How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

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How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

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As an introvert, I value my tendency to reflect and think deeply and to crave substantial connections. I love to listen. In fact, part of my decision to become a psychotherapist was based on my affinity for listening and understanding rather than talking. However, no matter how much more comfortable it might feel as an introvert to listen, it is necessary on occasion to be able to talk, and to talk with some authority, feeling able to voice your opinion when you need to. Over time it can become frustrating and depleting for introverts if we find that we’re not able to express ourselves much at all – or that when we do, no-one is listening!

When it comes to friends and partners, you can choose who you spend time with and can navigate those relationships in your own time and in your own way. But when it comes to relationships that we can’t choose, such as colleagues or family members, trying to be heard amongst loud groups or people who are extroverts can be exhausting.

It’s vital not to try to override your introvert qualities for the sake of being heard, but being introverted rarely sets us up to ‘shout the loudest’. So, being an introvert but wanting to be heard can sometimes feel impossible. An introvert needs to have time to consider, reflect and prepare first means that by the time we’re ready to contribute a well thought-out comment your extrovert colleague has probably made their point and moved the conversation on to a different topic!

Here are some tips, from one introvert to another, on how to be heard and find your voice in group settings and around extroverts.

Pick your battles – learn how to interrupt

Interrupting is difficult for introverts. As an introverted psychotherapist, I’ve struggled for years to get comfortable with interrupting people at salient moments to add in something of benefit. I’m still not comfortable with it overall, however. Interrupting goes against the grain for introverts but sometimes it’s necessary to interrupt in order to be heard. Other times, however, it’s simply not worth it. Well-timed interruption, or intelligent interrupting, is a skill that can be learnt and is a skill that is sometimes vital if you want to get in a word in with some more extrovert or chatty counterparts.

I’m not suggesting that interrupting is always the way to go, but if you don’t find a way to do it from time to time it’s likely that you’ll be railroaded in most conversations. I know we introverts prefer to listen but sometimes we need to communicate some of our thoughts so that we don’t feel perpetually overlooked or excluded, and so that an alternative perspective is offered. Interrupt when you either really want to contribute something or when you’re starting to feel downtrodden or used as a sounding board.

If there’s no natural pause just start talking…as I write that it goes against everything I know and treasure about relationships. It seems unbelievably rude to just start talking over someone, however, I’ve come to realise that the reason I find it such an awful concept is because I would hate for someone to interrupt me harshly. However, people have different levels of sensitivity and not everyone will be as offended by being interrupted as you might assume. I’ve found that extroverts or very talkative people often don’t actually mind being interrupted (this was quite a revelation for me following years of withholding information for fear of being rude!). Test the waters a bit for yourself. Now and then interrupt someone when they’re not leaving a gap for you to talk and observe their response.

Work with your introvert strengths

Generally as introverts we tend to find giving instant responses in conversation challenging. Contributing to conversations off the cuff isn’t usually easy because it doesn’t allow any time for the reflection and thought that we crave. As Susan Cain writes about introverts, “They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.”

Marti Olsen Laney has written about the reason introverts take longer to respond saying that “it’s because they have a longer neural pathway for processing stimuli because introverts process information through a pathway associated with long term memory and planning, so it’s more complicated (and takes longer) for introverts to process events interactions and their surroundings.” This longer processing can slow down input into conversations. Quick responses and starting up new topics of conversation might not be your strong suit but you will probably find that you’re naturally curious and have questions during most interactions. The tendency for introverts to ask why and to want to understand is one of our most valuable social assets.

If contributing new information or telling a story doesn’t feel natural (and it almost never does!) then work with your strengths and ask questions instead. It’s a good way to contribute and become part of group discussions in a way that’s less jarring than trying to match our extrovert counterparts. Asking questions gets you heard in a more subtle way than trying to interject with a captivating story or by speaking the loudest. It can help you to influence the direction of your conversations whilst playing to your strengths.

Another introvert strength is that we often find solace in writing. Depending on the circumstances a well-timed and thought through email can be more beneficial that a face to face conversation. Although emails or texts can’t replace face to face interactions, there is definitely a time and a place to get your message across by writing it versus not communicating your point at all.

Be patient

It’s often the case that extroverts seem to make quick gains in situations that require social interaction; in the workplace, when socialising and at family functions. Introvert qualities, however, like listening, reflecting, considering and thinking deeply all contribute to playing the long game instead. It will probably be hard to always be heard sometimes, but your actions and the way you might naturally execute your plans will allow you to be seen fully at some point rather than just heard instantly. Be patient as the introvert route is likely to take longer. As Sophia Dembling writes “Extroverts sparkle—introverts glow”.

Strength isn’t always found in numbers

It’s likely that you naturally form bonds one on one with people rather than in groups. If groups aren’t your thing then don’t expect yourself to have a loud voice in a group. If, however, you find it frustrating because decisions are made without you in group settings, try to connect with group ‘influencers’ instead. You can be the voice in the ear of someone who is happy to ‘shout the loudest’ and spread the word. If commanding authority in a group is likely to take you hours to build up to and a few days to recover from then buddying up with someone who naturally likes get their point across can be a less draining way of getting your point out into the group ether!

By Meagan Francis

We’ve all been there: the staff meeting that seems to go on forever with co-workers arguing the finer points of copy paper weight while you struggle to gain their attention long enough to discuss a crucial new budget item.

Even this extrovert can have a hard time getting heard in group situations when faced with railroaders and professional complainers. But introverts can have a particularly difficult time getting their points of view across in meetings and conversations. That’s because they don’t like to interrupt and don’t excel at thinking on their feet, says Nancy Ancowitz, business communication coach and author of Self-Promotion for Introverts®: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead .

Here are some tips for being heard in group discussions, whether your voice is literally the quietest in the room or you just have a hard time speaking up in meetings:

Buy yourself time

Answering difficult questions on the spot can be tough for introverts, who typically need time to reflect before jumping in with an answer. So, come up with a “filler” answer that will give you some time to gather your thoughts, advises Ancowitz. For example, you can say, “That’s a great question. No one has ever asked me that. My initial thoughts are XYZ. If you’d like to know more, I’d be happy to do a little research and get back to you by the end of the day.”

Make yourself heard

As uncomfortable as it can feel, getting heard at a meeting can require you to get a little more aggressive than you’re used to. “Audibly clear your throat, put up your index finger, make eye contact with a key person at the meeting, say their name, and lean in to get their attention,” suggests Ancowitz.

And try to get acquainted with the fine art of interrupting. “In certain work environments, it’s the norm, and it’s otherwise impossible to get heard,” she explains. “Start by saying something positive, like, ‘Yes, Sandy. I’d like to add that…’”

If a louder, more aggressive approach doesn’t work, Ancowitz suggests taking the opposite tack and talking more quietly. It can sometimes get more attention than speaking in a raised voice and seems to “cut through” the din of a noisy meeting.

Come prepared

Having your discussion points on the agenda—and giving them a few practice runs before the meeting—can ensure you’ll have the time, space, and confidence to speak your piece. You can also enlist the support of sympathetic co-workers ahead of time and recommend ground rules, such as “one voice at a time,” to the facilitator, suggests Ancowitz.

Or consider going a step further and taking on the role of facilitator. “That position often gives you the authority to set the agenda, manage the flow of the conversation, and interject to bring the conversation back on track when it goes off course,” says Ancowitz.

Get (a little) louder

Sometimes you might feel like the quietest person in the room because you actually are the quietest person in the room! You might simply have a quieter voice that doesn’t carry well or stand out in a room full of louder people.

While you may not be able to (or want to!) go from being soft-spoken to a total loudmouth, there are steps you can take to “make your voice heard”—not just figuratively but literally. Standing up straight and breathing from your diaphragm—the muscle that supports your lungs—can help, but that’s hard to do when you’re nervous and your breathing is shallow and quick. One simple but effective breathing exercise that can help is to take a controlled breath where the exhale is a beat or two longer than the inhale. This can help calm your fight-or-flight response and make it easier to speak clearly and confidently.

Even if your voice isn’t booming, it helps if you can enunciate clearly and speak slowly. “I recently had a meeting in which the most quiet person commanded the room. She presented herself as if she had something to say: she spoke clearly, emphasized key words, took her time and paused occasionally, had good posture, and made eye contact, at turns, with each participant. Others at the meeting leaned in to listen,” says Ancowitz.

Let’s face it, meetings might never become your favorite part of your work day. But by taking a proactive—and slightly more assertive—stance, you can at least make them a little less painful. And maybe, once you start taking charge, you can also help keep those meetings moving along to make them shorter. I’d second that motion!

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

If you’re an introvert, you already know the world (at least the Western world) is geared toward extroverts. According to Psychology Today, between 16 and 50 percent of the population are introverts. Yet, if you look at how many jobs and social situations are geared toward extroverts, you’d think this number was much lower.

Even our earliest experiences teach us that we need to be extroverted to get noticed; for instance, which students typically get the most attention in school? Not the quiet, mild-mannered kid sitting the back row, that’s for sure.

The same holds true in the “grown-up” world. Extroverts thrive when they’re around people and activity, and are quick to share their thoughts and opinions on a topic. Introverts, on the other hand, often prefer to be around people in short spurts, and tend to carefully consider all angles of an issue before giving their thoughts or opinions. Which personality type do you think is most comfortable in networking events, business meetings, and large social get-togethers? You got it.

So is it impossible for introverts to succeed in a world that seems to place more value on extroversion? Absolutely not. The key is understanding what special gifts and abilities you–as an introvert–bring to the table. Instead of focusing on all the ways you’re failing to be an extrovert, try to focus on how to succeed and thrive given your unique temperament.

Here are 9 ways to succeed, personally and professionally, in a world full of extroverts.

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

To be clear from the get-go: there is nothing inherently unhealthy about being an introvert. In fact, studies have shown that the majority of introverts are more successful, score higher on intelligence tests, and tend to be more focused than the majority of extroverts. They’re also great listeners, and they’re often very good managers at work, too. Additionally, the stereotype that introverts are antisocial isn’t true, either; research suggests that introverts are actually really good at maintaining close friendships.

And though it shouldn’t need saying, I’ll say it again: introversion isn’t the same as being shy or having social anxiety. Though an introvert can also be shy or experience social anxiety, all introversion means is that you’re less interested in social activity and more interested in alone time than extroverts. Introversion is not a sickness, a pathology, or an impediment to having a fun, fulfilling life in any way.

That said, sometimes introversion can be unhealthy if you believe it to be a defect or problem that you need to overcome. Speaking from experience, I know that fighting your introversion, or beating yourself up for being an introvert, can cause a whole lot of unnecessary stress and unhappiness. According to a recent study, one third to one half of Americans are introverts; but since introverts get such a bad reputation for being antisocial weirdos, many introverts successfully pass themselves off as extroverts.

That said, in my experience, if you’re mostly introverted, and you beat yourself up for it rather than finding a way to own it, you might find yourself developing some social anxiety and depression due to your lack of self-acceptance. On top of that, even if you own your introverted ways, if you never take a break from all of that inward focus, your mental and emotional health could suffer. So if you’ve been wondering if you are being too hard on yourself for being an introvert, read on. You don’t need to change — you just need to accept yourself.

1. When You Do Something Socially Awkward, You Dwell On It For Days

Everyone — whether they’re introverts, extroverts, or somewhere in between — can be socially awkward at times. However, since introverts are often already labeled as socially awkward before they even open their mouths, I feel like most introverts put extra pressure on themselves to not be awkward. Unfortunately, in my own social life, this self-inflicted pressure is usually the direct cause of my most socially awkward moments. Often, these moments can lead to days, and even weeks, of me berating myself for the awkward things I sometimes do in the social settings when I’m uncomfortable.

I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t punish yourself for being occasionally awkward. Instead, try to laugh about it, and remember that no one else is dwelling on your social faux pas as much as you are. And if you find that thinking about awkward moments is really interfering with your life, you might want to talk to a mental health professional; having a hard time controlling your worries can be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder, or another mental health issue.

2. You’re So Worried About Being Perceived As A Weird Loner That You Try To Force Yourself To Be Extroverted

I’m not saying introverts should never push themselves to attend social events that they’re not really feeling up for going to, and I’m by no means saying that introverts should never step outside of their comfort zones, either. Actually, studies show that pushing yourself to act more outgoing once in a while is good for everyone — whether you’re an introvert or not. However, part of finding happiness as an introvert is accepting that you’re an introvert, and then celebrating all the reasons why that’s awesome.

The whole reason introverts can’t seem to keep up with the social lives of extroverts is that the over-stimulation and near-constant social activity that extroverts thrive off of is exactly what usually stresses introverts out.

So if you’re not feeling a party, leave it. If you’d rather have a deep conversation with one or two people at a party instead of working the room with surface chit chat, do it! You’ll feel happier, and it’s a much healthier option than trying to be someone you’re not.

3. You’re So Afraid Of Confrontation That You Won’t Even Send Food Back At A Restaurant

I’ve certainly been guilty of this one myself. Of course, part of my reasoning for this comes from my fear that pissing off my server will lead them to somehow negatively impact my experience at the restaurant; but it’s also just because, as an introvert, I hate confrontation.

To be fair, I don’t think anyone really enjoys confrontation, unless they’re just super toxic. But since introverts usually have a difficult time speaking up in the first place, confrontation can be extra hard for us. If this is the case for you, I get it. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you to go through life keeping your mouth shut. Don’t allow yourself to be so afraid of causing a scene that you don’t ask for what you need — whether that’s a vegan burger instead of an all-beef one, or a raise, or better sex.

4. You Feel Guilty About Preferring Alone Time

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting your alone time to outweigh your social time. Period. Introverts genuinely need their alone time. Solitude is crucial for us, because while social interactions may energize our extroverted loved ones, they drain us introverts.

So don’t feel guilty for loving your alone time so much that you occasionally turn down invites to go out. If you’re failing to give yourself the solitude you naturally require to re-charge your batteries, know that this is not only unnecessary, it’s unhealthy.

5. Sometimes You’re So Afraid Of Being Judged That You Don’t Socialize, Even When You Want To

If you’re so concerned about how your introversion is coming off in social settings that you’ve started avoiding them almost completely, even when you really don’t want to, then it is time to start thinking about ways to embrace your identity as an introvert more — because feeling this much shame and fear about it can become very unhealthy. Trust me, I know. I’ve done this more than once since I moved to New York, and it’s only succeeded in making me feel way more isolated than I already do.

Take it from someone who’s been there: you never need to become so self-conscious about being an introvert that you don’t act on your already-rare desires to socialize in group settings. I know it’s hard sometimes, but just be your weird, awkward, introverted yourself! Not that this really matters, but chances are, the outgoing extroverts you meet will probably find your quirkiness more endearing than off-putting anyway. Or, they simply won’t give your unique brand of introversion a second thought, because they’ll be too busy being extroverted.

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

Article provided by Nadine Shenton

Never has having a voice and using it been more important.

Our current working environment not only requires us to have great computer skills, we’re also expected to be adept at being heard clearly via online conferencing calls which are now the norm.

But presenting well, with clear audible tones, whilst appearing confident in this fast moving, social-distanced online world isn’t as easy as it seems. At least, not for everyone.

Do you like the sound of your voice?

Are you one of those people who squirm when they hear a recording of their voice? If your own voice grates, have you ever considered why? What is it that you don’t like? For many, hearing the sound of their own voice affects the way they feel which makes them question how they come across to others. Maybe you have an accent which you feel ‘gets in the way’. And for those who are introverted, the sound of their voice can make them feel nervous or anxious so that they pull back vocally, creating a ‘smaller voice’, which further restricts how they perform in front of others. All this works together to make you question how others perceive you.

The voice is an incredible tool. It defines who we are. If you have an accent, it’s part of your identity, which gives you a rhythm of speech that is natural and relaxed. Now, more than ever, it’s time to embrace your accent and let it shine through!

It took three years of professional training at drama school, 27 years as a voice over artist and a Ted Talk to start to understand how to be heard through ‘finding your voice’. Over the years I’ve discovered many ways to help you to deliver your voice more effectively, with greater impact. Once you know how to enhance your own personal sound, your confidence grows and you’ll speak with greater effect and impact.

How to be heard

There are many ways to enhance the power of your voice and to be heard but it takes practice. In time you’ll come to observe little changes that will boost your confidence and empower you to ‘find your voice’.

Breathe!

As strange as this seems, being aware of our breath and breathing in a calm and controlled way will help control stress, anxiety and focus. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth whilst you stand in front of a mirror. Don’t let your shoulders rise at each intake of breath but watch your ribs and diaphragm swing in and out naturally in a relaxed rhythm.

When we speak, we forget to breathe, therefore our voice is ‘pushed’ and our voice becomes unsupported and strained. As you get better at this, breathe in for two beats and out for four beats, in for two and out for 4, 6, 8 so that we inhale taking a short breath which on the outbreath lasts longer and the voice is supported in sound.

Posture

When you sit at your desk make sure you are aware of the following:

  • Your chair. It should be comfortable, supporting your back and your feet should be firmly flat on the ground so that there is no swinging or crossing of legs. If you’re perched at the breakfast bar or sitting on a stool, this affects the way you breathe, restricting your airways, which stops the natural process of air supporting the voice.
  • Your computer. It needsto be at the same height as your mouth so that you are not looking down or reaching up when talking online. Again, it affects your breath and voice so that the air is not restricted by the angle of your head in line with your neck. It should be at a 90-degree angle.
  • Your microphone. Give it a quick check. Make sure it picks up your voice clearly and that there is no distortion.
  • Your clothes. Wear unrestricted clothes both around the waist and neck so that there is no pressure stopping your breath and vocal delivery.

Go Live!

Why not record yourself reading a piece of writing or a blog post. Play it back and be aware of the following:

  • Are you speaking too fast/ too slow…become aware of your ‘pace’ and work on it.
  • Are you mumbling and tripping on words, dropping off at the end of sentences? A tongue twister is one way to combat this.
  • Are you pushing your voice? Don’t forget to support your voice through breathing exercises, or else it can become hoarse and dry.
  • If you drop your voice at the end of a sentence, always going down, you may appear disinterested, lacking in energy or appear dismissive and monotone. Become aware of making your voice ‘go up’ at the ends of a line, creating energy and enthusiasm.

Tongue Twisters

A great way to get the vocal cords warmed up, active and sharp. It also connects you brain to your tongue, teeth, lips and mouth delivering a fast, effective sharp delivery. A bit like a car, if we don’t put petrol into the tank then how do we expect it to perform at its best?

Try saying – “New York is unique, unique is New York” three times without a break in between. Start slowly then get faster.

Most of all be yourself and embrace who you are! Be kind to yourself and use this time where you may be working remotely to practice ‘finding your voice’. Now is the best time to work at being heard. Surrounding yourself with kind, caring people also makes such a difference. Nurture working with people who make you feel good, happy and bring the best out of you. Positive people with a growth mindset are contagious to be around, whether in real life or on screen. They will boost your confidence and encourage you to speak out and be heard.

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)About the author

Nadine Shenton works with many back to work women who have mastered their profession yet for one reason or another have lost their confidence and need a little boost to help once again achieve their full potential. A former Royal Shakespeare Company actress, Nadine is an award-winning voice over artist for national and international clients. Her clients include public organisations like the NHS and HM Prison Service, charitable entities including BBC Children in Need and the UN World Children’s Relief and Volunteer Organization, and blue-chip companies such as The Times, Bupa, Trivago, BMW, Volkswagen and Amazon.

More information about Nadine’s one to one confidence sessions for women can be found here.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTheCity has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

Approximately 100% of the advice offered to introverts amounts to this: “be more like an extravert!” Hogwash. Extraverts are annoying and commonplace. Why would any introvert want to imitate them?

Quite the contrary. To be even more successful introverts should cultivate their introversion, because that’s the source of their creativity, thoughtfulness and ability to adapt to today’s online business world.

So, then, in honor of World Introvert Day (yeah, apparently that’s a thing) here are some way to get even more oomph out of your natural introversion:

1. Stop apologizing.

Apologizing is the typical introverted response to accusations like “stop acting so shy” or “speak up for yourself” or “you should be more outgoing.” Rather than apologize, raise your eyebrows and stare at the speaker as if they’re out of their mind. Then say something like “moving right along. ” and change the subject.

2. Backtrack when necessary.

In business meetings, extraverts tend to plow over introverts, moving the conversation to the next item whilst the introverts are still considering what to say. When this happens, it’s entirely appropriate to backtrack to something you wanted to say.

3. Pause even longer.

Because they (wisely) prefer to think things through, introverts tend to take longer than extraverts to respond to emails and texts. Rather than succumb to social pressure to respond immediately, set a timer so that you wait to response even longer than you normally might.

4. Speak even softer.

Rather than try to talk over the loudmouths (it won’t work), hold your hand or finger in the air as you speak (so you aren’t interrupted), and speak softly. This forces everyone to lean forward to hear you, which lends authority to what you have to say. Note: I used this technique consciously in meetings for a decade. It really does work.

5. Don’t tolerate interruptions.

If somebody other than your boss breaks in on you when you’re speaking, slap the table hard and say, very clearly: “I’m not finished.” Yes, that takes some guts but once you’ve done it a few times, people stop interrupting you. Note: extraverts, when interrupted, just talk louder; that’s not going to work for you.

6. Re-educate the extraverts.

Yes, the business world needs diversity, but the extraverts have held the floor so long that they’re sucking up all the air. One way to change the culture is to quote or post aphorisms like “Less talk, more action” and “Still waters run deep.” Eventually even extraverts might get the message.

7. Use “extravert” rather than “extrovert.”

Whenever I post about this subject, somebody always complains that I’ve misspelled “extravert.” In fact, it’s a valid alternate spelling. I use “extravert” rather than “extrovert” because the “extra” spelling reminds me of all the extra words they use and all the extra time they waste. I invite you to do the same.

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Introverts! Joanna Rawbone has advice on how to be assertive and effective, and to still be yourself.

I imagine a few of you read this headline with an increasingly puzzled look on your face and are now asking yourself ‘why is saying ‘no’ different for introverts?’ I also know my many training colleagues who themselves identify as an introvert will understand, but let me explain.

What’s the issue?

Many introverts have difficulty finding their own voice. This comes from years, maybe decades even, of being told to ‘be’ different; speak up, push yourself forward, stop being so quiet. This undermines their sense of self, their confidence and self-worth. Introverts long for their natural talents and behaviours to be valued by their employer and colleagues.

We all need to be able to say No powerfully in order to maintain our necessary boundaries. This is especially true for introverts who work hard to maintain the charge in their mental batteries so they can do their best work.

This is an uphill battle in busy open-plan offices or when the business culture is one of back-to-back meetings. If we think lockdown and agile or flexible working has been a breeze, consider how many virtual meetings we’re in every day.

What toll does engaging with the camera on your desktop, laptop, tablet or phone take? It’s more than eyestrain, I can tell you.

As experienced trainers, you’ll inevitably cover the art of saying ‘No’ in many of your modules, be that assertiveness, communication skills, team working or managing others.

I know I do, and we’ve always known that an assertive No isn’t just about the words being used, it comes from that place of believing we have a right to say No. And that’s where it becomes more difficult for introverts. Those years of being told to be different erodes that belief.

Can you imagine how incongruous it feels to say yes knowing you don’t mean it?

I’ve also noticed that most of the introverts I work with dislike conflict and upset, so often feel uncomfortable about or are unable to say No for fear of the consequences.

Because they spend so much time in their head, they are renowned overthinkers so can engage in a bit of catastrophising. The severity of the ‘what ifs’ of how people might respond, what others will think of them can act like a gag, preventing them from defending a boundary.

Can you imagine how incongruous it feels to say yes knowing you don’t mean it? I can, because I fell into that trap many a time until I found my authentic self.

And when introverts do say No, it may lack the assertive power required or is said angrily from frustration, neither of which is effective. Some introverts rely on their facial expressions hoping that their message will be detected by the other, but unless the person making the demand or asking the question has a high degree of emotional intelligence, this is unlikely to work.

And, I don’t encourage that as a viable communication method on it’s own anyway.

So, what’s the answer?

As already mentioned, our ability to say ‘No’ is one of the fundamental rights of assertiveness. But all rights come with responsibilities; it’s part of the deal. Let’s backtrack a moment though because assertiveness is misunderstood, often conveniently.

Assertiveness is when I use ‘behaviour that stands up for my rights and needs, whilst respecting the rights and needs of others’. It’s not about railroading others or being the loudest voice in the conversation. That’s aggression and we often hear aggressive people claiming to be assertive.

Here are five of my top tips for saying No as an Introvert.

  1. Think edge-of-comfort-zone. People talk about growth not happening inside a comfort zone but I have a different approach. The aim is to work at the outer edge of our comfort zones as this serves to expand the zone in subtle yet powerful ways. I’m a great advocate of a marginal gain approach as this delivers sustainable improvements.
  2. Assume an assertive position. This requires some preparation; mindset and practical. Get clear on the right you are you standing up for. Quite often, it’s the right to be really heard. This clarity enables you to be more powerful and persuasive in your communications. And yes, there is a structure that makes this easier to say, but it needs to be felt and believed first. With rights come responsibilities and in this case it’s empathic listening on both sides and the potential of negotiation rather than settling for a stalemate, an impasse or upset.
  3. Consider using a conditional ‘No’. These are always great options as they’re less confrontational, which appeals to many introverts, and leaves the door open for further discussion and deeper understanding. ‘No unless…’, ‘No until…’, ‘No if …’ which leaves the door open for a conditional ‘Yes’. ‘I’d love to do that when…’ or ‘Yes if …’.
  4. No can be a complete sentence. Sometimes, your ‘No’ is unconditional and you shouldn’t be afraid to use it. You also don’t necessarily need to justify yourself or give reasons. This can still be done from a powerful but polite position. This is less common in the workplace but always better than beating around the bush which comes across as weak and uncertain, or saying yes with no intention of following through, as then you’ll be considered unreliable.
  5. Thank the other person if appropriate for their invitation, offer or request and then decline gratefully. ‘Thank you for thinking of me. As you know, I’m not comfortable in big meetings like that so can we start with something smaller so I can build my confidence?’ Most introverts want to be invited as the idea of inclusion is often appealing. We too are social beings but unless our mental batteries are holding sufficient charge, they’re probably going to experience overwhelm or worse by doing things because of FOMO.

Finally

People don’t always understand why introverts want to and need to, say No. It’s not because we’re antisocial, unhelpful or ‘difficult’. It’s because we need our own time to recharge those mental batteries. I find unstructured meetings with no clear agendas some of the worst for draining my batteries, especially in those busy, back-to-back cultures.

So be mindful when introverts say No – there are probably really good reasons.

About the author

Joanna Rawbone is the founder of Flourishing Introverts, a platform aimed to support and raise awareness of introversion in both the professional workplace, and personally.

The introverts’ guide to comfortable but effective activism

Being an introvert can be tough. Society seems to praise extroverts and the most forceful voice in a room is often heard first. Common introvert qualities are overlooked at times.

Being introverted and giving a sh*t about social, political or environmental issues is even tougher.

I’m an introvert and I struggle with activism that involves going to big marches, loud protests or performances.

Just the idea of cold-calling a politician to confront them about policy change brings me out in a cold sweat. I’m rarely comfortable speaking to loved ones on the phone!

If you’re introverted too, you might feel pressured to “just get on with it”. When others don’t talk about these feelings, it can seem like you’re the only one finding it difficult to go do the thing. Attending that march about climate change really matters to you, it’s just not that simple.

Sometimes it’s good to push yourself, other times it’s not, and the real skill is knowing the difference.

Feeling overwhelmed at a protest or exhausted for days afterwards is not practising self-care. And worst case scenario, stretching yourself too far with activities that don’t come naturally might put you off activism in the future.

You want to make your frustrations heard. After all, activism can lead to changes in society’s attitudes, prejudices and policies. When we speak up for what we believe is right, we change the conversation and give others our side of the story.

All activism is equally important and more effective than doing nothing at all. And there are loud and quiet ways to create change. In this introverts’ guide to activism, I’ll show you how you can take action on your own terms.

Create

Is crafting your thing? Stitch an important message for your next project and publicise it on the socials.

Unleash your inner artist with a painting or sculpture that speaks your thoughts on a subject.

Or maybe you’re really into baking

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

The introverts’ guide to comfortable but effective activism

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

Being an introvert can be tough. Society seems to praise extroverts and the most forceful voice in a room is often heard first. Common introvert qualities are overlooked at times.

Being introverted and giving a sh*t about social, political or environmental issues is even tougher.

I’m an introvert and I struggle with activism that involves going to big marches, loud protests or performances.

Just the idea of cold-calling a politician to confront them about policy change brings me out in a cold sweat. I’m rarely comfortable speaking to loved ones on the phone!

If you’re introverted too, you might feel pressured to “just get on with it”. When others don’t talk about these feelings, it can seem like you’re the only one finding it difficult to go do the thing. Attending that march about climate change really matters to you, it’s just not that simple.

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

Sometimes it’s good to push yourself, other times it’s not, and the real skill is knowing the difference.

Feeling overwhelmed at a protest or exhausted for days afterwards is not practising self-care. And worst case scenario, stretching yourself too far with activities that don’t come naturally might put you off activism in the future.

You want to make your frustrations heard. After all, activism can lead to changes in society’s attitudes, prejudices and policies. When we speak up for what we believe is right, we change the conversation and give others our side of the story.

All activism is equally important and more effective than doing nothing at all. And there are loud and quiet ways to create change. In this introverts’ guide to activism, I’ll show you how you can take action on your own terms.

Is crafting your thing? Stitch an important message for your next project and publicise it on the socials.

Unleash your inner artist with a painting or sculpture that speaks your thoughts on a subject.

Or maybe you’re really into baking…

There are organisations who could really use your help in creating materials, like brochures or videos, to support their cause.

Or if you’d prefer to tuck yourself away and write, local papers and websites often accept thought piece submissions about topics that impact on your community. You could even be the person to draft up and apply pressure for resolutions to issues within your workplace or educational institution.

You’re not alone. The Craftivist Collective is a site where you can find project ideas and useful blog posts. But more than that, it’s a movement of thousands of quiet activists using craft to “change hearts, minds, policies and laws around the world”.

Why not share the message on your clothing? You could wear it on t-shirts, bags, pins… Whether it’s a controversial slogan or simply an organisation’s logo that suits your personality more.

You could even commit to something more permanent, like a tattoo (probably give this one more thought, though).

Don’t limit this to your person. Colourful posters or stickers expressing your beliefs can be powerful too.

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

If you’re introverted, you might not want to speak over a loudspeaker to swathes of strangers. But what about talking one-on-one with a friend or family member? Discussing with your dad why the world needs feminism can still be hard, but at least there’s usually no stage fright or threat of conflict.

As well as feminism, the world needs activists who are willing to have intimate exchanges with others. It will have ripple effects each time your buddy then repeats your enlightening conversation to someone else.

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

Attend smaller meetings held by activist organisations in your area. You could help to plan a protest or organise a march from behind the scenes. Or join a committee within your place of work, university or college that pushes for change on important issues.

In our capitalist society, you have purchasing power. So put your money where your mouth is — support causes and manufacturing practices that you agree with.

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This doesn’t mean buying for the sake of it. But when you do need to add something to your life, and if you can afford to, make an ethical choice. Then casually share your purchase with others and tell them why you chose it.

How to be heard as an introvert (whilst being yourself)

There are so many ways to be a powerful activist on the interwebs.

  • Follow other activists online and share their recipes, lifestyle ideas etc.
  • Sign online petitions
  • Share important statistics
  • Promote the ethical brands you love
  • Take photos or videos of things you see e.g. posters, stickers, protests, and post these to social media
  • Show your own life in words, images or videos. For instance, I have an Instagram account where I show how easy it is to eat vegan food:

Whilst slacktivism is very real, so is social media activism that does make a difference. It connects people with issues and ideas they might not have otherwise heard about. It helps people find their tribes.

Social media activism doesn’t always stay online either, as in the case of Black Lives Matter. The movement began as Twitter discourse and evolved onto the streets — it is now known worldwide.

There’s a nuance to activism which goes further than shouting loudly at changemakers until you’re listened to.

Whether you choose to create, display, socialise, consume responsibly or take it online, there’s no time like this year to find your inner activist. The world is changing rapidly, and it needs you at the forefront, adding your unique introverted qualities to the conversation.

If you need more evidence for why activism needs introverts, watch this TedTalk by Sarah Corbett (founder of the Craftivist Collective):

Now you’re ready to go out there (or stay in) and kick ass!