I recently talked with friends and acquaintances about building rapport with colleagues in the workplace. A common comment that I somewhat resonate with is “I’m an introvert, I find it hard to go and meet people”. I say I somewhat resonate, because I feel the word ‘introvert’ needs to be broken down:
Introverts receive their energy and stimulation from within, and are content with their own company. Introverts often have hobbies that are more solitary, such as reading, writing, or walking solo in nature, however it shouldn’t be confused with shyness. I have been steering away from using the term ‘introversion’ in my posts as I feel it is quite binary and can quickly divide my audience.
I say I somewhat resonate, as I too, am an introvert. Though many who meet me in person have described me as an extrovert. If I had to use these terms, I am an extroverted introvert – I have the capacity to connect with a number of people in a fully engaged way, and I draw some energy externally, but to fully recharge, I need to spend time alone.
So when it comes to the workplace, I have a natural preference for working at my desk undisturbed, but I very much also enjoy meeting people and getting to know them. Some days, I like to sit at my desk and have limited interactions, and that is when I know I need to get up and connect with my colleagues.
So how can a person with preference for thinking and processing alone build rapport in the workplace? This is what I do:
- Hang out in the kitchen/tea/coffee station – Mornings and lunchtimes are great times for me to get to know my colleagues – sometimes I pick out something interesting I’d seen on my way to walk, a news item, or something quirky I had heard recently
- Swing by one of my colleague’s desks when I make myself a tea and say hello
- Swivel around in my chair and ask if anyone would like to go and take a quick walk around the block for some fresh air
- Share an article that I know would be of interest to a colleague
- Ask a colleague for their expert opinion about a work project I have brewing in my mind
- Find a restaurant I’d like to try and ask others to join (great for a foodies heaven such as Melbourne)
I find people fascinating, and often I just need to scratch lightly below the surface to get to know them better. I guess as a Relationships/Partnerships Executive, it doesn’t surprise anyone that I say this. So here are some topics I like to anchor my conversations around:
- Hobbies and interests
- Where they grew up/spent time in. We live in a transient age – people have often relocated
- Remembering what topics about work that peaks their interest, or a question that they are pondering/trying to solve
- Being curious about their areas of knowledge
- Share my reflections on recent national/world events
Personally, I don’t find it’s useful to label ourselves one way or another, and to hide behind that label to explain our challenges/tendencies. We just need to find a way that works for us, even if it looks vastly different from the person next to us.