Rochelle Barrish: A quiet, shy introvert’s guide to being seen & heard

If you’re an introvert by nature, you might find it difficult to be noticed and taken seriously in a corporate world where the people around you are always shouting to be heard. Here are three winning strategies for beating the extroverts at their own game.

Rochelle Barrish, BrightRock, Change Exchange, introvert

By Rochelle Barrish

Hi, my name is Rochelle and I’m a closeted introvert. Most people I work with will laugh when they read this, as their experience of me is as an extrovert. I was a painfully shy, brainy child and was a happy, shy little introvert in the workplace. Until I realised my introvert routine in the workplace would get me nowhere.

It took me a long time to realise that the corporate world, or at least the corporate world I was immersed in, is not introvert-friendly. If I wanted to be heard, seen and valued, I would have to learn to change my habits of just doing my job well and hoping my work would speak for me.

But if my work was so great and my performance was always exceeding expectations, why did I not get invitations to conferences and indabas? Where were my nominations for awards and prizes? How was I only getting the max increases, but none of the special increases and promotions the extroverts were getting?

Read also: Rochelle Barrish: The gut-punch that sent me reeling off the corporate ladder

I had to change my habits. I had to get out of my introvert rhythm, power up and compete with the extroverts. It’s not the easiest thing to do if your default setting is quietly getting on with it and doing your best. And hoping to be recognised for your contribution without having to jump up and down shouting “look, see, how fabulous am I!”.

I learnt how to fake it on a daily basis, because I know that I have valuable contributions to make. When I’ve managed to be louder than the extroverts, I’ve had really great feedback from managers and other stakeholders. I count on three coping techniques that keeps me sane.

Accept that you’re different

Instead of fighting my default setting, I acknowledge that I operate differently. I also gently coax myself to a point where I can be true to my introvert self, but also dabble in the extrovert behaviour I’m comfortable with.

I’m never going to jump and down and sing my praises in a meeting, but I can send an e-mail setting out my thoughts and ideas to the person running a project. This has worked really well for me, as it serves as a record of my ideas. The e-mail trail is a great brain storm that yields amazing results.

Speak out and speak up

It took me a while to know the difference between speaking up and being loud. I don’t do loud for the sake of being seen or heard, but being mute is not an option either. Most introverts will only speak when they feel confident, safe and 100% sure they know what they’re talking about.

We don’t say the first thing that pops into our heads. We like to think about it first. But by then the meeting has moved on, and we stay mute. I make sure that I’ve checked the agenda and chat to the participants of a meeting beforehand, so I can prepare some thoughts to share and my voice doesn’t get lost.

Stop faking it & start making it

I’ve shown my true self to management and some colleagues. I’m no longer faking being an extrovert. I’ve told people that the Rochelle they see is a combination of grit and determination by an introvert who was tired of being overlooked.

I’m more open in my one-on-one sessions with my managers and I’m getting better at showing them how valuable I am in my authentic, introvert way, and not what feels to me to be the inauthentic, extrovert version of myself that repulses me sometimes. Quiet, thoughtful me is no longer in hiding and embarrassed of my strengths. She’s well on her way to shooting out the lights, introvert style!

  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.
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