THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- At work: Find the advantages of introversion

The workplace is set up to reward extroverts. For example, according to the Myers-Briggs Indicators, ENTJs (Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging) make up only three percent of the population but a wide majority of CEOs. Look at workplace catch phrases that are especially annoying if you're not an extrovert: Toot your own horn! Your career is only as strong as your network! Let's do lunch!

The absurdity of all this is that 57 percent percent of the world are introverts, according to Laurie Helgoe, a psychologist and the author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.

Here are five ways to leverage the advantages of introversion:

1. Work in the world of ideas

Introverts generally love to talk about ideas, according to Helgoe. She says that in conversation, introverts are stronger if you talk about "what are you thinking?" instead of "what are you doing?" And at work, you are stronger if you are helping people with ideas rather than sticking to a routine pattern of work.

2. Give ten minutes and then go

Helgoe says extroverts often cannot get access to introverts– because introverts are always departing to be alone. Introverts can alleviate this problem by being fully attentive for a short time before departing. So make a connection, really contribute to the conversation, and then ten minutes is enough.

3. Have confidence in your self-knowledge

Do you know the personality type that has the longest Wikipedia page? INTJ (Introversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Judgment)? Because the combination of being an introvert and being idea-driven makes one very interested in learning about oneself. INTJs are extreme cases, but all introverts have some of this, and that self-knowledge will help you to put yourself in situations to have the most positive impact. For example, Helgoe has a great chapter on how to get out of going to a party– a key skill for an introvert, who does better in very small groups. But the bottom line is that you have to say that you'd rather be alone, which, Helgoe points out, "requires a real grounding in who you are."

4. Teach other people to interact with you

A lot of the conflict my business partner Ryan and I used to have is that I had no idea how to communicate with an introvert. The biggest difference is that I think out loud, so I never stop talking to think. Ryan thinks and then talks. But if I never shut up, he can't think long enough to have a response. He did some research about communication styles and then taught me this difference– which helped me make space so that we could have a productive conversation.

5. Take control of your work

One of the most popular professions for introverts is being a writer. What this means is that there is a lot of information written about what work that's well-suited for an introvert.

And check out the book I recommend more than any other book in the world: Do What You Are by Paul Tieger. This book does not provide a single list of jobs suitable to introverts because there are so many different types of introverts. But this book can tell you what sort of introvert you are (for example, an artist or an activist?) and what sort of work you will thrive in.


As for you extroverts, stop assuming everyone is like you, and start tailoring conversations to introverts when appropriate.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.