Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Come on in! I'm introverting!

So hi, I'm Andrea, and I'm an introvert.

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For those who know me well, you probably read that and said, "Um, we know." For those of you don't know me that well, you likely also could see the writing on the wall and saw this a far from earth-shattering declaration. 

As a lifelong introvert, I really resonated with this article on Six Strategies to Help Introverts Thrive at School and Feel Understood, and as I read, it immediately struck me as a great piece to translate to other environments via a blog post. So, as a self-proclaimed expert level introvert, here are my thoughts on how to better empower and engage the introverts in your life.

The article says: Make Space for Quiet Reflection

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Andrea says:

  • For goodness sakes, can I get an agenda up in here? Y'all, I have thoughts, and one of the best ways to get those thoughts is let me formulate them in advance. Previously when I've been in workplaces where meeting agendas weren't a priority, I've even volunteered to build these. Having that bit of time to think is the pre-work I need to be more engaged in the meeting IRL.
  • The meeting is not the end for me. Lots of times, a meeting is only the beginning. Those initial thoughts means that my mind just starts going as the wheels begin turning - and just won't stop. I'll connect other ideas, have new ideas, and/or want to do research to close any loops. Don't be surprised if my "meeting of one" reflection results in additional feedback.
  • Can I get some awkward silence? The article mentions this, too, but having that moment to gather myself before a question to the group allows for me to be ready to participate. I also much prefer self-selecting to participate, and to not be asked immediately to share my thoughts.
The article says: Consider the Physical Environment

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Andrea says:
  • Cubicles are the devil's work. Okay, so maybe that's a little extreme, but not really. I once worked in a large conference room that was repurposed into offices via cubicles. You know what that meant? We still worked in a large conference room. Y'all, I loved the people I worked with there. You know what I didn't love? Constant human interaction. With cubicles, you're never, ever, ever alone. You are always accessible. You can always hear people. People can always connect with you. My cubicle even had a door which was the biggest of jokes. At the end of my days, I was often exhausted just for the sheer fact that I had been around people for the entirety of my day.
  • Let me do my own thing. At a conference or in-person program, I love the opportunity to learn from and interact with others. However, I also don't NEED or want that for the entirety of the experience. Oftentimes, I'll grab my morning coffee extra early (which is saying something because I'm not a morning person) just to have time to be by myself. This is particularly important to me as it's part of my daily work from home routine. The best way for me to "fill my cup" is to take in a quiet cup of coffee, and then I promise I'm ready to face the day full of other humans.
The article says: Provide Previews

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Andrea says:
  • Retweet here my earlier comment on agendas. 
  • Let me know what a meeting is going to be about. I recognize that there are times I'm not going to be privy to 100% of the content that will come up in a meeting and/or conversation. It's the nature of interactions with other humans. However, I appreciate when I can be given some context about what a discussion is going to focus on in advance when it is known. I also think it's helpful to do this beyond a general topic. Is this a need for clarification? Is this an issue you're having? Do you have feedback you want me to provide? On the fly, I'm often not fully equipped and programmed to reply, and you just don't get the best, most knowledgeable version of me. That becomes super frustrating because I do really know my stuff.
The article says: Watch Your Language

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Andrea says:
  • Introvert does not mean shy. These words are not synonyms. I can definitely be shy in environment, however this isn't an absolute as part of my introversion.
  • Stop saying to me, "You're so quiet today!" "Why are you so quiet?" and/or "Wow, you're so much more quiet than usual." You want to really grind my gears? Try this one with me. If I have a thought, I'll share it. Sometimes, I need a minute. Sometimes, I don't have anything to say, AND THAT IS PERFECTLY OKAY. Quiet doesn't mean I'm not listening. Quiet doesn't mean I'm unengaged. Quiet doesn't mean I don't have thoughts, rather I just don't have verbal ones in this moment. I'll be sure to let you know when I do.
  • Respect what introversion can bring. Introverts can really help if you let them. You just have to understand they interact differently, and that's okay. I think this piece from Quiet Revolution does a really great job of explaining how you can frame up those contributions - The Quiet-Friendly Comment Guide.
The article says: Scaffold Meaningful Stretching

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Andrea says:

  • Tell me why. I am never going to choose certain things. Walking into a room of people I don't know to network? Ugh. Small talk? Not so much my thing. However, if I can understand the context of a situation, I can become far more comfortable. If you explain to me that you want me to talk to these people about this topic, it gives me that initial "in" to begin. No amount of training and practice is going to make me totally comfortable and immediately excited about these type of situations, however having a better understanding of intent can ease me in.
  • Give me time to prepare. Look, I know, there are times where I have to move beyond the introvert life. I do it all the time in my work. I just need that time to get "in the zone" for what I'm going to do. As a result of my introversion and mostly because of who I am, I will do lots of preparations for the education and such that I do. It's how I "top off my tank" to be ready to go.
The article says: Structure Temperamentally Inclusive Group Work

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Andrea says:
  • How we do the work matters. I once had a supervisor who hated agendas and didn't really give her team the option to use them. At our first meeting, she then brought up a point and said, "Come on! This is part of the meeting where you're supposed to argue with me!" My fellow introverted colleague and I must have had a look of sheer terror on our faces because she quickly realized that wasn't going to work. Taking that moment to understand who works how is so critical to success with teams. CliftonStrengths can be a great vehicle to do this, but also just taking the time to talk about group needs and expectations can set everyone up for success.
  • Group work doesn't mean all the things, all the time. Look, I'm down to do group work. I will even enjoy it. However, if I have to do every piece with everyone else, it's not going to go well. I think it's important to delegate the work, and think about where the whole group needs to be involved and where individuals can take on pieces on their own.

Beyond just the work, I have a few other thoughts I'd share on introversion:

  • I don't hate people. In fact, I quite enjoy them.  However, sometimes I just need a break. The best way for me to recharge is to have some time with me, myself and I. 
  • Take NO as a "Not this time," and not a "Never ask me to do this again." Sometimes when given the offer to makes social plans, I'll say no. Many times, this is because I'm busy. Other times, I just need that time to rest and recharge. When that happens, you should never take it personally. It's not you, it's literally all me. That said, ask me again sometime. When I can make it work, I will. 
  • I will let you know if I'm not doing okay. I actually had this conversation with my husband yesterday. He had a day off, so he got to see what a work day looked like for me. At the end of it, he asked me some questions about working from home, particularly around perceived human interaction. I shared with him I'd had a video call earlier, and I had communicated with people other ways. Working remotely does absolutely mean I have more time than most to be alone. I've learned with this that I have to seek out interaction, even with things as simple as running to the grocery store to see other humans. I'll own that I don't always do the best with prioritizing this, and I am currently trying to recalibrate a bit. Through remote work, I have learned it's possible to have too much introversion, and I will try to address.
  • Avoid the introvert guilt. This is more for the introverts in the crowd. Sometimes, I think I feel the obligation to give a yes. Even when I know my tanks are on empty, I feel like I'm letting others down if I don't say "Yes!" to an outing. However, I've learned/am learning to prioritize what I need my own self-care to be. Sometimes that's going to mean I can't be all the places with all the people. It's finding that healthy balance, and that's okay.
As a final thought, I'd acknowledge that this is how I personally see life as an introvert. I think there are transferrable pieces to other introverts, but I'd also encourage anyone trying to better understand an introvert in their life to ask them questions to identify their wants and needs. Let them share their perspective on the stuff I shared, rather than making assumptions and generalizations. I also can't and won't speak here to best practices with extroverts. Any piece I'd write on that would inevitably bring in my introversion, and I would be annoyed if someone did that for my introversion. 

So, that's what I got. If you need me, I'll just be over here (re)charging. 
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