Do you often feel drained of energy after business meetings? Would you rather send a text or email than make a phone call? When faced with the choice of an after-work happy hour or pajamas in front of the TV, does the TV usually win?
If so, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in good company. Research indicates that introverts slightly outnumber extroverts. Of course, most of us experience both tendencies at different times. For instance, I consider myself an ambivert who happens to have more introverted than extroverted days.
But when it comes to the workplace, optimizing your extrovert tendencies offers numerous advantages. It helps strengthen your relationships with clients and coworkers, and chances are you’ll find many more opportunities for growth and success when you branch out. If you’d like to break free from your shell at work to make sure you don’t miss out on these advantages, here are three tips to follow that have worked for me.
1. Surround Yourself with Extroverted Coworkers
Let’s start with an open secret: When you’re around extroverted people, they’re happy to do most of the talking. In the workplace, this allows you to remain in your comfort zone (observing, listening, participating when it feels right) and removes some of the anxiety that comes with feeling like you have to initiate conversations. When all the attention isn’t on you, it relieves pressure to perform.
I’m also a firm believer in the idea that you are a collection of the personalities you spend the most time around. If you ensure that some of the people you keep close to you have big, outgoing personas, eventually, some of that extrovert energy is sure to rub off on you.
I discovered this trick after I took a job in my university’s newsroom, where I was surrounded by people I didn’t know. Coming from a small town in North Texas to a large campus in Houston, the biggest city in the state, I found it harder to make friends in a sea of over 40,000 people, most of whom already knew each other from the numerous high schools in the area. Needless to say, I was very shy for the first couple of semesters, and this shyness followed me into the office.
One day, a new writer came on board. She was one of the most outspoken, extroverted individuals I’d ever met. But she was also very kind, and I started intentionally spending time with her at work.
At first, I’d just stop by her desk to chat for a few minutes. When I realized we had quite a bit in common, like an adoration for coffee, I’d ask her to go grab some caffeine at the campus cafe across the street. Even though I didn’t talk much (let’s be honest, she was doing most of the talking), some of her outgoing traits began to transfer to me.
With my new friend in tow, I felt more confident interacting with other co-workers. Whether it was due to her big personality diverting attention her way or simply me taking mental notes on how to interact with confidence, it worked. Some of her explosive energy really did get passed onto me by proximity. Over time, I was able to comfortably talk to everyone in the office, even when she wasn’t around.
Best of all, we became close friends in the process. So, the takeaway here is this: Hang out with the loudest, biggest personalities in the office, take notes, and ride the coattails of that extrovert energy.
MORE FOR YOU
2. Find a Hobby You Love That Forces You Out of Your Comfort Zone
As an introvert, it’s easy to get wrapped up in hobbies that allow you to isolate yourself, such as reading or writing. Now, I love to partake in both and highly recommend activities where you take time just for yourself, whether you are an introvert, extravert, or somewhere in between. But there are times when you have to venture out of your shell if you want to be successful in this life.
Finding a hobby that pushes you out into the world can help. Take me, for instance. As a child, I adored the thought of acting. I would spend hours acting out scenes from my favorite books and movies. But the thought of actually getting up on a stage and living out my dream of being an actress was nerve-wracking, to say the least.
It was a dream I never thought could become my reality, simply because I was too nervous to perform in front of people. But I wanted to be on stage so badly that I felt saddened every time I watched a live show. If only I could just get over my fear, take that first step, and audition for the school play.
Although it absolutely terrified me to the point of feeling nauseous, I listened to my heart and let my childhood passion push me through the fear. I auditioned for my first show when I was 15, and for the next six high school productions, I was the lead female role.
This did wonders for my confidence and ability to interact with people. Not only because I fought through such a huge fear and realized I could do it but also because it opened so many doors for me that allowed me to keep growing – and it was all because I stepped outside of my comfort zone to pursue a passion. On top of that, I made so many fun and outgoing friends (see Tip 1) who could help draw me out of my introverted shell.
So, what’s the takeaway here? Do it, even if it makes you so nervous you feel nauseous. Turn your passion into a hobby, and it will build your confidence as well as your people skills, which you can then turn around and use in the office.
3. Fake It Until You Make It
While it may sound cliché, there’s a lot of truth in the old saying “fake it till you make it.” In fact, studies show that simply pretending to be an extrovert can result in a better mood and increased feelings of well-being.
Let’s face it: Even though Tips 1 and 2 have helped immensely, it doesn’t change the fact that, at my core, I’m still an ambivert with introverted tendencies. I still often feel shy and nervous to talk to others.
That’s where Tip 3 comes in handy. Do I think the other two points here can help draw you out of your shell? Absolutely! However, I don’t necessarily believe that doing those things will completely alleviate the issue. You are still going to have those hard days. You are still going to have periods when you are too shy to ask a question. You’ll probably even get a little paranoid now and then, thinking you’ll embarrass yourself in the meeting you have scheduled for the day. Don’t worry – most of us have been there.
My advice? On days when you don’t feel confident, just fake it.
Act like you have the confidence, the outgoing personality. Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and tell yourself that everything is going to be just fine. Because you know what? It will be.
Take the things you learned from the other two tips and ride on that wave of confidence they created. Then, use it to propel you forward. If you start your morning feeling shy and nervous, if you’re apprehensive to face the inevitable interactions of the day, take a moment to give yourself a pep talk. Tell yourself even if you don’t feel outgoing, even if you don’t feel like you are able to talk to people today, you’re not going to let that hold you back from what you need to get done.
This will help you break that shell when you find yourself crawling back into it. It will get you out there and keep you out there, no matter how scary it is. Odds are, the longer you stay outside of your safe comfort zone, the easier it’s going to be to avoid hiding in it again. As the day goes on and you have those conversations with a confidence that might not exactly be completely genuine, you’ll see that nothing bad is happening. This realization, in turn, will help you build a confidence that is genuine.
Even if you aren’t naturally outgoing, you can still have those interactions and the confidence necessary to succeed in the workplace. Just don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself time to stretch and grow. Over time, you’ll feel more comfortable and be able to break free of your shell for good – I guarantee it.