessary action taking required to enhance confidence.
Action: What conversations need to be had and with whom?
Finally, it’s about relapse prevention.
It’s all too easy to ‘try’ something, only to find it doesn’t work out quiet the way intended, then give up.
Anticipating the tough, tricky or bear-trap situations and pre-emptively building strategies and tactics to deploy is key to success.
- Who is likely to make it difficult?
- What might they say or do?
- When is this likely to happen?
- Who can support you in your resolve?
Planning for this isn’t being negative, its being realistic and means you won’t be so easily knocked off course.
Action: Work through the questions to build the strategies and tactics.
Introverts enabled to play to their strengths so they can stop pretending to be something they’re not are remarkably confident so don’t ever confuse quiet with a lack of confidence. If you do, you’re doing them and the organisation a huge disservice. If you’re the manager or leader of introverts, encourage them to do this work and share it with you. You’ll be surprised at what is revealed.
So, in conclusion, confidence is an inside job, and to quote Dr Nathaniel Branden: “The tragedy is that so many people look for self-confidence and self-respect everywhere except within themselves, and so they fail in their search.”
Look within, find those things that light you or your colleagues up and look to co-create a life so you can all play to those strengths as much as possible.
About the author
Joanna Rawbone is the founder of Flourishing Introverts, a platform aimed to support and raise awareness of introversion in both the professional workplace, and personally.