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Anti-social, introverted are ‘in’ now!

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 11:19 a.m. CST

Apparently, everyone is wrong about you.

Your co-workers think you are an anti-social, lazy, hostile weirdo. Not so. What you are is an anti-social, lazy, hostile weirdo introvert. And introverts are hot.

At least, they’re hot in The Huffington Post, where a simple search of “introvert” will bring up a plethora of articles about people who like people, as long as they don’t have to have anything to do with them.

The introvert article that caught my eye was by Carolyn Gregoire. Titled “An Introvert’s Guide to Surviving (And Thriving) in the Workplace,” Ms. Gregoire opines, “offices can be particularly difficult environments to navigate for introverts, who gain energy and generally feel their most productive in quiet and solitude — and the constant stimulation and social interactions can be taxing.”

It really breaks your heart, doesn’t it? It just makes me sad to think that I’m living in a world where not everyone is enjoying the non-stop joy that comes from spending days, weeks, years and decades trapped in a soul-killing office full of annoying co-workers and abusive supervisors.

Equally shocking is the revelation that introverts don’t enjoy meetings. As Gregoire points out, research has shown that “over-stimulation and excessive meetings can easily stunt their full brain power.” Personally, I wish that research could find any meeting that is even mildly stimulating. That is a meeting I want to attend.

Fortunately, there is a resource for introverts, which can help them cope with life in an extroverted workplace. “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain, offers a number of tips for “navigating the workplace as an introvert.” And since I’m so darn extroverted it hurts, allow me to intrude into your personal space to share.

1. Find spaces for quiet and solitude.

Author Cain admits that “finding a quiet space to work on your own might be difficult,” but I think we can both agree that it is worth the effort. While the classic introvert may be looking for less stimulation, you will also be looking less supervision. That’s why I can’t endorse Cain’s suggestion of “exploring conference rooms or asking your boss for a space.” I suggest you take management out of the equation. It won’t be easy to find a place where Big Brother Boss can’t find you, but remember — while the entrance to your workspace may be a gaping hole, there are doors galore in the supply and coat closets. If all else fails, there is always the bottom drawer of your file cabinet. Give it a try. It’s might be a tight fit, but it is very cozy.

2. Negotiate flex time so you can work at home part of the week.

This is an excellent idea. Propose working at home from Monday to Friday and working in the office on Saturday and Sunday. That way you avoid noisy crowds, both at work and at home. If you’re a really good negotiator, ask to shift your working hours from day to night. With any luck, you may never see another human being, ever.

3. Make a daily ritual of checking in with co-workers.

Just because you are the most innovative and productive when you keep to your introverted self, success at work requires more than being a highly capable employee, as a quick glance at your supervisor will prove. Susan Cain suggests “scheduling a time for yourself every day to walk around the office, chat with colleagues or pop your head into a coworker’s office to just say hello.”

This could work, but you must get the schedule right. For example, the best schedule for a pop in is once every 10 minutes. That way, your co-workers will know that you are totally present, and totally nuts. After a few days of the constant pop in, you’ll find yourself persona non grata in every cubical in the company. Your co-workers will not only avoid you; they’ll flee from you. Leaving you alone to do what you do best, which is nothing.

4. Take time to rest and renew.

Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project, believes “we’re designed to operate rhythmically, to move between activity and rest; that’s when we’re at our best.”

I agree. Since you’ve been resting for the majority of your career, consider a rhythmic move to the activity phase.

Of course, you’ll want to rest before you make such a move. Let’s put it at the top of the to-do list for 2035.

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