Susan Steinbrecher, CEO and President of Steinbrecher And Associates, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Introverts in the workplace are often misunderstood. They can come across as withdrawn or apathetic — the fact is they are usually extremely valuable members of a team.
For example, if you're in a group meeting situation a manager simply needs to invite these folks to the party. Introverts are generally very good at listening and processing information. A shy person may find it difficult to "speak over" the talkers, so make a point of asking that person their opinion. For instance, single them out: "What do you think, Paul — tell me more about that …" continually encourage them to speak up.
It's also important to maintain that person's self-esteem — especially if they are uncomfortable speaking up. Say things like, "Thank you for sharing, excellent thought" will have a positive effect and spur them on to continue to contribute to the conversation.
If you are in a one-on-one setting with a shy individual, similar to above ask them their thoughts and opinions and maintain self-esteem. Most introverts prefer a one-on-one situation, but it's not always a realistic option. As a manager, a little pro-active coaching would be useful. Relay to your introvert that would like them to speak up more at meetings because of their tremendous amount of experience and what they offer is important.
Another angle a manager can approach is to get them to understand their impact in two different scenarios. For example, "Paul, this is the impact of your speaking up … and this is the impact of you not speaking up." Doing this will reinforce that they may be putting the team at risk when they withhold their wisdom and input. This also shows the person that their contribution is valued.
Ask the person why they think it's difficult for them to voice their opinions. It could be that it is just their nature or often there is a work place dynamic with another co-worker that has caused the situation. Maybe they feel they are always shot down when they speak or contribute ideas. If this is the case, the manager can help work towards a solution.
Because introverts are exceptional listeners, they may not want to "speak up" over somebody — but it has to be done. Call a time out if needed! People will stop and listen, especially when you are already considered the quiet one. Take the initiative to be a part of the conversation — you wouldn't be there if you weren't a valued member of the team.
Good leaders should also point out that their silence or lack of input may appear to their colleagues that they are disengaged — or do not value other people's time and efforts. As mentioned above, this is usually not the case. Introverts process the big picture. Shy people must be aware of their behavior's outward appearances in the workplace setting.
I highly recommend that introverted types enroll in a public speaking program like Toastmasters training. Toastmasters teach you to do things off the cuff when you're put on the spot. This will provide practical training and experience to help them become more comfortable speaking in front of others. I've seen a lot of people come out of their shell in this kind of safe learning environment. Communication and leadership development is vital for shy people to further elevate their career, as the "quiet ones" will often be passed over during promotion time.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.