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Introverts: Working From Home Works

If someone had told us five years ago that 40 percent (or more) of the American labor force would be working from home in 2020, I don’t know that we would have believed them.

Sure, the number of people working partially or fully remote has been climbing for years now. But until Covid-19 hit, the upward trend was gradual.

Today, and perhaps for many more months still, we’re navigating a “new normal” while we run our businesses remotely, with team members connected solely through email, phone, and video conferencing.

For some, the change has been a hard adjustment; people who thrive in busy work environments find it difficult to stay focused at home, and they crave the human interaction they get from checking in at the office every day.

For others, having the option to sometimes work from home gives them the work-life balance they need and saves them from a daily commute five days a week.

In fact, according to a recent State of Remote Report by Buffer, 98 percent of people surveyed said they’d like to work remotely—at least some of the time—permanently.

That brings us to the group of people who’ve wholeheartedly embraced working from home: introverts.

Introverts Can Succeed in the Workplace

It’s estimated that introverts make up as much as 40 percent of the population, yet there’s still a common misconception that introverts are shy, withdrawn, and socially anxious people.

Compared to extroverts who are typically loud, outgoing, and enthusiastic, introverts may appear quiet, passive, and withdrawn.

What people may not realize, however, is introverts are just as outgoing and enthusiastic. What sets them apart from extroverts are the way they gain energy.

Introverts “recharge” by spending time alone; extroverts gain energy from social interaction. But when it comes to business, introverts are just as capable of succeeding in the workplace.

In fact, some would argue introverts are better business people because they listen more than they speak. And we all know how important listening is to effective communication.

So if you identify as an introvert who prefers to spend time in smaller groups, the transition to a largely digital world in the midst of a global pandemic works in your favor. You can succeed in the workplace just by working the way you’ve always wanted to.

This is where you shine. You excel in situations where you connect one-on-one or in smaller groups. You’re no longer competing to be heard over the extroverts; you feel more comfortable to speak up to share your ideas.

You may not be the best public speaker, but your listening skills and ability to ask good questions make up for it. That gives you an advantage, especially in sales and marketing, where listening is always better than talking.

Tips to Succeed in a Virtual World

Introverts, you’ve been preparing your entire life for this. Never before have we seen ourselves in a position where company meetings have been forced to take place over Zoom or Google Hangouts, and more communication has to happen over the phone or through email and text.

As someone who prefers these methods of communication, you’re in a position to show just how valuable having an introvert on the team can be.

Here are 3 ways introverts working from home can excel:

Stay connected. Now that you and your colleagues are no longer working in a shared space, you have to establish strong connections in other ways. Working from home means you put an effort into making sure you all know where you are on a project or task.

It’s a good idea to come up with a plan to communicate with your boss, manager, or others on your team daily, even if it’s just to check in or give an update on your progress. It could be as simple as a phone call or an email. Whatever method you choose, be consistent. Don’t call only when there are problems; set up a time regularly to ask or invite questions.

By setting up these connection points, you’ll build trust among your colleagues and your boss. The communication will also go a long way to eliminate mistakes and misunderstandings because you’re staying connected and setting a system in which questions can be asked in a timely manner.

Take Initiative. As impressive as technology is, there are still a lot of challenges associated with working remotely. One of the biggest is communicating effectively.

Here’s an opportunity for you to find ways for your team to communicate better. Or you could suggest virtual processes that can help the business operate more efficiently while everyone is separated.

As an introvert, you may not always be recognized as a leader, and that’s a shame. A research study conducted by Harvard Business Review actually showed that introverts in business are more effective leaders in complex and unpredictable settings. Has there been a more complex or unpredictable setting than Covid-19 in 2020?

Furthermore, the brain of an introverted person is wired to value productivity over recognition, which means you’re motivated by productivity rather than ambition. That’s beneficial to businesses struggling through the pandemic.

Be comfortable on camera. It’s not necessarily true that all introverts dislike public speaking. I’d wager the number of introverts who dislike talking on camera matches the number of all people who prefer not to do it.

However, video conferencing is now a commonplace substitute for in-person meetings, so if you’re an introvert working from home, you might as well learn how to do it well.

Not only that, but video marketing continues to grow by leaps and bounds. As a business owner who’s looking to expand or diversify your marketing, you have to get comfortable with being on camera.

Here’s what we recommend to get you started: Go through your message several times out loud until you’re comfortable with what you want to say. Then turn on the camera and do a practice run delivering your presentation. Do this before your actual presentation so you can play it back and see for yourself what you look and sound like.

For many people, the thought of being on camera is worrisome because they’re concerned with how they look—just like in a live presentation.

By recording yourself first, you can see exactly what your audience sees and—hopefully—you’ll realize your on-camera performance isn’t as bad as you think.

Every chance you have to talk to the camera will help alleviate the anxiety around doing it. And when the time comes to really deliver your presentation, you won’t feel so nervous.

In Business, Being an Introvert is Good

If you’re an introvert, working remotely has probably been a welcome change from reporting to an office every day, where the setting doesn’t match your personality.

Here’s your chance to demonstrate all the ways being introverted can serve your business and benefit its productivity. Until now, it may not have been obvious to the people you work with.

Introvert or not, we’re all social creatures who need human interaction to survive. Introverts just don’t need to interact with so many other people at once to boost their energy levels.

By putting a greater emphasis on one-to-one connections to brainstorm or have ad hoc discussions, you eliminate the noise that goes along with bigger group meetings that sometimes aren’t very productive. And that’s always good for business.

Authentic Communication in a Pandemic World

The challenge to be an effective communicator in our COVID-19 pandemic world is not as much about what you say but getting people to listen.

Isolation, distractions, and fluid circumstances make it hard for people to focus on one thing, let alone pay attention to you. Passive listening is more prevalent as video call participants check email and social media accounts during calls. Non-verbal cues that help us communicate and understand each other are obscure. It is hard to get feedback from a participant who turns off their video. Now we must frame our words more carefully and be more intentional about listening.

Even in person, communicating with other people is more complicated. Masks and social distancing make for awkward in-person interactions. When we can be present with others, making strong connections while standing six feet apart remains difficult. For some, not being able to hug a friend prompts negative internal emotions.

One thing that remains the same is our need for authentic human connection. For most people, isolation is challenging. Disruption of usual relational patterns tests the strength of friendships. Our people may not be available anymore.

If you ask me what most people crave above everything else, I will say that it is authentic relationships.

Authentic relationships require authentic communication. Authentic communicators engage in learning about themselves, others, and how to make meaningful connections that result in effective communication. The most effective communication happens when two or more people are authentic communicators.

Interact Truthfully with Others

Authentic communicators convey the truth about what they are thinking, feeling, choosing, or doing. They are excellent communicators and conversationalists. They are open to new ideas and seek to understand other people without feeling threaten or defensive. There is mutual respect without judgmental stereotypes. They are curious and take time to listen. Their words seek to inspire rather than control or belittle. Authentic communicators have an advantage over the manipulative and self-promotion games people play. Other authentic people will want to be around and converse with you.

How to Be an Authentic Communicator

You can take steps to become a more authentic communicator by doing three things.

Consider Your Level of Personal Authenticity

When you feel good about yourself, possess self-confidence, and determine what is important to you, communication gets more authentic. The need to impress others for selfish gain or overcome insecurities melt away. Authentic communicators hold healthy views about themselves and avoid falling for relational games other people play.

Think More About Others

Not everyone interprets communication the same way. Something might make sense to you and be meaningless to another person. Understanding how other people interpret information and emotion will provide clarifying insight into their personality. Taking time to understand their values uncovers what is meaningful to them. Together, this information provides insight into what motivates them.

Craft a Message That Will Connect

Your messages consist of content and delivery. Structure your words in ways that resonate with others. Address your listeners’ concerns the way they want to hear it. Speaking about what is meaningful to them will give them a reason to listen. Your delivery and other non-verbal expressions are crucial to ensure that others hear what you say. Your movement should support your message and draw others into your words. Making your message hard to listen to because it is poorly structured or delivered gives any audience an immediate reason to dismiss you.

Authenticity Requires Work on Your Part

Authentic people have healthy self-identities that do not require them to withhold information, hide their emotions, divert attention, or play meaningless relational games. Gaining and maintaining a healthy self-identity requires work each day; it is a personal growth process. Those with healthy self-identities do not need others to inform their view of themselves but find value and purpose from within that overflows into authentic relationships.

Everyone makes mistakes and needs to receive some grace. Perhaps some of us need a lot of forgiveness even when we do not deserve it. If we care about authentic connection and deep relationships, we must hold space for each other with a curious mind and open heart.

Authenticity is hard when others are quick to judge. While we need to protect ourselves from those who will harm us, we can risk being authentic to see if it finds a willing partner.

The Difference Between Authenticity and Transparency

Many people become uncomfortable when placed into situations requiring self-disclosure. People generally want to be known by others and know the person they interact with regularly. Challenges occur when others probe too quickly or deeply into sensitive topics or when a person engages in behavior that erodes trust.

Authentic communicators want to be accurate and forthcoming in all situations to reach every audience every time. Transparent communicators are more vulnerable and need to choose their audiences carefully. While transparency provides rich communication, it should be appropriate for the situation.

For many people, stepping into authenticity creates a sense of fear. Authenticity improves communication because it frees the speaker to say what is on their mind and heart. At the same time, the thought of being authentic may produce paralyzing fear. The audience’s unknown reaction can prompt feelings of inadequacy that can lead anyone to shrink from the challenge.

Fear can be healthy. Fear keeps us humble and can steer us away from bad situations. Treat your angst as warning signs about what you believe about yourself, your audience, and your message. Guard against allowing negative past experiences or lies you hold to prevent you from being an authentic communicator.

Changing Methods of Communication

Authentic communicators can adapt to any form of communication or audience type. Listeners will pay attention to effective, authentic communicators. Whether you are presenting live or online, facilitating a group discussion, providing instruction, contributing within a team, or engaging in a conversation, your ability to communicate authentically will prompt others to listen and move them to action.

Steve Tonkin is the author and trainer of Authentic Communicator. A one-day training event offered exclusively through Effective Presentations.

By now, most of us are used to carrying on with socializing, going to school, or going to work via video conferencing software. Whether you use Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, or other programs, you probably know a thing or two about how to have a successful virtual meeting.

But are your virtual meetings effective?

Here are 5 things you didn’t know you’ve been doing wrong on while meeting in a remote video platform.

  1. You have a busy or distracting background

    When speaking to someone in person, it can be annoying to watch your listener gazing around at things behind you or next to you. On Zoom, direct eye contact is somewhat taken away from us. As listeners or meeting participants, we often times use this to our advantage; but if you are ever speaking up during your meetings, the lack of eye contact does you no favors. You have no idea if your listeners are watching you, or staring at your pile of laundry on the floor behind you!

    The easiest way to ensure your background is free of distraction is to turn on your camera before you begin your meeting, and check to see if the image is something you would be okay with showing your coworkers in-person. Even though it’s virtual, these webcam meetings are essentially invitations in your home for the entire team. Make sure your environment is presentable!

    The ideal video background is mostly plain, has something pleasing to look at, and does not include a bright window (see #4, Lighting). Try sitting in front of a piece of artwork or a decorated bookshelf. A plain wall will also do just fine.

  2. Your camera is in a poor location

    We have all (unfortunately) opened up our front-facing cameras on our smart phones while holding it far below our face—not a great angle! Your webcam should be in a spot that is at least eye level or higher when on a conferencing call. This will ensure that you are looking upwards toward your colleagues, not down on them.

    Do you have more than one monitor? Is your webcam an internal lens, or an external device? Where you place your camera versus your screen with everyone’s face makes a huge difference in connectivity—and we’re not talking internet service. Think about it—if you are looking at someone’s face on your left monitor, but your webcam is on top of your right monitor, everyone who sees you will just be getting a side profile of your face. To solve this, simply move your Zoom/Teams/Meet window over to the monitor screen that has the webcam at the top. This will give the illusion of eye contact, which can improve even more by looking straight into your webcam when speaking.

    Speaking of cameras, try your best to keep yours on! We know we would all like to stay anonymous and in our pajamas but try dressing for success (from the waist up…) and being present with your cohorts by showing your face. I’m sure you would like to see theirs, too!

  3. Low-quality equipment

    There is quite possibly nothing worse than not being able to hear someone when they are sharing important information. Is that happening to you when it’s your turn to speak? Most video conferencing tools use your laptop of desktop’s default microphone to pick up your voice—a tiny hole in your screen that might not be anywhere near your mouth. Modern technology has made it easier for devices to pick up our voices, but if Zoom is becoming a big part of your work life, you may want to invest in a professional microphone. There are small, inexpensive versions that you can use as a headset, and there are more pricey versions that sit on your desk. It’s up to you to choose what your investment should look like. Bottom line, how you sound is just as important as how you look; it’s even more important if you are not turning your camera on!

  4. Bad lighting in your recording area

    Unless you’re continuously making usable recordings or facilitating important trainings, there’s no need to make your video conferencing session look like a professional photoshoot. However, there is also no need for your face to be so out of contrast that your listeners can’t read your lips when you talk. We may decide that a window is the most non-distracting background we can find, but we would be wrong! The light coming in from a window behind you creates a contrasted outline around your head and face, making it hard to see you on screen. Try closing the shades to block out the extra light or turn your setup around so that you are facing the window, and the light comes in from behind your computer. Imagine the great image when your face lights up with the natural light of the window in front of you!

    Another idea to increase your lighting is to invest in a light-diffusing lamp that you can place, yet again, behind your computer or webcam; the light should always come from behind and above your camera. You may simply turn on two desk lamps that you already own! Turn on your camera to test out your options before your next meeting.

  5. There’s too much background noise

    Finally, let’s talk about what’s going on quite literally behind the scenes. Perhaps the best and the hardest part of working from home is that we can remain close with our families and/or roommates. However, not everyone is used to going to work with you! Their lives must carry on, as does their noise. When you get ready for a web conference, are you in the room alone? Is there a possibility for interruption? Just because a possible distraction in your home office may not show up on screen visually, it could show up audibly very easily (especially if you’ve invested in a microphone). Don’t blame this on the others around you—take it into your own hands and find a private space to work. If that’s not as easily accessible, practice turning your microphone off or muting yourself when you aren’t expected to respond or present.

    These 5 mistakes are tough habits to break, but if you practice each time you log on, you will be the most professional and effective video conference participant there ever was!

Effective Presentations works with the movers and shakers in virtually any industry.
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