Girl bosses. Boss ladies. Boss bitches. There are all kinds of terms for women who get. it. done. in the modern workplace, but there also seems to be a certain widely held caricature of who this ambitious lady really is. I mean, honestly: What image comes to mind when you think about those aforementioned “boss” terms? Probably not a quiet, mousy type who never uses her meek voice to speak up in meetings—even if her ideas are the best in the room. More likely, you conjure a no-nonsense, says-exactly-what’s-on-her-mind Type-A extrovert—right?
But skewing shy or introverted doesn’t exempt you from happiness, success, or being a total badass at work. “Being shy isn’t a character flaw that you need to fix to find success,” says life and career coach Susan Jewkes Allen. In fact, tapping into your subtle sensibilities can work to your benefit. For example, says career coach Daisy Swan, introverts tend to process information (and listen) better, think problems through more thoroughly, and state their perspectives more clearly when they do speak up.
“Just because you don’t like to speak up doesn’t mean you can’t find your voice.” —career expert Rita Friedman
That said, if you, the shy powerhouse you are, find yourself struggling to get to where you want and need to be at work, certain tips and tools can help. “Just because you don’t like to speak up doesn’t mean you can’t find your voice,” says career expert Rita Friedman. So whether you’re struggling with meetings culture at work, getting the credit you deserve for your job well done, or just learning to accept yourself for who you are, use the intel below to succeed, you shy superstar, you.
Make the most group meetings
Meetings can be daunting because they can often feel like a public speaking gig (even if you get to sit down). Choosing when to present your point can occupy so much headspace that you might find yourself not paying attention to what other people are even saying. But, to make speaking up feel more manageable, Swan says to make your points less personal. For instance, you can speak from an objective point of view by saying “It appears” rather than “I think.” Removing yourself from the thought may make you feel less in the spotlight.
Also, consider the ways you best communicate, and use those as tools meetings to help you out. “If you don’t like public speaking but you write killer emails, you might find that you’re better off with detailing your work in a project summary,” Friedman says. In this case, you could circulate the summary to your team pre-meeting, and use it for talking points as your present. “Or perhaps you lean toward the visual and can capture your perspective in an interesting graphic format.”
Learn to advocate for yourself
Try requesting one-on-one time with your manager to get in face time and talk about what you’ve been up to. When there are fewer voices in the room, you’ll likely feel more comfortable speaking up about your great work and ideas.
“It is often the case that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so you do need to be mindful of not getting the attention your work deserves,” Friedman says. “If you think you need to advocate for yourself, consider asking to meet regularly with your boss for check-ins to go over projects you’re working on.”
Implement methods to feel great about your authentic self
Both at work and in your personal life, you can practice mindfulness to become more attuned to when you feel good, Swan says. Then, you can carry that positive mind-set into work. By being more aware of yourself and your feelings, you’ll be able to recognize your accomplishments at work and take pride in them.
“Many highly successful and accomplished people are shy. The thing is not to ‘overcome’ shyness, but to accept it and develop the skills to manage it.” —Susan Jewkes Allen, career coach
Beyond mindfulness, Jewkes Allen recommends breath work, having a helpful mantra, journaling, and engaging your social muscles by engaging with people who share your interests. Friedman asks her clients to try something a little braver: practicing speaking at home, in front of a video camera. “Watching yourself can be painful, but in a good way: catch the areas that need work, and you’ll feel more prepared to enter any meeting.”
But no matter what you do to be your best you at work, Jewkes Allen says to simply remember that you’re capable of whatever you want, regardless of how outgoing or soft-spoken you are. “Many highly successful and accomplished people are shy,” she says. “The thing is not to ‘overcome’ shyness, but to accept it and develop the skills to manage it.”
Being your authentic self, Friedman says, is always your best bet—even if you’re shy or reserved. “Don’t try to be the loudest or flashiest if it’s not you,” she says, “Sincerity goes a long way.”
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