Natalya Williamson, Project Manager on the Leadership and Management Development team at LinkedIn, is also an inaugural member of the Quiet Leadership Institute’s Ambassador Program. Are you curious if your own workplace or business might benefit from learning how embrace neurodiversity, foster a more inclusive environment, and more fully tap into the talents of all employees? Contact us!

I was born and raised in Silicon Valley. It’s a place that’s home to me and a majority of the tech industry’s leading companies, including many of the online social platforms we use to communicate, share, and engage with others. Being from the Bay Area, I should automatically be an extrovert, right? I mean, I am from the land of all things social!

After graduating college and stepping foot into the tech industry, I realized more and more about myself each day. I spend extra time in my head, processing events that have happened; I have a tough time staying “on” after a day full of meetings; and my ideas/reactions often come to me post-meeting.

Once I process and get my thoughts aligned from a meeting, I often express them to some colleagues later on. I would receive feedback such as, “Well, why didn’t you say that in the meeting!?” I’ve also heard, “You’re too quiet in meetings. You need to speak up more and share because that’s a great idea!” Speaking up in large groups, sharing ideas, being heard, and asking for what you want (including promotions) all seems so simple and second nature for others. So, why is it so energy-draining for me to do the same? I want to be heard too!

After several personality surveys, it was assessed that (drum roll, please): I am indeed an introvert.

Ah, so that’s what this is, AND there’s a name for it!

Remarks from others and my own observations of interactions in meetings started to make me really look within and pinpoint what it is that I wanted. I narrowed it down to three things:

1. I want to feel empowered to speak up.

2. I want to be heard.

3. I want to present my best, most authentic self.

Last August, Pat Wadors, our Head of Talent, wrote a blog post titled “I’m an introverted executive in Silicon Valley—how the heck did that happen?!” The blog not only made me feel that I wasn’t alone but also comforted me with the knowing that an executive needs a second to recharge—just as I do.

Recently, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity, here at LinkedIn, to lead a project on introversion. So far, we’ve put together three small roundtable sessions, led by Pat, to have an open discussion about how introverts can navigate in an extroverted world. She provided helpful and actionable tools we can use to increase confidence and be our authentic selves, without losing much energy doing so.

Here are some of my key takeaways from the sessions that I’ve put into practice:

It’s okay to take a few minutes alone to recharge. Phew, was this a relief to hear! Going for a quick walk around the block before a meeting is great not only for your body—to get out of your chair and move—but also for your mind—to clear and refresh it.

Declare who you are. Let your manager know how you recharge your energy. Perhaps in your next one-on-one, be open, and mention that you refuel and gather your thoughts by taking a walk around the block, putting on your headphones for 30 minutes a day, or having a quiet lunch.

Communicate with body language. Sitting up straight, having both feet on the floor, and leaning in is one way to show that you are engaged in meetings.

Advocate for another fellow introvert. See a fellow introvert in your meeting getting spoken over? Kindly saying to the group, “I think ____ has a great idea about that!” not only gives your colleague a chance to express their idea(s) but also begins to build confidence in yourself to speak up (and your colleague will thank you!).

Find and own your strengths. That means putting your energy into what you’re good at. I’ve identified a few strengths of mine, and I am starting to focus on the ways I can add value by using them more often, which, in turn, is helping me to be a bit more “extroverted” when I need to.

Knowing what we can do to be heard, feeling confident, and staying authentic are all empowering ways to be more present and involved in your workplace.

Let me end with words from Pat’s blog post:

“So celebrate who you are and realize that being an introvert doesn’t have to be a barrier—in fact, it can give you the courage and focus to share your voice in more effective ways.”

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