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Overcoming the ‘quiet person’ label

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  "Although I’m viewed positively at work, I believe my reserved demeanor is holding me back. I’m not shy, but I have trouble making small talk. In meetings, I give input whenever I’m asked, but seldom volunteer information. As a result, I’ve been labeled a quiet person. Although I prefer working alone at my computer, I know that won’t get me where I want to go. Can you suggest some communication strategies for meetings and social situations?" -- Not a Talker

Marie's Answer: Social events and meetings pose different challenges. In casual conversations, you’re not sure what to say. In meetings, you undoubtedly have much to contribute, but something holds you back. Here are suggestions for both settings:

  • Socially, the best conversation-starter is a question that shows interest in the other person. However, you must be specific. If you say, “How are things at work?", the likely answer is “fine.”  Then you’re back where you started.  Asking “What’s the biggest challenge on your project?” or “How have you been affected by the budget cuts?” will produce a more detailed response. 
  • To move past work topics, inquire about family, pets, vacations or current events. Avoid potentially offensive subjects like religion and politics. Too many questions can resemble an interrogation, so be sure to share your own experiences as well.
  • In meetings, you may fear saying something stupid or inappropriate. But if you’re knowledgeable about the topic, that’s highly unlikely. To get your expertise recognized, just take the plunge and speak up.  Your anxiety will eventually diminish.
  • Finally, be sure to appreciate your natural strengths. Quieter folks are valued for their calming presence and willingness to listen. And when they do speak, everyone pays attention.

To assess your communication style, take this Quick Quiz:  Are You More Extroverted or Introverted? 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mohan M Prasad February 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Being quiet is quite alright

Having said this, the fundamental question that you need to pose to self is “Am I wanting to defy my nature for sake of making an impression ‘ to just get were I want to go’.

There is no guarantee of success just that you make the first move intervention and volunteer sooner than others in a meeting to make your view points. These are traits nice to have but just not the bottom line for success.

It’s not so much the space that you occupy in a meeting that counts. Rather what matters is the sense that you bring to table when you speak out; be it first or last; less or more.

People will be willing to lend their ears to listen when you add value with your view point.

I get a sense that since you are labeled as a quiet person, you must be a keen and sharp listener. You must capitalize on this trait and when you make entry with your view point refer to the others point of views and connect it well to create an inclusive dialogue.

In my experience I found this makes one’s intervention a high impact one.

Finally, no body has succeeded by defying the natural traits; rather the secret of success is in capitalizing your style and making it impressionistic.

I am sure you will feel more at home within yourself and gain confidence to reach where you ant to go

All the best

Mohan M Prasad


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