If you're an introvert who has felt overshadowed by extroverts at work, it's not all in your head. Most workplaces are set up to reward extroverts, who often dominate meetings, love to network, and generally take charge. What's an introvert to do? Mindfulness can help introverts succeed at work, according to an article by Leah Weiss, Ph.D. on Psychology Today. While mindfulness meditation has been touted as the solution to almost everything lately, it's not just a passing fad, and it's backed up by science.
Research has shown that mindfulness can actually change your brain, according to the Harvard Business Review. By practicing mindfulness regularly, you can learn to resist distractions, make better decisions, and more quickly adapt to changing environments. This is key for introverts who tend to overthink things, which can in them feeling less confident at work. According to a study by Truity Psychometrics LLC, introverts even make less money, tend to supervise less people, and are less happy in their jobs.
As a self-described "hardcore introvert," I can relate. At a previous job the dynamic between introverts and extroverts on our remote team was causing some friction, which led to my boss hiring a Myers Briggs facilitator to come to an in-person team meeting to assess each team member's personality type and the overall type of the team to see how we coulda more inclusive environment.
Introverts Feel Less Confident Speaking Up
When we had our Myers Briggs tests done, it revealed that our team had a pretty even split between introverts and extroverts — which is consistent with most places overall. Overall, the team was an ENFP, but it was no surprise that the extroverts tended to dominate our weekly team calls and shout out ideas regularly. While this was happening, the introverts were usually instant messaging each other and asking when so and so was going to stop talking so they could get a word in. My friendlies, the struggle is real.
The facilitator explained the different ways that introverts and extroverts think and process information, and gave us tips on how to approach these two different personality types so the introverts were able to contribute to group discussions and share ideas in ways that worked best for them. I am an INFP, which means I am an Introverted iNtuitive who tends to make decisions based on Feelings and Perception. And, I will readily admit that breaking into a conversation dominated by extroverts is a huge challenge for me, and I'm not alone.
"One thing that introverts tend to have in common is that they do not speak up at work," Weiss explained on Psychology Today. "Some feel they have nothing valuable to offer, some fear that they’ll expose a lack of knowledge or sophistication, and many others simply believe that they’re not as (good, smart, experienced, important, worthy — choose one) as their fellow employees and managers who are [extroverted]."
Weiss said that lack of confidence plays a big role in introverts holding back at work. Personally, I don't find myself doubting my skills or intelligence. What I do doubt is my ability to be able to break into the conversation when the extroverts are yammering on and on. When there doesn't seem to be a natural break in the dialogue, it can be hard to jump in an offer an idea. This kind of overthinking is what can hold introverts back at work, and here's how mindfulness can help.
Mindfulness Can Help Introverts Live In The Moment
"Mindfulness focuses on living in the moment instead of being burdened by the past or overly-worried about the future," Weiss explained. "Through mindfulness meditation and other techniques, an individual learns — among many other things — to put aside negative experiences that have acted as barriers to self-awareness and self-actualization."
Amy Sandler, a Los Angeles-based corporate mindfulness trainer and co-founder of Inspiration at Work, described it as going to the gym for your brain. "As psychologist Rick Hanson explains, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones,” Sandler tells Bustle. "Practicing mindfulness — befriending our thoughts and emotions with a kind, curious, and non-judgmental attitude — can help us counteract our negativity bias and develop self-confidence from the inside, out."
For me, unstructured social time and small talk with no purpose is a total nightmare. I can go to a big event as a reporter with no problem, because I have a purpose for being there and talking to people. However, while a networking event with mindless mingling is my idea of hell, extroverts are right at home. "Many situations that motivate [extroverts], like meeting new people or speaking in front of a group of superiors, can seem quite threatening to introverts," Weiss explained. "Some even become paralyzed with fear."
Mindfulness Regulates Your Flight Or Flight Response
Mindfulness can also help regulate an introvert's fight or flight response in overwhelming social or work situations by helping to change the perception of a stimulus from something scary to run away from into a challenge to overcome. And, I've got to admit that it works. I've been a reluctant meditator for five years, but since I committed to a daily meditation practice, I have noticed more success in my personal and professional life.
I also notice a significant decrease in anxiety, especially regarding events that require small talk. I'm currently involved in a month-long meditation challenge with a group of friends, and after only four days I went to an event I would normally dread, and I had a great time despite the 30 minutes of unstructured chit chat before the event began.
While there are many thing I enjoy about being an introvert, the hamster wheel of overthinking is not one of them. If you need some help getting started, these meditations apps can help. They're perfect for introverts because you can do them alone. By using mindfulness to learn to live in the present, introverts have a lot to gain. And, as Weiss noted, "It’s a more comfortable — and healthier — way to navigate the corporate landscape." Because the average workplace is built for extroverts, introverts need all the help they can get.