Developing a healthy working relationship with your boss can be tricky under any circumstances—but it becomes particularly prone to misunderstandings when you’re introverted and your boss is extroverted
“There are always two sides to any communication,” says Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking and cofounder of Quiet Revolution. “One side is thinking about what the other person needs from you, and the other is about communicating what you need from them.”
When you find ways to meet your boss’ and colleagues’ emotional needs—and you help them find ways to meet yours—you’ll avoid many of the miscommunications that could make your work life less pleasant or even hurt your career. Here, Cain shares her best tips for how to do it.
1. Check in with your boss regularly
“It’s really helpful to understand that extroverts prize frequent communication,” Cain says. “So even if it wouldn’t be your natural way to check in often and to give frequent updates and ask your boss how their vacation was, your extroverted colleagues probably need that from you. When they don’t get it, they are apt to misinterpret your less frequent communication as a sign of disengagement or that you don’t like them.”
Cain recommends going as far as to schedule those conversations to ensure they happen at regular intervals. “If you understand these as differences in style, then the decision to express yourself in a more outward way than would come naturally doesn’t feel like being inauthentic,” she says. “Instead, it feels like an act of compassion toward people around you who need validation.”
2. Find ways to express your enthusiasm
While introverts are no less likely to feel enthusiastic than their more outgoing colleagues, they tend to express it in subtler ways. “That means that when your team has a victory, the introverts may not appear to be as overjoyed as everybody else,” Cain says.
She cites an introverted woman who played soccer and said her teammates assumed she wasn’t excited about wins because she didn’t jump around to celebrate like the other women on the team. Cain recommends finding small ways to express your enthusiasm more outwardly, again keeping in mind that the key is to avoid miscommunication.
3. Express your needs and goals
Set aside time to chat with your boss about who you are, how you work best, what you like to do on your days off, and anything else that might help them better understand your quieter style. This can also be an opportunity for you to ask for a work setup that better caters to your needs—like, say, working from home.
“Depending on your relationship with your boss, it might be helpful to sit down with them and ask if they can accommodate that,” Cain says.
Read more: An Introvert’s Guide to Networking
Extroverted bosses might also assume that introverted individuals don’t have lofty career goals—so it’s especially important to communicate any ambitions you have to your supervisor.
“Ask for their advice about how to reach that point,” Cain receommends. Keep in mind, though, that you might be told you need to put yourself out there more.
“It can be helpful to enlist your boss’s help in that process,” she says. “Strategize with your boss about how you can be out in public but in comfortable ways. Maybe that means introducing a speaker at the next sales conference or writing a company blog. Keep looking for things you can do, and strategize with your boss.”
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