10 Tips to Survive Working With the Public When You’re an Introvert
When you’re an introvert who works with the public, one of the hardest challenges can be making small talk.
1. Remember to breathe, whether it’s through a breathing exercise or meditating.Before reading for a Story Time or assisting a library patron, doing a few deep belly breaths always makes a difference in how calm I feel navigating the situation. There aren’t a lot of ways we can lower our fight-or-flight response, but deep breathing is one of them. (For you, breathing may be in the form of meditating — do whatever works.)
By taking a few deep breaths, we can slow our heart rate and remind our body that there’s no immediate threat. I remember that the patrons aren’t saber-toothed tigers ready to pounce on me. They’re simply human… just like me.
5. Have talking points prepared (since you probably don’t love spontaneous conversations).One of the hardest challenges for introverts can be small talk. In a situation where you’re working with the public, though, it is a necessary skill. To help hone it, write down some possible talking points in advance to help make yourself — and the other person — feel more at ease.
For example, in the library, I often try to engage patrons by asking them what they’re currently reading. Try to pay attention to details, too. If the customer has a child with them, I’ll ask what their name is and engage with them. This leads to a positive encounter with both child and adult.
Think about where you work and customize your talking points to that setting. If you work at a vet’s office, for instance, ask patrons about their pets — how they got their name, where they got their pet, and so on. The more specific you can be, the better.
8. Focus on the things you do love about your job.Taking a moment to focus on what you do enjoy at work, and what isn’t draining, but energizing, can help you cope with when you have to do less enjoyable tasks.
For me, I reflect on how rewarding it is when I help a child find a book they are excited to read, or the joy on kids’ faces when I’m doing a craft program.
Every job has things about it we don’t love, but if we can focus on the things we do enjoy about it, that will get us through the hard tasks. You can even write the positives down so that they’ll serve as a reminder on the tough days.