Anna Chambers: '˜Loud' business can benefit from introverts

Hello, my name is Anna, and I am an introvert. This might not be a common admission amongst those working in public relations, but it's true '“ and I even have the personality test results to prove it.

Anna Chambers says introverts are 'generally calm and composed, which can create a feeling of trust'. Picture: Marc Bowker
Anna Chambers says introverts are 'generally calm and composed, which can create a feeling of trust'. Picture: Marc Bowker

Being an introvert isn’t something I’ve always been happy to shout from the rooftops about. The world we live in, especially the sometimes frenetic business world, is one where being an extrovert – those outgoing, socially confident types that we all know – seems to be what most people aspire to as the best way to get on.

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As a result of this social norm, the introverts among us are not infrequently made to feel there is something wrong with them, and some even become really quite adept at acting out the part of an extrovert in order to get ahead at work.

For me, this feeling of something that needed to be “fixed” in some way first began when I read over my school reports (“bright, works hard… but needs to participate more in class”). This then continued in the world of employment, where I was often called the “quiet one” by colleagues or was actually called out for doing more listening than talking in meetings.

It took me quite a long time to come to terms with the fact that being introverted wasn’t something I could change, any more than I could alter the colour of my eyes. It’s only in the past few years that I have become completely comfortable with my introversion, even if the world still seems to have the occasional problem with it.

Importantly, being an introvert isn’t the same as being shy or anti-social. I actually really like people – I just get overwhelmed when there are too many of them around at the same time, especially if they are making too much noise. Like many introverts, my senses can be easily overloaded.

And this is the crucial point – introversion and extroversion isn’t really a measure of how outgoing someone is, that is an urban myth; it’s more like a description of where they get their energy from, and how they recharge their brains.

Extroverts and introverts often take different approaches to work. Extroverts are usually quick decision-makers who are comfortable with risk-taking and multitasking. Introverted people are usually more methodical, thinking things through more before they speak, and prefer to work in small, close teams, or even alone.

Introverts have many fantastic qualities. For one thing, we are usually great at listening, a very important quality in the milieu of professional communications. In her book Introvert Power, clinical psychologist Laurie Helgoe says: “An introvert who sits back in a meeting, taking in the arguments, dreamily reflecting on the big picture, may be seen as not contributing – that is, until he or she lands on the solution that all the contributors missed.”

Introverts are also generally calm and composed, which can help create a desirable feeling of trust and security in the workplace, which is particularly helpful when dealing with crisis situations.

We are usually self-motivated, and can completely immerse ourselves in tasks that we can work on at our own pace, so rarely need supervision to get the job done – the dream situation of many a manager. Introverts can even make great business leaders; Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg are all considered to be introverts, for example.

As amazing as I think introverts are, like most things in life, it’s a question of everything in moderation. I believe it’s crucial for any successful business to have a mix of introvert and extrovert employees. As behavioural scientist Professor Francesca Gino says: “A team of too many extroverts can suffer from ego issues, while a team of too many introverts can be lacking a shared team dynamic.”

Fortunately, the team I work in at the moment has this desirable blend of personality types, and I have never been happier.

• Anna Chambers, account manager at Perceptive Communicators