Be it for a class or your job, often working with a group or team involves, er, teamwork. Which tends to entail interpersonal interactions. Which introverts tire of.
Teamwork: The process of working collaboratively with a group of people in order to achieve a goal (from Business Dictionary).
Right. Collaboration. Meaning not working alone in your little corner. (I have a little corner: third floor of the university library, by the window giving me a view of the campus. You should have a little corner, too.)
As with most areas of life, in order to be an effective team member you’ll have to work with your strengths. So I present to you the problems introverts can face when working with others, and their solutions!
Problem #1: Chatty teammates prevent you from butting in.
I like chatty people. But sometimes introverts need a quiet moment to say, “Hey, I have an idea.”
So write down what you want to contribute when you think of it. If the moment comes, take it. If it doesn’t, tell someone your idea afterwards to gauge their interest. Or email the team later, if appropriate (Including something like “I talked to Sam about this earlier…” can help). Take every opportunity to talk to people one-on-one or to write, if you find these methods easier than trying to interrupt others.
Being a good listener is valuable, too—by nodding and affirming others’ ideas with encouraging words (“yeah,” “I agree,” “groovy, man”), you can make an impression in a way that is authentic to yourself. That is, as long as you agree with them…
Problem #2: Help! My teammates are on the fast train to Off Topic town, and they’re dragging me with them!
Bonus points if you’re also experiencing Problem #1. Rocking the boat feels especially wrong when everyone else likes what’s happening, but take a chance and make a statement: “I’m not sure this is completely relevant.” It’s a little scary, but no one should truly believe that you’re trying to cause harm (if they do, don’t mind them).
If that idea freaks you out, tell one person your concern—but not in a way that could seem conniving. Talk to the person and work with them (if they agree with you) to bring it to the attention of the whole group ASAP.
The psychological concept groupthink claims that people tend to conform to other members of their group when making decisions. I believe introverts can have an advantage in spotting groupthink because they spend more time in their heads thinking things through. You can break the spell by pointing it out (nicely).
Emailing might be the riskiest method: it can seem passive. If you really can’t find a more personable way to mention the problem, talk to your instructor or supervisor first.
Problem: #3 You want your teammates to like you, but you’re pretty awkward in groups.
Honestly, sometimes being liked is nice but unnecessary. Always be kind and generally excellent. But remember: introverts often want to form strong bonds with people, which takes time! So if you only have a few interactions before the project finishes, don’t stress about it.
For longer projects, have patience. Be excellent to everyone still—but also look for allies. Hopefully you can identify someone that you could buddy up with. Put your effort into them—and forget trying to win over the others. (Easier said than done.)
On a side note, you’ll meet some people who are like anti-introverts: they don’t like people who keep to themselves and who ignore office gossip. Treat them all as well as you can—you’re at least encouraging the possibility that a change will occur.
At the end of the day, you can always make friends elsewhere. (Though I know having allies at work or school is beneficial!)
What other problems can introverts face in teams? How do you address them? Share your comments!
Next week, as the weather (hopefully) warms, I’ll discuss the fun topic of budget travelling!