Why do people underestimate me, and what can I do about it?
Have you asked that question? If you’re a quiet, thoughtful introvert, chances are good you have. It’s easy to get frustrated when people assume you don’t have much to offer just because they can’t physically observe your gifts.
Getting better acquainted with the cause of the problem will help you work toward a solution.
3 Reasons Introverts Get Overlooked
People tend to underestimate introverts for three main reasons.
1. Introverts are more private than extroverts.
Extroverts get energy from interacting with people and taking action. They build and maintain large networks of relationships and participate in a variety of activities. While introverts also need people and enjoy activities, they must have time to themselves to recharge. As a result, they tend to be more private, which limits both their contacts and the amount of time they spend with even people they do know.
2. Introverts’ best work is hard to see.
Another reason introverts get overlooked is that they do their best work in their heads. They’re thinkers. Whereas extroverts typically act, think, and then act, introverts think, act, and then think. This means that extroverts engage in twice as much observable activity, which puts introverts at a disadvantage when it comes to getting noticed.
Extroverts direct their energy outwardly. They do things such as buy apartments, start businesses, run for leadership positions on the school board, and perform songs in front of crowds. What they do specifically depends on their personalities, but rest assured, they’re primary focus will be people and action.
In contrast, introverts direct their energy inwardly on thoughts, ideas, feelings, and memories. They troubleshoot computer network issues, research and synthesize personality differences, weigh whether or not choices line up with their values, and critique articles for grammar and style, for example. Again, personality dictates the specific focus of their thoughts and ideas.
It’s important to note that both introverts and extroverts think and act, but action will always be an extrovert’s primary focus whereas thought will be an introvert’s.
3. Introverts struggle with self-promotion.
Extroverts are naturals when it comes to self-promotion. They use their exceptional conversation skills to tell others what they’ve been working on and have accomplished, and they do so unashamedly. Introverts, on the other hand, don’t like to talk as much as extroverts and wish that people would recognize their strengths and contributions without them having to say anything at all.
Change How People See You
All introverts struggle to put their best foot forward at some point or another. If you’re an introvert, you probably know what I’m talking about. Fortunately, you can change the way people see and think about you with a bit of intentionality and strategic use of your introvert strengths. Here are four ways you can give people a glimpse of gifts you have to offer when they underestimate you.
1. Recognize that you’re different – not messed up.
The first and most important place to start is to recognize that you’re different – not messed up. Because Western culture esteems extroversion, a lot of introverts spend their whole lives feeling like second-class citizens and as though something was wrong with them. This is a shame. The reality is that there’s nothing wrong with having an introverted personality. Anyone who does is simply wired differently.
If you’ve felt less valuable because you’re an introvert, start by telling yourself the truth: you have a lot to offer, and your gifts just look different. What’s more, don’t put too much stock in what people say – unless they’re close friends, family, or colleagues who care about you and respect introverts. Third, cut people some slack, and don’t expect them to recognize your strengths right away. Many people will always have a hard time seeing what you have to contribute apart from your help.
2. Be prepared to tell people what you bring to the table.
If you want people to appreciate your gifts, be prepared to talk about them. You will have a chance to share your strengths with your boss, colleagues, or network, but to capitalize on that opportunity, you’ll have to prepare. And the more competent and prepared you are, the less people will underestimate you.
In Networking for People Who Hate Networking, Devora Zach recommends you develop and practice an elevator pitch: a short 30 second to a minute-long explanation of what makes you unique and what you have to offer anyone you might work with. When you put your elevator pitch together, try to keep it succinct and to-the-point so that you can fit it into a conversation naturally. 100 words or less is a good target, says Steve Moore.
In order to craft an effective elevator pitch, you’ll need to understand yourself: your personality, your strengths, your skills, and your passions. Tools like the IPSAT, which combines the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessment, Strength Finders, a passion profile, a leadership skills inventory, and a spiritual gifts assessment to give people a holistic view of what makes them unique, can be extremely helpful in gaining a thorough understanding of yourself. If you don’t want to go so deep or would like to spend less, the MBTI and Strength Finders assessment are both solid tools which will help you better understand what you have to offer.
Don’t fret if you’re not a self-promotion juggernaut. You don’t have to be. You just need to lean on your network.
Everybody’s got one, says networking expert Harvey Mackay. Family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors are all part of your network. Tell them what you’re trying to accomplish, and ask for their help. They’ll provide you with extra sets of eyes and ears and present opportunities to you that you’d have never seen on your own. Furthermore, the extroverts in your network will probably enjoy helping you out!
Your network can also help hold you accountable. If for no other reason, you should call on your network for this purpose. You can’t call yourself to task. At the very least, find a few friends who’d be willing to check in with you regularly and challenge you to take action.
In return for all the support, offer your skills, time, and resources generously. Help your network out in whatever way you can.
Always remember that a good network is one of your best – if not the best – weapons in your arsenal for making others aware of your strengths when they underestimate you.
4. Let passion motivate you.
While your network will take you far, you are going to have to do some legwork, which will probably require you to get out of your comfort zone. One of the best ways to motivate yourself to take action as an introvert is to love what you do. Find the place where your passion, skills, and people’s needs collide. This juncture will lead to work that excites you and, at the same time, meets people’s needs.
If you’re not sure what excites you, start a journal. Reflect on your life, and write down stories. Think of times you were proud of something you accomplished. Remember times you felt alive. What were you doing? Start from childhood, and move to adulthood. What do you notice? If you’re having trouble seeing a trend, run your notes by some people you trust.
Once you have a collection of stories, analyze your findings. What do you notice? Do you see any patterns? Are thoughts, interests, topics, or activities coming up again and again? You may want to share your stories with family or close friends to get their input.
Jonathan Milligan at BloggingYourPassion.com suggests texting or emailing 5 or 6 family members or close friends. Ask them, “What do you think I’m good at? What are my top two or three strengths.”
When they reply, jot down their feedback. Then, look for patterns. Compare their feedback to the stories you recorded in your journal.
If you’re hesitant to ask for input, don’t be. Family and friends will want to help you. They’ll be grateful for an opportunity to help you, and you’ll be glad you asked.
When you pinpoint what you love to do that meets people’s needs, you’ll unlock a whole new level of motivation. You’ll find fuel to get out of your comfort zone, make connections, and be more forthright about what you have to offer.
While people tend to underestimate you and overlook the amazing gifts you have to offer, there’s a lot you can do to help them see what you have to contribute. Practice contentment, prepare, network, and seek out your passion. You’ll start building momentum, and people will take notice.