“Trying to communicate in a way that goes against your natural tendencies can be uncomfortable,” Michael Alcée, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, tells Thrive. “Confidence starts with being in alignment with who you are.” And to find that alignment, it’s actually important to embrace your introverted traits — especially in an extroverted office. “The benefit of being an introvert is that you balance the ‘thinking out loud’ culture with a calm energy that helps thinking and decision-making,” adds Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., author of The Introverted Leader: Building On Your Quiet Strength. “You are able to summarize a point with fewer words, so you can pull the strings together and move forward.”
Alcée and Kahnweiler agree that speaking up as an introvert can be stressful, but there are tips that can help you use your voice in a way that feels comfortable and optimal for you. Here are a few they recommend:
Write down your ideas first
Introverts tend to process a lot, and Alcée says that it can be helpful to write down your thoughts before a meeting. That way, you can allow yourself the space to clarify your ideas first, so you’re then more comfortable presenting them to others. “Writing it out helps you work from the inside out,” he says. “Putting in that time to process your ideas on paper is essential to your workflow.” Alcée also emphasizes that it’s vital to do what works for you in a collaborative office culture. “We have this misconception that we live in an extroverted culture where we need to think out loud,” he says. “Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to respond to the quick tempo of that meeting.” Taking the time to process your thoughts and then make a meaningful contribution is a smart tactic.
Guard your alone time
Because introverts tend to be more introspective, it’s helpful to carve out time during the day to let your thoughts percolate and recenter yourself. “Some of us do better thinking alone first and then coming to the group,” Alcée points out. “When you’re naturally introverted, making that time is imperative.” By taking the time to be alone during the day, you can feel more ready to speak up when you’re in a crowd, or even in a one-on-one meeting with your manager. “That alone time is preparation time,” he says. “Gaining the confidence to speak up comes down to that preparation.”
Be open about the way you communicate
There’s no shame in being a quieter person, so there’s no reason not to be upfront and direct about it — which is why Kahnweiler suggests telling your colleagues that you’re more introverted. “Explain your preferred communication style to your teammates,” she says. “Speaking up can become less painful.” Kahnweiler notes that jumping into a conversation can perhaps be overwhelming at first, so letting the group know that you’re quieter right off the bat can help you feel more comfortable in the room. Then you can ease your way in. And at the end of the day, don’t be afraid to take the leap. “Others need to hear your contributions and ideas,” she adds. “Spending too much time in your head can be self-defeating.”