Do you feel “forced” to socialize and talk to others at work when you just want to be alone? Whether you call yourself an introvert or a hermit, you may have to develop the people skills you need to do your job. Here’s how to deal with meetings and other work-related duties for people with introverted personality traits.
First, though, know that wanting to be alone because you’re drained by conversations and people doesn’t mean you’re weird or abnormal. You’re an introvert, that’s all! Being introverted is more common than you think, but many people don’t realize they’re introverts. And even if they do recognize their introverted personality traits, they may not want to admit they’re introverted. Why? Because people who want to be alone are viewed negatively in many cultures. It’s not easy for introverts to admit they prefer their own space – much less that need to develop people skills.
“Most Americans, whether introverted or extroverted, have learned to look like extroverts,” writes psychologist Laurie Helgoe in Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. However, 57% of the U.S. population are introverts or have mostly introverted personality traits – which means that many of us are ignoring or suppressing our true personalities. Also, when true introverts are alone they’re not thinking about improving their people skills.
First things first. To find out if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, take this free, fast test for introverted personality traits. Then, check out the Big Five Personality Traits for insight into your own motivations and actions.
Your Big Five Personality Traits
Your personality affects every goal you have in life: personal, professional, financial, and even spiritual. Before we go through a few people skills for introverts, let’s look at the Big Five Personality Traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, extroversion and openness. These personality traits affect almost everything you do – including your career, relationships, family, and even your health.
This brief description of the Big Five Personality Traits includes how they affect your life. They’re not quite “people skills” but they will help you see yourself and others more clearly. Whether you’re an introvert who likes to be alone or an extrovert or leads parades, you will benefit from knowing your personality traits.
1. Conscientiousness. Organization, discipline, excellent performance, and dedication (especially in the workplace) are the hallmarks of this personality trait. Conscientiousness increases as both men and women age, especially during their 20’s. This personality trait helps keep people focused on the details.
2. Agreeableness. Generous, helpful, friendly, pleasant and easy to be around; these social people usually have strong relationships (and are often extroverts). Researchers found that agreeableness increases during your 30’s, in both men and women. If you’re an agreeable person, you can get other people on side. You like being alone, but you’re happy being with others too. You’re agreeable :-)
3. Neuroticism. Woody Allen exemplifies this personality trait; he worries excessively and seems emotionally unstable and anxious. Neurotics are more likely to struggle with depression and sadness. This trait declines in women as they age, and stays the same in men. Introverts aren’t by definition neurotic, but their personality traits affect how they related to others. Introverts prefer to be alone because they’re drained by conversations and people; if they’re in jobs that force them to interact regularly with others, they’d be happier and healthier if they developed people skills.
4. Openness. Honest, available, curious and willing to try new things are the earmarks of openness. Both introverts and extroverts who are open are more likely to employ insight and imagination as part of their daily routine. This personality trait declines slightly as both men and women age.
5. Extroversion. Extroverts are talkative and assertive; they get energy from groups and being in the spotlight. The more, the merrier! Extroverts aren’t people who like to be alone; in fact, extroverts find solitude and quiet times draining. Extroversion declines for women and doesn’t change in men as they age.
These Big Five Personality Traits can and do change. Age and circumstances change them, but mood doesn’t affect these personality traits. Mood, on the other hand, can affect how much time an introvert wants to be alone. If you’re like me – an introvert who is forced to be with people more often than she likes – then you’ll find these people skills helpful.
While we’re talking about personality traits and people skills, here’s one of my favorite articles: What Your Favorite Dog Breed Reveals About Your Personality. It’s not based on scientific or psychological research, but it’s interesting!
6 People Tips for Introverts Who Prefer Being Alone
Introverts have an inward focus, don’t enjoy being the center of attention, and find groups of people draining. Introverts are private people, and would rather be at home alone or with another person or two than at large parties or events.
How, then, do introverts navigate meetings, conferences, and other work responsibilities?
1. Meet clients one-on-one
If you’re an introvert, you find that groups of people drain your energy and even make you feel uncomfortable. Instead of forcing yourself to socialize and network with clients and colleagues in big group settings, create ways to network with individuals or in small groups. This will ensure you’re more comfortable and relaxed. Your demeanor will positively affect the people around you, decreasing the need for “people skills.” You at your most relaxed, comfortable self will help you connect with clients and colleagues naturally. Instead of feeling like you want to be alone, you may find yourself making more meaningful connections at work.
2. Reward yourself for overcoming obstacles
If you go outside your comfort zone and push yourself to network with clients and coworkers in a group setting, find ways to reward yourself. Maybe you’ll work from home one day (an extra special treat for introverts who want to be alone instead of developing people skills :-) ). What is your version of a reward? The more positive associations you create when you overcome obstacles, the easier it’ll be.
“As an introvert, you can be your own best friend or your worst enemy,” writes Laurie Helgoe in Introvert Power. “The good news is we generally like our own company, a quality that extroverts often envy. We find comfort in solitude and know how to soothe ourselves. Even our willingness to look at ourselves critically is often helpful. But, we can go too far. We can hoard responsibility and overlook the role others play. We can kick ourselves when we’re down.”
3. Socialize with other introverts – both in and outside work functions
Developing people skills is easier when you’re with other introverts who prefer to be alone. It can be draining for introverts to spend time with extroverts; on the flip side it can be energizing for introverts to spend time with other introverts. Recharging your batteries includes spending enough time alone (which is different for each introvert), connecting with people who understand you, and accepting your introverted personality traits.
4. Develop strong team relationships with extroverts
As an introvert who wants to be alone, you may find it challenging to achieve your goals because success requires other people. Extroverts, on the other hand, enjoy making contacts, meeting people, networking and working the room at all types of functions. A great team has a combination of both introverted and extroverted people. Both introverts and extroverts have people skills; their differences can make them excellent business partners and work colleagues. This can be a healthy, symbiotic relationship for both introverts and extroverts. For example, most extroverts don’t enjoy working on tasks that take them away from people. Since introverts prefer to be alone, they might be able to easily pick up those responsibilities.
If you’re feeling like you’re less valuable to a business or team because you’re an introvert who prefers to be alone, note that learning people skills is important for all types of personalities. In other words, don’t assume that people skills come automatically or naturally to extroverts.
5. Learn how to make small talk
Ugh. As an introvert who wants to be left alone, I know how difficult and boring small talk is! That’s why it’s a people skill. It needs to be learned because it doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Fortunately, small talk is a skill that you can practice at home, around the water cooler at work, at family functions, and standing in line at the grocery store. Small talk helps you get to know colleagues and clients better – and lets them know you better, too. Knowing how to make small talk effectively is surprisingly powerful, and can create connections that seem superficial but are actually quite personal.
“Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people,” writes Helgoe in Introvert Power. “We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”
6. Find creative ways to market yourself
Sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone and doing the “extroverted” thing: make speeches, teach classes, facilitate meetings, or even make television or radio appearances. But even if you have to interact with groups, you don’t need to master people or networking skills. Accept that you are an introvert who wants to be alone. Don’t force yourself to work in ways you’re not comfortable with. Instead, be creative in your relationships at work. Consider making online appearances (eg, teleseminars or webcasts) or using your website or blog to attract new clients.
“For an introvert, a party or group event does not promise meaningful interaction,” writes Laurie Helgoe in Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength. “In fact, an introvert knows that the party will leave her feeling more alone and alienated. Her social preference may be to stay home and reflect on a conversation with a friend, call that friend, and come to an understanding that is meaningful to her. Or she might indulge in the words of a favorite author, feeling a deep connection with a person she has never met. From the perspective of a partygoer, this introvert may appear to be asocial, when, in fact, the introvert is interacting in a much different way.”
If you find ways to succeed that highlight your natural introverted personality traits, you won’t have to struggle to learn people skills. You’ll just be yourself, but with the goal of reaching new clients and creating healthy relationships with coworkers.
If you’re in the wrong job and don’t want to polish your people skills, read Best Jobs for Introverts and People Who Like to Be Alone.
Do you have any people tips for introverts who like to be alone? Feel free to share below. All comments, big and little, are welcome. Even from extroverts who prefer to big groups and don’t need people skills ;-)