‘Quiet’ can be a dirty word when it’s used to imply that your communication skills aren’t up to scratch. But just because you aren’t raising your voice to be heard above everyone else, why should that mean your contribution isn’t as valid?
Recently I came across this article about why quiet doesn’t work at ad agencies. As an introvert who works in the marketing industry, it really resonated with me. I’m sure at times my career has suffered because I have a tendency to think rather than talk.
Over the years the word ‘quiet’ has come to haunt me. At times it’s been used as a criticism, at others it has been the word used to indicate my failings as a human being. There are days I’ve felt that I would never be successful without changing my personality. Yet no one has ever had a problem with my work.
I’ve grown to hate the word. To me, describing someone as ‘quiet’ is like saying they are tall; it doesn’t give you the full picture. I can be softly spoken, reserved and introverted, but I’m not shy, stupid or lacking in communication skills, I’m just careful of what I say and when I say it.
Introverts have some fantastic skills that make us a great fit in the workplace, in particular in the communications industry. I’ve read some convincing arguments about why we make great social media managers and are strong in the creative industries.
Of course, that’s not to say that extroverts aren’t good at these things too. They’re just better at getting noticed in the office, better at securing that new job or promotion because they know how to say all the right things and be enthusiastic, even if some of them aren’t as good at delivering.
A strong team should have a combination of personality types and people with complementary skills. It’s no use having half a dozen people with exactly the same strengths and weaknesses.
So, should the introverted among us be forced to change to satisfy the whims of the workplace?
It’s a difficult thing to answer. There are times when you need to rise to the challenge, clamber out of your comfort zone and speak up, even if that doesn’t come naturally. If you shy away from those moments they may eventually come to count against you.
But you are not the sum of your perceived weaknesses. There is nothing wrong with being thoughtful, with being more comfortable in your written communication skills or taking the time to listen. Use those skills to your advantage.
But be aware that you may have to play the game too and learn how to present yourself as a confident, natural communicator when the occasion demands it.
Just remember, being an introvert can be a powerful thing and anyone who overlooks your positive attributes isn’t perfect either.