For every story I’ve heard from someone who’s been feeling isolated the last three months, I’ve heard a story from someone, usually an introvert, who is feeling such a sense of freedom! Without the constant buzz and interruption of an office, they can finally think. That’s a big part of introversion. It’s not that introverts are necessarily shy, it’s that their creative process is an internal one. They think better on their own or with just one or two other people. Extroverts, on the other hand, often think out loud. As a very extroverted friend and mentor of mine says, “When people say to me, ‘Bill, what do you think?’ I say, ‘I won’t know until I say it!’
And many of us are a blend of both. Either way, my hope is that this time of changed work circumstances will help reveal your preferences. And that you can use that awareness to learn to create boundaries that will allow you to thrive at work. What I mean is this. What if an introvert could truly understand the value their solitary thinking brings to their team and company, and ask for (or take) alone time in a way that doesn’t alienate others. On the flip side, what if an extrovert could be transparent about their need to brainstorm with others and find those who are willing to engage? In short, having healthy boundaries doesn’t have to create a disconnect with your colleagues. Here are a few steps to take:
- Embrace your strengths and preferences without apology. This is often an inside job. Others probably see your strengths. What I see with so many clients is that THEY don’t see, or accept, their strengths. It’s normal in a way. What comes naturally doesn’t feel like work, so you don’t see that it’s a strength. A few sources to learn about your strengths are: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Strengths Finder 2.0, and Social Style.
- Connect your strengths to your impact or contribution, because it’s not enough to know what you’re good at. When you truly understand how your strengths positively impact others and contribute to the whole, it sends confidence through the roof. Two tools I use to reveal that are the Seven Stories Exercise, and Belbin Roles which shows the different energies that are present in effective teams.
- Then craft messages that let you showcase those strengths, while asking for the boundaries you want, like, “Leave it with me. I love to chew on a complex issue with lots of moving parts. Just let me know when you need a status. I can get lost in the weeds if I’m left to my own devices.” Or the flip side, “I have a really strong sense of what the client needs, but it would help me get crystal clear if I could talk it through. Would you be willing to spend 30 minutes with me before the office happy hour this Thursday?”
The shift is subtle, but I find that so many clients don’t realize their preferences because they are so used to working in an environment that doesn’t allow them to fully lean into them. Or I see professionals who do know their preferences, but don’t know how to create boundaries for them without seeming difficult. With this simple approach, I’d love for you to be able to stand in your strengths and enjoy the balance that comes with asking for what you need.