Are you an introvert looking to strengthen your interpersonal skills? Do you struggle to communicate effectively at work or in social settings? If you’ve answered “Yes”, know that you’re not alone.
Interpersonal skills, often referred to as “people skills”, involve being a great communicator. These skills positively impact your career and success.
Communication is an essential part of our lives. Be it in a professional setting or in your personal life, your interpersonal skills are a big differentiator. What do I mean by this? Effective communication could lead to incredible opportunities, while a lack of communication skills could get you nowhere.
Within a work environment, miscommunication can lead to disasters. Hence, it’s not surprising that 29% of people place poor communication in their top five causes of a project’s failure.
That being said, it seems like some people are just natural communicators. Doesn’t it? It’s as though some people are experts in the art of effective communication. Regardless of the situation, they are able to have meaningful dialogue and convey their point effortlessly.
In a way, these people make it seem easy to converse. You may have come across people with amazing interpersonal skills. Their skill might seem like a gift they have been blessed with. It may even feel like that’s something you can only aspire to but never achieve.
I know it can get tough if you are an introverted person. It may even make you feel inferior in some way. I understand that because I started out as an introvert myself. I found it harder because I didn’t even speak a word of English. Even today, I am still quite introverted.
However, I believe communication is something anyone – even introverts – can work on and improve. You can get better at it, over a period of time, with few pointers and some practice.
I am living proof of this. Over the years, I have developed interpersonal skills that have enabled me to become an effective communicator.
It is important to understand that you have to be patient and willing to commit to change. Developing better interpersonal skills won’t happen overnight, but it can be done.
The Qualities of an Introvert
Some people assume introverts are socially anxious, but that’s not the case. Yes, introverts don’t enjoy social stimulation as much as extroverts do. However, it’s not as simple as that.
The definition of introversion as we know it has evolved over time. Dr. Marti Olsen Laney writes in her book, The Introvert Advantage:
- Introverts prefer to reserve and keep their energy, enthusiasm, and excitement to themselves. They generally hesitate before sharing personal information.
- Introverts take their time to think before they develop a response. They generally need more time because they reflect before reacting to a situation.
- Usually, introverts prefer one-on-one interactions. They tend to avoid parties and large group events.
- Introverts tend to prefer written over verbal communication, as it’s less confrontational.
Now, some or all of the above traits of introverts may apply to you.
Due to several research studies done over the years, we now understand that personality traits lie on a spectrum. It’s not just a simple classification of people as introverts and extroverts.
For example, there are ambiverts, people whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert characteristics.
That being said, generally speaking, introverts are introspective, quiet, and observant. Your inclination to spend time alone or with others is a strong indicator.
If you are confused, ask yourself, what is your natural preference? If you like being alone and actually look forward to it, it’s safe to assume you’re an introvert.
The reason for self-evaluation is so you know where your strengths lie and what are your weaknesses. This will enable you to work most efficiently on your interpersonal skills.
It’s more efficient because not all of us have the same way of communicating. By identifying which type of personality traits you lean more towards, you can adopt the tips that work for you.
6 Tips For Developing Interpersonal Skills as an Introvert
As I mentioned earlier, not everyone can be classified as a definite introvert or extrovert. Even if you are leaning towards introversion, you may still be familiar with some of the tips below.
Hence, not all of these may apply to you. The best thing to do is to adapt the below to your own personality and situation.
1. Don’t Try to Be an Extrovert
If you are not a victim of this school of thought, that’s great. But I know some people believe that if you are an extrovert, you inherently have amazing interpersonal skills.
This sort of thinking leads to some introverts forcing themselves into coming across as an extrovert by behaving differently. But that’s not sustainable and effective in the long run.
In my experience, not all extroverts are effective communicators. Similarly, not all introverts are terrible at communication. There are certainly exceptions to the rule. So the first step to developing interpersonal skills for introverts is not to act like an extrovert.
Some people feel that to be recognized professionally or in their personal life, they have to appear cheerful and talkative. As if they are always ready to have a conversation. If you are an introvert, even the thought of doing that could lead to mental exhaustion.
The thing is, you don’t have to be like that in order to be an effective communicator. It is perfectly fine to speak when you have something valuable to say or when it matters.
If you force yourself to act like an extrovert, you will always feel uncomfortable. So I recommend not trying to change yourself to fit in with people. This way you will start to dread meeting or talking to people, even more.
Furthermore, you might say things you know you don’t mean. You may even agree to things you know you don’t believe in. Pretending to be someone else, for the sake of fitting in is not the solution. So, no matter what, don’t be fake.
Instead, you should strive to leverage the qualities of introversion and build on them to improve your interpersonal skills. This way you can achieve optimal results with no additional stress of pretense.
2. Believe in What You Say
If you want to be an effective communicator, you will have to start strongly believing in what you saying. Believe that you have value to provide. This may or may not be true for you but it’s unfortunate to see some introverts undermining themselves.
You see, if you don’t trust the value that you bring, no one else will. This can happen because you feel if your idea is not good, you might get into an argument. You may even feel that your thoughts will cause a backlash. This can cause anxiety in introverts and to avoid it, they choose to remain silent or just nod in agreement.
But that’s not very productive. Is it? You see, people who are professionals will maybe disagree or say no to you. That’s about it. That’s the worst that could happen.
On the other hand, your idea could be incredible and may bring you success. It may feel awkward initially, but your co-workers will appreciate this approach over a blind agreement.
Another reason why introverts may remain silent is that they take time to digest information and then respond. They may not be able to act or speak impromptu. This leads them to think they might as well keep their opinions to themselves.
During a meeting, it is perfectly acceptable to not immediately answer a question. If you are not sure about something, say that you will get back. Process your response and then get back with your insights.
You could do some advance preparation. Let’s say you have a meeting coming up. If you know what people are going to be discussing about, do some research.
You could make mental notes or even write down your thoughts beforehand. This will help you to be more comfortable in sharing your idea when the time is right.
3. Develop Active Listening
Introverts are generally known to be great listeners. However, not all listening is the same. There are two types of listening you could be doing: passive or active.
If you are a passive listener, you are hindering your chances of being an effective communicator. Being a passive listener means that you don’t interact with the person speaking to you, at all.
What I recommend is developing the art of active listening. Active listening means that you understand and respond to the speaker. It will help you to be better aware of the needs of the person talking.
This way you will be more engaged with the speaker. Rest assured it doesn’t mean that you have to speak or contribute a lot to the conversation.
You could begin by asking relevant questions and that alone will show your interest in the conversation. This will eventually give you a platform to respond more effectively. You will notice that your words will start to flow naturally.
Let’s say you are interacting with someone for the first time, you could simply ask open-ended questions about them. You may know that a lot of people like to talk about themselves.
Furthermore, if you want to continue the conversation, just select something they shared with you and ask for more details. This way you are easily participating in the conversation without having to talk much.
It saves your energy, maintains engagement, and shows your attentiveness. But for it to be an effective strategy, you will have to develop the ability to listen actively.
4. Face Your Fears
To develop interpersonal skills as an introvert, you have to be resolute in your desire to improve. Every time you feel apprehensive, remind yourself why you want to be an effective communicator.
You see, people are not losing out if you don’t talk to them. Instead, it’s you who is losing out if you don’t talk to them. Remind yourself that you might miss out on opportunities that could be a breakthrough for your career.
It’s impossible to avoid face-to-face interactions forever. Isn’t it? Moreover, you can’t accomplish everything on the phone or through email. Hence, it’s absolutely vital to deal with your fears head-on.
You have to back yourself. When you take it one step at a time, you make small 1% improvements every day.
You could always begin by practicing with your friends. Cook up a scenario such as a meeting and ask them to be your client.
It may seem funny at first, but it will stimulate your mind. Your thought processing speed will become faster with time. With friends, you know there is no risk of saying anything wrong. That reduced fear of consequence could be enough for you to enhance your interpersonal skills.
The point is that you have to become comfortable interacting with others. Once your confidence is increased, practice your skills in the real world. Start with scenarios that offer less judgment and work your way slowly and steadily.
I know that getting over the instinct to avoid people can be difficult. Some people have a crippling fear of communication. In that case, they may have to opt for therapy to treat anxiety.
If you are determined enough, you can improve your interpersonal skills. As long as you are aware and strive for improvement, nothing can stop you.
5. Take Your Time
I can’t stress this enough: The development of your interpersonal skills will take time, effort, practice and patience. Be patient with yourself. It’s imperative that you don’t be hard on yourself, especially, in the beginning.
If you don’t give yourself enough time to unwind, you may end up giving up the pursuit, entirely. That’s something I have seen quite often. People resolve to improve their interpersonal skills, and then they are too hard on themselves when they don’t see improvement fast enough. That just ends up being counter-intuitive.
As an introvert, you need to carve out some alone time. This time will help you recharge your mind after you implement and practice your communication skills. You may already have a certain routine or activity that rejuvenates you. If not, you could look at meditation, listening to music, reading books, watching movies, etc.
When you spend time on your favorite activities, you’ll feed your mind with fresh ideas. Thus, you’ll always have something to talk about. Whatever you choose to do, the main goal is spending time on your own, in a relaxed state.
If you finish meeting that mentally drains you, take a small break of 20 minutes after it’s done. If needed, you could even take breaks during a lengthy conversation. You could say you need to use the restroom or get a drink of water and will be right back.
During this time, focus on deep, long breaths and take a moment to reflect. Remember, those few minutes will go a long way in enabling you to be at your best.
Furthermore, if it’s up to you to decide on the location of a meeting, look for places that are quiet. Noisy places are likely to force you to speak louder. That may hinder you from focusing on practicing your interpersonal skills.
6. Invest in Self-Improvement
Every person would do well to invest in improving their interpersonal skills, whether they are introverts or extroverts. Self-development builds confidence for the variety of situations you encounter at work or socially.
There are certain skills that are tailor-made for introverts. If you focus to develop them, it will feel more organic. In fact, these skills would lay a foundation and make it easier to acquire skills that don’t come naturally.
Copywriting is one of those skills. Introverts prefer writing over public speaking. It gives them time to think about what they want to say.
However, you should look to invest in developing more extroverted skills, as well. That can open up a whole host of untapped opportunities for you. Remember, you don’t have to deny your inherent qualities or pretend to be someone you’re not.
Ultimately, it’s all about developing skills that align with your goals and ultimately enable you to succeed. That’s because everybody has a different definition of success. In fact, the biggest of victories for you may not have the same value for others. I will give you an example.
Below is a photo of me giving a TEDTalk. This was a huge personal success for me. I went from not knowing a word of English and being shy and introverted, to speaking on stage, in front of a large audience.
In fact, one of the most viewed TEDTalks of all time is by Susan Cain, an introvert and acclaimed author. I suggest you find inspiration in introverts that have carved their path to success. This will enable you to develop a strong belief in yourself.
Find the Right Skill For Your Personality Type
The bottom line is that to achieve success (regardless of how you define it), you have to step out of your comfort zone. If you are highly introverted and resolve to start working on your interpersonal skills, you will get very uncomfortable, initially.The more uncomfortable you get on a daily basis, the more you will grow as a person. You will have to find comfort in being uncomfortable. Click To Tweet
However, it is important that you direct your energy towards the development of the right skills. The reason I advise finding the right skills is that not all skills are created equal.
The right skills will benefit you in your personal as well as financial growth. These skills strike a balance between both and hence provide a holistic benefit to you. I call them high-income skills.
I define a high-income skill as a skill that can make you at least $10k a month. As an introvert, I preferred copywriting, which was my first high-income skill. In fact, copywriting was the skill that made me a 6-figure income in my early twenties. It got me out of 150k in debt.
The best part about these skills is that they are result based. That means you bring results to the marketplace and get paid for them.
Regardless of where your personality traits lie on the introversion-extroversion spectrum, there is a skill that strikes that balance. Hence, the best way to move forward for you is to find the skill that is meant for you.
I suggest you start with the one that is most suitable for your personality, interests, and background. Here’s a free quiz that can help you find out which high-income skill is right for you.