Thursday, July 12, 2012

An Introvert's Approach to Interpersonal Skills for Career Success

If you're a quiet person, introvert or shy, you've no doubt been told at one time or another to be more outgoing. Or to develop your interpersonal skills. I'm not certain that introverts lack interpersonal skills so much as they don't choose to engage, but that's a tangent for another day. I do know though that most people's professional life is filled with other people and it's critical to get along with them if you want to do well, much less advance in your career.

The question for introverts is: how can we do well interpersonally without being an outgoing social butterfly?  A post from The Legacy Project at Cornell University offers a great example of how to employ your introverted strengths to the interpersonal. I don't know if the engineer in the post is an introvert - it doesn't say - but the technique he used to build bridges among the teams in his company is one  right out of an introvert's best playbook.

Did he use charm and persuasion?  Well, maybe but that's not what he talks about. Instead, Jack recounts the story of how he used his analytical ability to lay out all the facets of a problem situation, listening hard to each of the different factions in the company who were in conflict -- field, technical, quality, manufacturing.  His tenacious analytical approach brought them together to solve the problem successfully. His key principle for having great people skills: be humble.  In addition to listening and careful analysis -- introvert strong suits -- Jack found that open willingness to learn from others leads to success. 

Jack's problem solving - not his gregariousness - demonstrated his interpersonal skillfulness! His way modeled an  introvert's approach -- paying attention to technical details, careful listening, and an inquiring mind. For Jack, these people skills were the number one factor in his career success.

Jack's lesson for those of us who are quiet is that people skills don't equate to being outgoing. Instead you often can apply your own strengths to the interpersonal dimension of work. I like that a lot!

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