Quiet. It’s a small but powerful word. A word that means different things to different people. To an Introvert, quiet might mean peace, tranquility, and the chance to hear their own thoughts clearly. To an Extravert, the word quiet might induce a feeling of small panic. It might mean unspoken words that need to be heard, questions that will go unanswered, connections that will never be made.
In the workplace, the balance between noise and quiet is a difficult one to strike. Often an Extravert’s compulsion to verbalise their thoughts will override an Introvert’s need for quiet, creating an uncomfortable environment for workers who flourish in silence. By developing an appreciation of the different personality types and styles of working within your team, you’ll build better relationships with your colleagues and learn to thrive together.
As National Quiet Day approaches on 14 September, there’s never been a better time for Extraverts to try to find the value of silence. Being comfortable in the quiet zone is a special power that Introverts possess: one which provides them with an internal space, a sanctuary where they can focus, process, and reflect. This super strength is precious, but it needn’t be reserved only for the quiet. Even the most extraverted of people can develop it with some determination and practice.
If being silent isn’t something that comes naturally to you, a quiet work place can feel intimidating. After all, part of an Extravert’s desire to talk stems from their need to mull things over. It helps them feel energetic and motivated about their work. Try to remember that your colleagues’ silence is not a personal rejection - it’s just a different way of working. By finding ways to enjoy your own quiet space, you’ll provide an important yin and yang to the workplace and make those chatty times all the sweeter.
For example, just ten minutes alone with a coffee and a notebook could provide the impetus you need to kick start that project or re-evaluate your plan for the weeks ahead. At the end of the time, take a moment to reflect. How did it make you feel? How did it affect your concentration levels? What value did it add to your work?
A day filled with quiet can be a torturous prospect for someone who enjoys noise and the sharing of ideas in the moment. Learning to thrive in quiet takes time and practice – and if you find that those short bursts of quiet do add value, lengthen them and see where that takes you.
One of the reasons that we feel compelled to talk, is that we worry about forgetting important pieces of information. Communicating with our colleagues is a way of recording our ideas, feelings, and eureka moments, whilst validating our position in the workplace. By writing down these thoughts during quiet periods, we can take away this worry. While there will always be times when discussing projects is absolutely necessary – or even just kind of fun - the act of writing things down allows us to process our thoughts, cement ideas and problem solve issues internally, first.
Once you’ve come to appreciate the quieter moments in the workplace, you’ll develop a better understanding of your more introverted colleagues. They’re not being rude. They’re not being aloof. It’s just that they’re more adept at using the power of quiet to think, problem solve, create, and strive towards their goals.
By giving them the time and the space that they need to do this, you’ll improve the dynamics of your team and allow your colleagues to thrive in the silence. You might also just find that giving yourself permission to hide away, ponder, plan and strategise, will boost your own effectiveness too.