An Introvert’s Guide to Lunchroom Etiquette
You dislike small talk; you find yourself easily distracted in your open plan office; you work better and more efficiently alone; you enjoy spending your downtime by yourself, and you find socializing intensely stressful.
You are an introvert.
But you’re not alone. A number of hugely successful entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and politicians identify themselves as introverts, including Richard Branson, J.K. Rowling, and Barack Obama.
Is Being An Introvert Holding You Back?
You might look at your loud and proud extroverted colleagues and wish you were as confident as they appear. Extroversion is celebrated in popular culture, with the value placed on a fast‐paced celebrity lifestyle and flashy entertainment.
While extroverts thrive in social situations, overstimulation can sap energy from introverts, and you will often seek peace and quiet in order to recharge your batteries.
But it’s certainly not fair to think that your introversion is holding you back; you just need to learn how to manage it. In fact, there are plenty of benefits to being an introvert when it comes to progressing your career.
The Power of Introspection
As an introvert, you possess a number of naturally occurring skills that are highly valued in the workplace. Your work is likely to contain more thought and substance, and your calm and measured approach can help get the best out of those around you.
You’re not an impulsive sort, always taking the time to consider your actions before acting, and you’ll listen to feedback as you develop your own strong ideas.
Appreciating that these traits are a benefit rather than a hindrance to your career can help you take a positive step towards progression in your organization.
But even the most confident of introverts can become anxious when it comes to the socialization and networking expected of you by your peers and management. This is especially true when it takes place in less formal circumstances, such as around the lunch table.
How to Tackle Lunch (and Other Networking Scenarios)
It’s important to realize that being an introvert doesn’t disqualify you from being ambitious, but it may throw up some obstacles along the way as you seek to climb the corporate ladder.
A reluctance to engage and interact with your colleagues may halt your progression in its tracks as your inclination to remain on the periphery could (wrongly) mark you out as not being leadership material.
So when the opportunity arises to sit down with your co‐workers for a spot of lunch, think of it as a chance to grow your own reputation, learn something new, and even make friends.
When it comes to the lunchroom or any other networking situation for that matter, you don’t need to be the life and soul of the party, you just need to play to your strengths:
Choose Mutual and Neutral Conversation Topics
As an introvert, you’ll be at your most comfortable when you’re prepared, so don’t think it foolish to research a few topics of conversation before sitting down for lunch. Just make sure the topics are of mutual interest so as not to bore your audience, and neutral so as not to offend them.
Ask Questions and Listen
Another trait you possess that will come into its own in situations like this is your ability to listen. Drop in a few well‐placed open‐ended questions and no‐one will notice you’re sitting quietly, so long as you remain engaged in the response. And your tendency to think carefully and deeply before following up will only add value to the conversation.
Rely On The Sweetest Sound
If all else fails, you can always fall back on everyone’s favorite topic of discussion: themselves. As Dale Carnegie notes in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” By encouraging someone to talk about themselves you will appear genuinely interested in what they have to say, which in turn will make them like you more.
So don’t look enviously across the table at your extrovert colleague wishing you could be just like them. Being an introvert is something to be proud of, and something as simple as a sandwich with your co‐workers can help you take an important step in progressing your career.
This article was written by Stephen Pritchard of Adzuna, a job search website in the UK that can help job seekers find more rewarding careers.
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