The month’s Field Notes contributor, Pat Wadors, is currently the SVP of Global Talent Organization at LinkedIn. She acquired her business knowledge through her 27-plus years of experience in HR as well as her past roles in Sales, Business Operations, and IT. Prior companies include Calvin Klein Cosmetics, Viacom International, Merck Pharmaceutical, Applied Materials, Align Technology, Yahoo! and Plantronics.
“Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.” —Anais Nin
Is your style confusing to those around you? Do you think you may be giving mixed signals?
I know I’ve confused many people when I started to share that I was an introvert. I didn’t used to share that label with a sense of pride (although now, I do!). I shared it so people could understand me a bit better. At work, it was a challenge. I get my energy when I have time alone and can process what I am thinking. I expend that energy when I am at work or attending big social events.
So, why am I confusing?
Well, I am both loud and quiet. My Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment clearly reflected the introversion style with one exception: I must be heard—but only when it matters. This motivation of mine helped me navigate my very big and loud Irish family—I am the youngest of eight siblings!
There are many times throughout the work day when I am quiet. I have little to say when the conversation is going in a direction I support or I don’t think I’m a stakeholder in the outcome. In many cases, I’m in learning mode and absorbing all that’s being shared. I’m processing. It is later that I will form an opinion. In the room, I can be quiet.
But I am also loud. I say a lot when it matters. When I am committed to an outcome, when I believe the conversation is going in the wrong direction, or when I am excited about possibilities and realize the people in the conversation are also learning from this experience, I speak up. When I am presenting to a large crowd or teaching to a team, I am loud. I love those moments. They are magical, and I need them as much as I need my quiet time.
It’s situational. It’s also predictable—but only if I share that insight with the people around me. When I am quiet in your meeting, you may believe I am not supporting you. When I am eating my lunch without contributing much to the conversation, you may believe I don’t want to be with you. That’s not the case. I am always authentic with my voice, but I need to recharge my energy and process my thinking in my head to have my best thoughts come out.
Please don’t be confused! Yes, I care about you, the conversation, and the direction the dialogue is taking us. Please don’t confuse my quiet times with indifference, or my loud times with me being pushy or argumentative (or even inauthentic). I’m just sharing my voice and my passion when I feel inspired to.
Key Learning: Introverts exist on a spectrum. How quiet or loud are we? That’s also not binary.
Let’s make it easier for folks to know us. Learn to “declare oneself” at work. I know I did it because without doing so, I would’ve failed to become the leader I wanted to be. With new cultural attention to introversion and different styles of temperament, we can all find a way to declare who we are, what our styles of communication are, and how we wish to share our voices.
I believe strongly that being an introvert is an asset, but society has long believed that extroverted traits are more desirable. With the publication of Susan Cain’s Quiet and the launch of Quiet Revolution, I know that many will celebrate the amazing talents of the Introvert. Introverts can also learn how to better leverage their assets and work alongside our extroverted peers. Both styles have strengths and weaknesses; you just have to learn the best way to navigate them so you can achieve your goals.
As an introvert, I know I have my place in the world. As do you. Just declare yourself—it made all the difference to me. Be it loud or quiet, we want to hear from you.
Field Notes brings you first-hand workplace experiences written by contributors who share their own stories, the lessons they’ve learned, and the unique benefits of a quiet approach to life in the office. Whether you’re an introvert looking to make the most of your strengths or an extrovert/ambivert who wants to learn how your quiet colleagues tick, Field Notes offers real-world insights about taking a walk on the quiet side. Submit your own story and watch this space for more perspectives from your colleagues.