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Successful entrepreneurs and business professionals of all stripes are always, always learning.
One of the best sources of knowledge is our network—our colleagues and friends. For years, extroverts have helped us learn to meet and greet, to work the room, and to enjoy the social aspects of work.
In a business culture that is still dominated by gregarious, extroverted norms, despite the success of Susan Cain’s Quiet, smart professionals are also learning from their introverted peers. It’s not that many extroverts don’t have these personal skills, but introverts really excel in these five areas.
These five key introvert skills can make you more successful as a business owner or corporate professional:
- Social media prowess
Full disclosure: I’m an introvert who has been playing in the entrepreneurship and adult education playgrounds for years.
1) Get to know yourself.
In a world that often favors extroverts, introverts or innies are forced to understand their own personalities and work style preferences. We know ourselves, both strengths and weaknesses. This understanding aids survival in a sometimes alien environment.
Such self-awareness makes you coachable and prepared to learn and grow as a professional. Introverts are adaptable because we have to be—a quality that leads to success in anyone.
Discover your hidden introvert: Take the time to determine your communication style and understand your personality preferences. Consider that changing the way you normally do something might bring you better results. Commit to getting feedback from diverse sources, especially those who see the world in a different way.
2) Learn to listen.
This is one of the most crucial personal skills to master. Introverts make very good listeners, in part because we are not seeking the social spotlight. Listening is the foundation for strong network relationships and deep understanding of customers.
Giving total attention and deep listening positions introverts to deliver the goods, services, and information people really want and need. Truly listening to someone, without distraction, conveys respect. People want to work with and do business with those who make them feel valued and respected.
Discover your hidden introvert: Practice your listening skills. Start by putting down your phone. Set some new conversation rules. Let others complete their sentences before jumping in with an answer.
Listen for tone as well as words. Allow moments of silence within your conversation; the other person may just be gathering his or her thoughts.
3) Practice preparation.
If you want an idea thoroughly researched before a key meeting, ask an introvert. Introverts do the homework. Given a little information up front, introverts will read, research, plan, and bring their absolute best idea to the table.
As business owners, this means a lot of idea-testing before going to market. Preparation cuts down on avoidable mistakes. Showing up prepared is another way to show respect for your colleagues.
Discover your hidden introvert: Are you a “fly by the seat of your pants” type? Take a walk on the prepared side. Add just a few minutes to your schedule before meetings to gather your thoughts.
Spend one night each week reviewing your calendar and checking for potential snags. Consider the preparation you do before meetings and events a reflection of your esteem for your colleagues, as well as one of the personal skills to master in life.
4) Observe the world around you.
Sitting in the back row, quietly taking notes, introverts are watching everything. This means introverts become experts at reading the room. They quickly pick up on interpersonal dynamics and the body language or signals many others miss.
Carefully observing the reactions of others helps to protect you from pushing through ideas just because you like them. Instead, the professional observer is open to the real data all around them.
Discover your hidden introvert: Practice people watching. There is a wealth of valuable information all around you, if you just take the time to notice it.
Careful observation can tell you if your sales presentation is boring, if someone at the end of the table is eager to speak up, or if there are informal work teams forming around you. When you enter into any new environment, spend a few minutes just observing.
5) Polish your personal skills while leveraging social media.
Walking into a room full of strangers is sometimes painful for introverts. Therefore, innies often become masters of social media. The keyboard and smartphone are comfort zones for introverts.
Meeting people online is easier for introverts and can lay the groundwork for productive relationships, deals and sales. Introverts get to know contacts online and so a foundation is already built before the first face-to-face meeting.
Discover your hidden introvert: Have a social media plan. This means setting aside time to really engage with your online network. Post substantive ideas and ask good questions. Think about the introvert love of privacy and keep your posts “on brand” and consistent with your professional image.
Remember that in the global community, online relationships are just as critical as face-to-face connections. So polish your personal skills even when on social media.
No personality type is perfect. It is our diversity in approach that makes business and life exciting and productive. I’m grateful for the personal skills that my extroverted colleagues taught me, like the importance of sharing a bit more of myself.
And though I may not be the life of networking events or parties, I no longer dread them. Taking the time to add these five traditional introvert personal skills to your resume’ can help you to form deeper and more productive relationships, which can ultimately lead you to success.