Collaboration is key to greater creativity. As managers focus more and more on engaging their employees in decision-making and brainstorming, sharing one’s voice is becoming more vital to the workplace—and to being an active member of the team.
But if you’re the introverted type, this could be an uncomfortable realization.
Introverts are often given flack in social situations; they are labeled as “shy” or “unsociable” when the reality is that they simply like to be able to think and process what’s going on around them. Introverts have a unique ability that doesn’t always come easily to the social butterflies: the ability to listen (and listen well), process carefully and see things through in a measured, thought-out way. But with more offices turning to trendy, open floor plans to fuel collaboration, introverts are being forced out of their comfort zones and into the throng of workplace collaboration.
If you’re an office introvert eager to be part of the team, but feeling less-than-joyous about giving up your ability to work autonomously, consider this your quick guide to surviving in the world of workplace collaboration.
Better office collaboration for introverts
Make it meaningful
There’s nothing like empty chatter and small talk around the water cooler to get on an introvert’s nerves. We get that the struggle is real. For you, intentionality and meaning are important aspects of good conversation and collaboration. To aid you in approaching collaboration sessions with intentionality, you may find it helpful to jot down questions to yourself (and their answers) on a simple checklist. These questions should explore what you bring to the session by being there, and what might happen if you work alone versus with the team. This will give you a sense of purpose as you bring your mind together with others.
Write out the main goals of the meeting
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of preparation. Identifying what the main goals of the meeting are can ensure that you stay on track during the session--no matter how many rabbit trails and tangents may come. By knowing where the conversation needs to go, you'll be driven to complete the job well.
Plan what you want to say
Conversations are often spontaneous. But for the introvert, approaching a collaboration session already knowing what you want to say can be really helpful. It can prevent you from having to figure out what you want to say as you make sense of other ideas. Starting out with a plan can help you be just as comfortable and confident talking through your thoughts as were your chatty counterparts.
Plan for the questions that might surface
As you plan out what you want to say, take a moment to think through the likely questions that could come up as a result of your ideas. By buying yourself time to think ahead of time, you'll be able to generate a more thoughtful response before your put on the spot.
Write down your points
Taking notes during the meeting is a favorite tactic of introverts. Not only does it help them hone in on the important aspects, but it enables them to start thinking through those points. Now try approaching your next collaboration session with notes already in hand of the points you want to make. Remember, knowing where you're headed in the meeting and conversation can ensure that you get there in the most streamlined way possible. So write down your points down and commit to making at least one of them during the meeting. You and your team will come out winners.
Above all, remember that collaboration can take on many forms. For some projects, collaboration may mean working on an assigned portion of a larger project from the comfort of your own computer or office. Other times it may mean infusing your ideas into a meeting. Checking with the team ahead of time regarding the type of collaboration they expect can help you prepare properly so you, your personality and your work can shine.