In my last article, I introduced the concept of being an introvert, and discussed their habits encouraged and discouraged in Islam. In this article, I’ll be sharing my advice on how introverts can make the most of their personality within the workplace.
Susan Cain, a well-known author on the subject of introversion said: “Introverts are really good, if they have a bunch of engaged employees, at letting those employees run with their ideas, cultivating those ideas. They’re less focused on putting their own stamp on things and more on bringing out other people’s strengths. They also tend to be very good at cultivating one-on-one alliances with the people they’re leading and really listening to what their needs are, what their input is.”
We are in an age that values increasing creativity and collaboration in the workplace and in academia. Extroverts are naturally favored, but this environment can be energy-draining for introverts. So, how can introverts thrive and be productive in the workplace? Here are my tips for you to implement in your life, to make the most out of your personality, and excel where you work.
1. Charge yourself with tahajjud, the best form of solitude
There is an incorrect perception that introverts do not feel emotions. Contrary to this myth, introverts are very impassioned. However, who they share these feelings with are limited. This is why tahajjud is an excellent tool, because it means that you are able to express your emotions with the One who knows exactly how you are feeling. Not only are you relieving your heart and providing yourself some quiet time, but you are also gaining deeds by performing extra prayers at the best time.
2. Take breaks and pace yourself
In a busy environment, you work best in short bursts, so make them count. While it may seem like you are procrastinating, a couple minutes off will actually help your mind recharge. As an introvert, it is helpful to take a few moments to switch off to avoid being overstimulated. Take a short trip to the washroom, cafeteria, to drink water or visit another colleague.
3. Write things down and make time for them later
It is perfectly fine when you don’t know what to say right in the moment, when you are in a meeting, or a similar workplace situation. Being able to respond quickly does not necessarily equate to not being smart or witty. Take time to think and write about what you want to say, and then offer your well thought-out opinion via email or social media. Also, keep reminding yourself, actions speak louder than words. What you could not express in the meeting can be shown through your work. Develop your skills and talents especially those unique to you as an individual and to introverts in general.
Keep a journal to make you feel better and reflect upon your life. Take note of each event and have a conversation with yourself on how many ways you could have reacted and which one would be the best to follow.
4. Listening is your strength
Listening is an active process. We have to force ourselves to listen sometimes. The first step to productive listening is developing an open-mind. Listening is also a sign of obedience, as stated in these verses:
“Who listen to the speech and follow the best of it.” [Qur’an: Chapter 39, Verse 18]
Listening and being observant in the workplace is a great and useful skill to have.
5. Develop your communication skills
As an introvert, it is important to make sure when you speak you are not being vague and choose your words carefully. A’ishah, said:
“The Prophet Muhammad spoke in a distinct manner so that anyone who listened to him could understand it.” [Abi Dawud]
Do not fake or pretend to be someone you are not while communicating; this is the biggest reason for energy drain and frustration.
The Prophet said,
“He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.” [Muslim]
So, we don’t always need to speak! When it is unavoidable for you to engage in small talks, speak good and the truth. Or, just smile and listen! Additionally, introverts are actually quite skilled at encouraging others. This can be a powerful trait if applied in meetings, with friends, or the colleagues with whom you work.
Do not depend on written communication too much…
Depending solely on written communication is unhealthy as it makes you an outsider. Maintain a healthy balance between written and oral communications. When you leave your chair and approach your colleague to say meaningful, positive words, they will feel positively about you.
…and make time for social interactions
Communicating with others is a vital part of becoming successful. This is equally true in academia, at work and with family and friends. As an introvert, it might be draining to consistently be social. This is why it is important to dedicate time to being social. If you feel as if you have more energy to give at a specific time of day, then it is best to dedicate some of that time to social bonding. It helps improve your productivity, without causing you to sacrifice your inner energy. This also allows you to keep your bonds going, while remaining energized and positive, improving your personal and professional lives.
6. Take reprimands in a positive manner
No one likes to be reprimanded especially in public. But, our beloved Prophet was also reprimanded by Allah when he frowned upon a blind man, as Allah says in Surah ‘Abasa from verses 3 – 16.
Whatever you hear is to correct you and to make you stronger. Take any criticisms constructively and plan how you can learn and grow from your mistakes.
7. Ask for help
If you are struggling on a task or a certain colleague, you should always try to ask someone for advice, be it another workmate or a superior. If you find it difficult to communicate confidently in this situation, write down the issue and email it, as I mentioned earlier. Asking for help is not a weakness – in fact, it is a strength to be able to recognise when you require assistance.
Most importantly, always ask for help from Allah . Prophet Musa made sure to ask Allah for his brother Harun to be made a prophet as well, so that he could help him speak to the people. He also had a stammer, was fearful of many things, and quick to anger. This is a great lesson in recognizing that Islam is a way of life, and being an introvert does not take away from a person the relationship s/he has with their faith. If it is difficult to find people to feel comfortable around, it is never difficult to speak to Allah for guidance and assistance. Musa made a du’a that is beneficial for introverts and extroverts alike.
This is the du’a that Musa made:
“Oh, my Lord! Open for me my chest (grant me self-confidence, contentment, and boldness). And, ease my task for me and make loose the knot from my tongue (remove the defect of my speech) that they understand my speech. And, appoint for me a helper from my family, Aaron, my brother. Increase my strength through him, and let him share my task that we may glorify You much, and remember You much. Indeed, You are of us Ever a Well-Seer.” [Qur’an: Chapter 20, Verses 25 – 35]
Ways to help an introvert at the workplace
Extroverts and introverts constitute the ummah, making them brothers and sisters. So, if you are an extrovert, it is important to support introverts and contribute towards a balanced society where everyone is thriving. This can be done by:
- Giving everyone time outside of a meeting to make good group decisions.
- Learning empathy by not listening to the stereotype of what an introvert is, but instead, getting to know an introvert by keeping an open mind. Each person is unique, including you!
- Withholding judgment as much as possible. Be aware that you do not actually know all the facts about why a person is quiet or reserved.
- Asking them if they want to join a get-together, and if it is a ‘no’, gently assure them that you recognize their need of being alone. (Yes, this is a universal need that Maslow did not mention in his hierarchy!)
- Not disturbing them unnecessarily while working. For anyone, regaining internal stimuli can be at times arduous.
- Making sure that it is a focused conversation that you want your introverted colleague to get engaged in. Focused conversation is the one with a productive purpose and requires engaged listening.
Introverts, social introverts, ambiverts, and extroverts are created by Allah to serve a purpose. Every introvert has their own way of obtaining their energy. The power to be productive can also be obtained from the environment that surrounds us and thus obtained power has its own ways to creativity. And, every person should benefit from that also. Thus, an adequate amount of interaction with the people and the ecosystem is necessary to develop new types of creativity! The ability to listen, analyze, reflect, encourage others, and gain internal stimuli are all factors that contribute to greater levels of productivity. These, if charged correctly, can lead to consistent success. Either by recharging self-energy through an internal powerhouse or through external stimuli, a balanced and productive ummah can be rhythmically created, in sha Allah.
What are your recommendations for developing a productive work environment for an introvert? Share your views and recommendations with us in the comments section below.