How to succeed as an introvert

The second day of Agile Testing days was very much in tune with my talk about the Impostor Syndrome. I feel there is a mind shift going on in the corporate world, people realizing that employees are not resources but human beings which means that they are complex and full of emotions. This line from an Icelandic poem captures this well: “Carefulness shall be had in the presence of a soul.”

Elizabeth Zagroba had a personal and insightful talk about succeeding as an introvert. She offered suggestions on how introverts can feel more comfortable and succeed at their job, testers, as well as others. Elizabeth has been inspired by reading Quiet by Susan Cain and Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe. I related 98,345% to her talk 🙏.

Introverts excel when they can dive into things alone, express themselves better in writing, and are good listeners. However they don’t like small talk 😱 When a person casually asks an introvert how she is doing, she takes her time to think about what is going on in her life, and by the time she feels ready to talk, that other person probably has passed by without thinking more about it.

Elizabeth mentioned that introverts like to stay on task and she just wants to be left alone at work and get her job done than doing small talk. I relate to that very much; often I wonder how some people get any job done because they are small talking all day. But this can be unhealthy if you put too much pressure on yourself to be working every minute of your work hours. It’s necessary for everyone to take a break, so introverts should also remember to take breaks and it’s ok to do that alone.

Introverts are quiet but observant, so they like to take notes and process things before they speak. Introverts don’t like to talk more than is necessary, so when they feel people have made their point, they just want them to stop talking!

I’ve been struggling to know when I should step out of my comfort zone and improve my social skills, and when I should accept who I am and how I function best. A lot of teamwork today is better fitted for extroverts; brainstorming in a group is not the place introverts get their best idea, open space environment makes us uncomfortable, and meetings drain the life energy out of us very quickly. If you are an introvert, it’s crucial for you to sense when you are overstimulated and need to take your alone time to recharge. You might notice that you have a hard time prioritizing, you’re not finishing any task or not being creative at all. Elizabeth then made an excellent point that if an environment is making you feel uncomfortable, then it is not the right environment for you.

Elizabeth admitted often feeling awkward, but never guilty of not being social. She’s content with not wanting to spend socializing with her co-workers, 40 hours a week with those people are just enough and she instead just wants to be home in her pajamas. Like Elizabeth, it helped me to identify myself as an introvert and highly sensitive (which is a term Susan Cain explains in Quiet). It made me accept who I am and not feeling bad when I think I’m socially weird or too quiet in meetings.

As much as I love going to interesting conferences, I feel exhausted after each day, so it’s very important for me to get some alone time. Now I don’t feel bad when I leave the people at the bar at 10 o’clock (which still I get a social hangover from), it doesn’t mean I’m antisocial or stuck up, I’m just an introvert. 😊


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