There Sarah sat. In another virtual meeting with one of her clients who was incessantly rambling, starting new tangent conversations before ever fully finishing her initial thoughts. Her client was talking in circles, failing to ever effectively land her plane.
When her client directly asked her what she thinks, as is typical, Sarah questioned how she could break into this conversation, offer up some her advice (which actually is really good) without having to resort to being someone she’s not.
Sarah is not a loud mouth. She doesn’t interrupt. In fact, Sarah would prefer to not have to interject in this conversation at all until she’s had a little more time to think about what she wants to say.
Sarah is an introvert.
But it just so happens that most of the clients she directly supports as a virtual assistant are extroverts.
So what’s a high-achieving introvert like Sarah to do?
There is a simple 2-step strategy that she can do and it doesn’t require her to somehow pretend she’s an extrovert.
Here’s how to be heard (without being loud):
1. Own your space
This could be emotional, mental, or even, physical space but you have to own it. Give yourself permission to not be okay with being put on the spot. If you begin to feel that sense of your space being invaded (if the space is mental or emotional, you’ll feel the same way as you do when your physical space is intruded upon) you have to own that. This is the inside work that must be done first. Then…
2. Express (and clearly state) your needs
If you need time to process, ask for it. If you need time to get a grip on how you really feel about something, state it. If someone is physically encroaching on your personal bubble, make it clear.
This is what keeps you from being hijacked. Extraverts prefer thinking out loud so they have no idea the panic that grips you when they ask you to do things on the fly.
Tell them what you need.
And make an alternate suggestion. So if someone is asking for your input in that very moment, you could say “You know, I really want to help you with this, and I need a little time to think about that. When do you need an answer by?” Find out what parameters they’re working with and try to come up with something reasonable that meets both your needs.
Initially, using this 2-step strategy will bring you some serious discomfort. Expect it.
Heck, welcome it.
This short-term discomfort that you’re avoiding doesn’t hold a candle to the long-term pain of being mistaken for someone who doesn’t think well on her feet, doesn’t contribute much value, or worse yet, isn’t a team player.
This process is a simple way to set boundaries.
And while no one really loves that word, everyone loves the “rules” and expectations that properly setting them achieves.
Setting boundaries is always uncomfortable at first.
But over time, your colleagues, clients, friends, and even family will appreciate knowing what you need to be your best.
To be heard, you don’t need to be loud.
You don’t need to adopt practices and behaviors that don’t feel like you.
You need to honestly, clearly, and frequently state what you need.
This calm and strategic approach will allow you to add real value while still being the beautiful, introverted woman you are.
Noise and fanfare not required.