In a workplace that is largely filled with extroverts, the going can get pretty tough for the introvert. I know, because I am an introvert in an office full of people who are praised for being boisterous or chatty. Reticence is commonly thought of as something negative—if you’re quiet, there must be something wrong! Whether people realize it or not, some people are quiet because it is simply an inherent part of their being. It’s who they are. They are not sad, depressed, or despondent; they are just quiet in the same way that some people are just loud. Do not disregard them.
1. Don’t ask them why they are quiet.
Please don’t keep asking them every day why are they so quiet. They are quiet because they are quiet. Thinking that being quiet is associated with something negative needs to stop. By all means, ask once just to make sure, but if they are always quiet, do their jobs, get along with people, and don’t hurt anyone, then just leave them be. They’re doing fine.
2. Don’t make assumptions about their lives.
Quiet people never go out…don’t have friends…don’t do anything…aren’t interested in anything other than reading and television…don’t travel…can’t make conversation…aren’t interesting…and aren’t adventurous.
These are just a few of the gems I’ve heard over the years. Introverts recharge by spending time alone—it’s part of a mental rejuvenation process that allows them to feel comfortable. The extrovert energizes by being with large groups of people. There is no right or wrong way to exist; no one should feel like they can easily make assumptions about someone without getting to know them.
3. Don’t talk about them behind their backs.
The workplace shouldn’t be another form of high school, but sometimes it can get like that. There’s not much that I can type here to change this kind of thing, but don’t talk about an introvert’s personality behind their backs. Just don’t.
4. Don’t tell them they need to be more open.
The last thing an introvert wants to hear is about the various ways that people think they need to “change” their personalities—you know, to be more like what everyone else wants them to be like. Just accept them; don’t try to “fix” them.
5. Don’t think that how they are at work is how they are everywhere else.
You don’t just read a couple chapters of a book—with this logic, you shouldn’t think you know an introvert from the way you know them at work. They behave differently in different environments. A workplace may not bring their true personality out. The people that they are forced to coexist with in the workplace may not let them bring out their true personality. Introverts are sensitive, and even something like the brightness of a room can affect them in ways others may not understand. So don’t judge them haphazardly. Ask them out for a coffee sometime and see what they have to say.
6. Don’t feel as though you can’t talk to them.
A lot of the time it’s hard for introverts to start a conversation. They like to have chats just like everyone else—just in small doses, and usually in smaller groups. They’re not obnoxious and they’re not disinterested; they’re just quiet. Forget the small talk and get into a real conversation!