Introverts and Success: 20 Ways Introverts Can Have The Success They Choose
(WARNING: This article took on a life of it’s own. It’s massive. So, get some coffee and settle in!)
As an introvert, you’re probably already plenty aware that there are tons of highly successful introverts. Mark Zuckerberg, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt…I could go on. Good company to be in, right?
And yet at the same time, at some point in your life you also realize this world isn’t really designed for introverts. The extroverts are “loud” in society’s space, and they like other extroverts. Their attention hogs. Introverts and success definitely go together, although in this extrovert-dominated world sometimes it can feel like that’s not the case.
I get it. I’m an ambivert myself. Or, some might call me “an extroverted introvert.” I can be the extrovert when I need to be, but it costs me energy in the long run and I need my quiet, reflective thinking space. I can’t go to network groups every day, that’s for sure. Or, I can, but I’d rather not!
Introverts have unique qualities that extroverts don’t, though. And those unique ways of meeting the world give introverts (and ambiverts!) strong abilities to have success in business and in life.
One person who talks about this in depth is lecturer and author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and Quiet Revolution: Unlocking the Power of Introverts, Susan Cain. Cain has enjoyed great success in her own right as an introvert and believes introverts are poised for great success as business owners and more.
Based on her work, I’ve put together the following 20 ways you can be more successful as an introvert.
1. Learn to network on your own terms.
As I mentioned above, networking can be a struggle for introverts. It tends to “cost” rather than “give” energy. However, in business and in life in general, success in any field is rarely a solo act. You need to network, in whatever way is appropriate for your venture.
Jon Levy, a contributor to Forbes magazine (and an introvert), suggests 8 ways to successfully network as an introvert in his excellent article. You might want to hop over later and read it, but he suggests, among other things, being yourself. It takes SO much energy to try to present yourself as other than your natural and most comfortable persona.
When I used to work in Human Resources I used a personality instrument called the Predictive Index. It’s focus was to determine how good a fit a candidate was for a specific job, based on the personalities of the people already successful in the position. One of the things it measures is how much an individual perceives the need to alter how they present themselves in the workplace. In other words, you’re one way at home and one way at work (we all are) — but, how different are those two “yous”? The more different they are, the more stress you’re under.
So you can take some of the stress out of networking by being yourself.
Jon Levy notes that as an introvert, you’re more likely to be good at developing long-lasting, intimate relationships. Recognizing the unique strengths you as an introvert bring to the networking table makes it easier to just be your authentic self.
Mr. Levy also discusses your self talk, taking baby steps, and asking for a warm introduction — all strategies you can employ to make networking less of a chore and more of a joy.
As an introvert, focusing on the connections you’re making helps to minimize the sense of overwhelm.
In addition to in person networking, these days you can find ways to network online that work for you. Some people prefer to network through social media, online message boards, forums, or through small groups and organizations.
So, do network, but network smart, for yourself as an introvert.
2. Find amazing mentors and work with them.
Life is stressful. Owning your own business is stressful. There are a lot of moving parts to manage. Working with a mentor not only gives you access to advice and guidance from someone who has been there and done that but it also offers you an opportunity to interact one-on-one which is where you often shine.
If you’re looking for a business mentor, did you know you can get one for free? SCORE is a non-profit full of volunteers – retired executives and business owners – and they will connect you with a mentor who will help you in your business goals, free of cost to you.
Best advice I have received from a SCORE mentor? If you get paired with a mentor you don’t click with, let them know-ask for someone else! Hop on over to SCORE and apply for a mentor. After you finish reading this article. 😉 You might even find a new friend! (https://www.score.org/find-mentor)
3. Accept help when offered and delegate when necessary.
Anytime someone is willing to help you grow your business, it’s a great thing. Once you reach a point where you have employees working for you, don’t hesitate to delegate tasks that pull you away from the focus of growing your business and cultivating key relationships with clients, vendors, and staff.
I know, even as an ambivert, how much “easier” it seems to do everything yourself. You don’t have to jump that hurdle of communicating with someone else and trying to get them to understand exactly what you want. Doing it yourself just seems more efficient. But long term, this is a losing strategy. Delegate, or if you don’t have staff, outsource. Taking the time to find reliable outsource vendors is time well invested in your future success.
4. Schedule your own time-outs and opportunities to recharge.
Even when working long hours to build your business, as an introvert, you will need time away from the crowd so you can relax and recharge. It isn’t merely a matter of resting. It’s about finding quiet moments away from the “noise” and chaos of owning and operating a business and interacting with so many other people. This is a must. Even if you need to pencil it in, your business will be better off as a result.
By the way, hypnosis is fantastic for this. It’s a highly focused state, so distractions (internal and external) fade into the background. This gives your mind/brain a rest, and even allows for the emotions and energies of stress to be vented out. A hypnosis session leaves you feeling not only relaxed, but refreshed. You can try it here for free! Wink!
5. Don’t try to change who you are. Work to your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses.
So many introverts allow others to convince them it is necessary to change in order to own a successful business. The truth is, the traits that are essential to your nature as an introvert can be essential to your success in business. Don’t change in order to achieve success; simply find a way to make your own noise in a world that always seems to be talking.
Remember what I said about the Predictive Index? The more you perceive the need to change yourself, the more stress you are under. That robs you of energy — energy you NEED, and you know that.
Instead, focus on your strengths and cultivate a sense of OK-ness with who and how you are, and how you “show up” in any given situation.
Do you know your strengths, and what they are? If not, or if you’re not sure, the StrengthsFinder is an excellent place to start. (There’s that HR hat showing up again!). StrengthsFinder is a questionnaire instrument that determines your top five strengths. It is amazingly accurate and I have found it beneficial over and over again. Know thyself, right? Good old Socrates. How did they know so much back then? Anyhow, find StrengthsFinder here: https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/254033/strengthsfinder.aspx
6. Choose a business that works for you.
One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself as an introverted entrepreneur is a career path that plays to your strengths. There are many careers that are ideal for people who are introverted by nature. SmallBizTrends offers an impressive list that includes a few careers you might find appealing, such as:
- Dog walking, grooming, etc.
- Creating apps
- Translating services
- Virtual assistant
- Visual artist (pottery, painting, sculpting, etc.)
I would add hypnotist! Most of the time I’m working one-on-one with my clients, or by myself writing, creating and recording products. As an introvert you don’t need a job where you’re all alone, necessarily! What is wonderful about what I do, for my energy, is that I get to create deep connections with one person at a time, and really let go of all my thoughts about “me” and focus completely on them. If I’m feeling a little run down when I go into the office, I know that after my sessions I will feel more energized because of the nature of my work.
Other similar career choices are counselor, therapist, clergy (although that can really vary from congregation to congregation), life coach, even consultative sales.
But don’t think you need to take a “low stress job” as an introvert or ambivert. (I have actually seen that advice out there.) Look, life is stressful. It’s not about avoiding stress. It’s about managing your energy, playing to your strengths, and playing smart (which introverts do well). So follow your passion!
As you can see, there are plenty of career choices that allow you to start your own business and grow it without stepping too far outside of your natural tendencies as an introvert.
7. Avoid making rash decisions.
This is something most introverts do instinctively. However, you could be pushed or prodded into doing something for your business or career that you haven’t thought through yet if you aren’t careful. Don’t let that happen to you. Take your time and carefully consider your options when making decisions that affect your business. Don’t be pressured by those very “confident” seeming extroverts!
8. Surround yourself with the right people.
Surround yourself with people you can trust, first and foremost. These are the people you’re building your business with.
Beyond that, surround yourself with people who have different skillsets and characteristics than you. And take this one to heart, because it’s counter-intuitive for people, regardless of personality style. We like to be around other people who are like us, so when we make hires we tend to feel a sense of rapport with those folks and hire them — only to end up discovering we’ve hired people who mirror our own strengths and our own weaknesses. This is not what you need in business. Whether they’re employees, contractors, or vendors, you’ll be better served surrounding yourself with people who’s strengths complement yours, rather than match them.
Look for people who challenge your way of thinking, your way of seeing things. It will make you more nimble with how you guide your business and it will stretch you, too.
This can be one of the most important business decisions you’ll make. Remember, none of us succeed alone, so surrounding yourself thoughtfully with the right people is crucial.
9. Master the fine art of building relationships.
This is usually in the wheelhouse of introverts and ambiverts. We’re good at building strong relationships with fewer people, as opposed to superficial relationships with many. And building relationships is essential in the world of business. You must build relationships with the customers who buy your products or use your services. You must also build relationships with the people who work with you, vendors who serve your business needs, and others who can help you grow your business over time.
Mindfully expand your relationship base beyond where it feels comfortable, and at the same time keep those relationships high quality. It takes dedication and work for introverts, who tend to keep their “tribes” small, but the rewards are huge for your business and they offer you opportunities to grow your tribe a little bit in the process.
10. Adapt when necessary.
Adapt and overcome. These are two of the most important life skills you’ll ever learn. Introverts do not typically excel at the traditional methods of growing businesses. This means you must adapt your business model to account for that and seek new ways to help your business grow. The faster you begin incorporating new ideas for growth and expansion into your business model, the sooner you’ll be able to reap the rewards of doing so.
Thanks to the internet, this is easier than ever before in the history of humankind. You can reach and connect with people who will never shake your hand through media and social networking. Get good at content creation, and don’t neglect video. Even though you may not be crazy about being in front of the camera (I’m not!), nobody else needs to know that, and through video you can establish rapport that makes the difference to people when it comes to choosing who to work with.
Look for ways to incorporate video in your business and career. Move beyond the old standard headshot!
11. Consider partnering with charismatic extroverts.
Steve Wozniak is a man not everyone has heard of. However, he is the brains behind one of the most successful brands in modern history: Apple. Most people equate Steve Jobs with the brand. If Wozniak was the brains behind the brand, Jobs was its face. Steve Wozniak is a famous introvert while the far more charismatic Jobs was very much the quintessential extrovert. This partnership made both men fantastically wealthy and counted among the most successful in their industry. While you may not have a Steve Jobs to partner with, you can find your own Mr. or Ms. Charisma to help you get the attention your brand needs to grow while you are left to be the creative genius behind the scenes.
Ah-hem…I have to add that you can become more charismatic with my hypnosis mp3s!
12. Go one-on-one whenever possible.
You are much better at working with people one-on-one than dealing with large or medium sized groups. Go to that familiar territory and let your own spark shine. Working with customers individually makes them feel special and valued in a way that large group discussions will never accomplish. More importantly, it allows you to be completely in your comfort zone so you can focus on the task at hand instead of how uncomfortable you are.
When you attend events, whether they’re conferences, trainings or networking events, don’t allow your mind to perceive them as “a crowd of people.” Reframe that as a gathering of individuals and focus on one face at a time, one connection at a time, one conversation at a time. In this way, you’ll stay more within your energetic comfort zone and give yourself the opportunity to play to your strengths.
13. Play up your strengths.
Don’t just play to your strengths — play UP your strengths! Do what you do best and do it well. Ultimately, that is what will set you apart in business. Let your strength be the main selling point for your organization and don’t let others convince you to focus on your weaknesses, or the areas where you are less confident.
Your strengths make you special. Confidence can be built over time. Most people don’t realize that confidence is an outcome, not an input. Set yourself up for success, over and over, by applying these ideas, and you’ll begin to feel more comfortable in situations that in the past, caused you to feel uncomfortable or even anxious. That comfort will turn into confidence!
Sometimes you hear the advice to “fake it til you make it.” And that CAN work. But if you’re faking confidence you don’t feel, however, you risk coming across as inauthentic with your target audience and that could alienate the very people you’re attempting to bring into the fold. So, set yourself up for success — remember the advice in the Forbes article – baby steps!
14. Improve your communication skills.
Take classes on public speaking to help you deliver better lectures. Join Toastmasters. Improve your writing with online courses. Listen intently and make sure you’re sending the appropriate messages in response. The more effectively you communicate with your employees, vendors, and customers the better it is for your continued success.
In the end, everything in life is about communication. Right now I’m communicating with you through the written word. And if you’re still reading this far into this monster of an article (my fingers hurt… 😉 — then you’re feeling some level of connection with me. As I write this, that makes me smile! Imagination and communication are the two most powerful things in human experience, in my opinion. Of course, I’m a hypnotist and a NLPer, so….biased!
15. Start small when building your business.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither, in fact, were Apple, Microsoft, Nike, or Pizza Hut. It takes time and dedication to build a business. One thing most big businesses have in common, though, is that once upon a time, they were small businesses.
Don’t try to make your first million dollars in your first year. Instead, focus on incremental, sustainable growth over time. This gives you plenty of room to grow and helps you keep the focus on providing the best products and/or services every step of the way.
Think of it like a house. Build a strong foundation and when the storms come, your house will still be standing. And the storms will come, I’ve been through a few of them. And I’m still here. Focus on quality over quantity, every time.
16. Define your own style. It’s your business; make it your own.
You’re pouring your heart and soul into building your business. There are pieces of you in every aspect of your business. Don’t fret over the secrets to success someone else followed 10 or 20 years ago to succeed. Define your own style and own that style as you build your business.
That doesn’t mean you should not be willing to take advice or be coachable. It does mean that you shouldn’t have to change major aspects of who you are to accommodate someone else’s idea of what your business should be.
When I first started my business I did what many people do. Tried to find “the path to success.” I thought “if I do what this person did…” and then six months later it was another person. Hey, modeling IS in fact useful. BUT…in business and in life, other than following the law, there isn’t ONE path to success. That can feel like both good news and bad news, can’t it? The sooner you find your unique way to step along the path to success, the happier you’ll be, the more authentic you’ll be, the better you’ll come across to others and that will lead you to the success you want. However you imagine that success unfolding.
I know when I first started my business there were times when I wished someone would just tell me what to do! Because I’d spent my whole life in that role, either as a student or an employee. I had to discover tools to help me sift through the possibilities to find the actions that were most likely to create the result I wanted. Tools like Pareto Analysis, SWOT diagram, cost-benefit analysis, and decision matrix. Gathering data, data, data. If you’re not familiar with this approach to business (and life, frankly), you can check out this article (https://www.idashboards.com/blog/2019/04/10/4-tools-strategies-for-enhanced-decision-making/) and probably find a class at a local college or even online at a place like Udemy. It’s worth the investment in yourself. There’s no one right way to make decisions, but there sure are wrong ways…and you owe it to yourself to learn the skills and acquire the tools to tell them apart.
17. Use the Internet to grow your business and reach new audiences.
Introverts today have one tool that wasn’t widely available to help you grow your business two or three decades ago. It may be the single most important tool for introverts to wield when growing a business. It is the World Wide Web. The Internet offers substantial opportunities for growth and success that weren’t available in the not-so-distant past, especially with the wildfire growth of social media.
Use the Internet as an essential platform for growing your business. For introverts, the Internet is the perfect tool for reaching out to others without requiring your physical presence.
18. Live outside of your comfort zone.
Your comfort zone is something you’re going to have to plant firmly in your past for success in business. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Every successful business owner has to, on occasion, embrace the other side of the equation to make things happen for your business. In fact, you’ll find it happens more often than you care to admit.
As the saying goes, growth happens outside your comfort zone. Personal growth, career growth, business growth.
When you step outside your comfort zone, you grow; not only as a business owner or entrepreneur, but as a person as well. The rewards may be epic if you allow them to be.
Stretching yourself in this way literally changes you, at a neurological level. It strengthens the neural connections in your left prefrontal cortex. So, the more you stretch yourself, the more you stretch yourself. Avoidance, on the other hand, strengthens the neural connections of avoidance, in the right prefrontal cortex. So the more you choose to avoid, the more you continue to avoid.
So I suggest you avoid avoiding! Create situations where you can stretch yourself and get outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis.
19. Listen to your intuition when it’s trying to tell you something.
One thing introverts have going for them is an incredible ability to listen. Both to others and (maybe more importantly) to themselves. Most of the time your impressive listening abilities are tuned outward to other people in your circle. However, when you’re working to grow your business you need to learn to listen to yourself and your own instincts as keenly as you listen to the advice and recommendations of others around you. Don’t dismiss it when your intuition is trying to tell you something. You may regret pushing that tiny voice aside.
20. Manage your energy.
I have had to learn this lesson myself, which seems ironic. As I said above, it’s not about avoiding stress. Life is stressful and there’s no avoiding it. It will find you.
What makes the difference is managing your energy. Build things into your day, week and life that restore your mental, emotional and physical energy. Self hypnosis. Meditation. Walks in nature. Exercise. Mix and match! Pick up some free hypnosis audios right here (or get my app – HypnosisFirst – in Android and iOS) and use them daily to replenish the energy that the world siphons off.
Yes, you, too, can be successful in life and business, as a dedicated introvert. These 20 ways will help but your natural tendencies for thoughtful discourse, mindfulness, and careful listening will be your biggest assets moving forward. Enjoy the journey!
Here are a few more good articles to get you pumped!
Why Introverts May Be Better at Business Than Extroverts (Entrepreneur)
5 Mega-Successful Entrepreneurs Who Are Introverts (Entrepreneur)
Advice for Introverts: How to Thrive in the Business World (AMA Articles)
How Introverts are Taking the Top Jobs (Guardian)