NOV 8, 2021
Warrior to Watch: Jill Chang
Discover the Strength in Silence in Jill Chang’s Quiet is a Superpower
Check out the latest installment of our Warrior-to-Watch series, where we shine the spotlight on women who inspire us to chase dreams, hustle hard, and #DoGoodLookIncredible. Jill Chang, the author of Quiet is a Superpower: The Secret Strengths of Introverts in the Workplace, shares her adventures, challenges, and the beauty of discovering how strength in silence impacts her life, career, and motherhood.
Your book, Quiet is a Superpower: The Secret Strengths of Introverts in the Workplace has impacted many people across the globe (extroverts included!). What inspired you to write it?
It started as a simple thought of wanting to share my stories and experiences so that my fellow Introverts, especially the younger ones, won’t suffer so much and think that they are so alienated in life. Growing up as an introvert is not an easy road - a lot of times we experience self-doubt and lack self-confidence. We think: “Oh, am I the only weirdo here?” Especially when I entered the workforce, I thought "everyone is so good except me” because I’m too quiet, and I wanted to change that.
Things started to change for me after I read books about introverts. I know that not everyone has the opportunity to access those international books because most of them are not translated into traditional Chinese, like the ones available in Taiwan. This inspired me to write a book in traditional Chinese to share with my fellow Taiwanese introverts and to say that “Yes, there are successful people who are introverts.” These are my stories and hopefully, they can be helpful to you in your journey.
Why is quiet a superpower?
The title came from a photo that I saw on the internet. It was a photo of a boy playing alone by a river. The others asked him “why are you so quiet?” and he answered, “because it’s my superpower”. I was really impressed, and it struck a chord in me. Yes, maybe that is the way we should look at ourselves instead of trying to be loud. To be perfectly honest, I think that the world is too loud sometimes, to the extent that a lot of times you need to scream to be heard. Living in this world makes me think that maybe we are all trying to make our voices louder than necessary. But sometimes, being quiet or expressing yourself in a manner that is more you - is more powerful compared to all the methods we are used to.
What were the biggest changes in your life since the release of your book?
There’s definitely been a lot of changes *laughs* I think after the book was launched, it created a totally different identity for me. Before the book was published, I was a very regular 9-5 office lady. I work every day and am only impactful because of my role in the job that I do in my company. But now that I am a published author, a public speaker, and an influencer - I do have the privilege of enjoying some publicity, and that’s where the huge change comes in - in positive and challenging ways.
I’m curious, can you elaborate more on the challenging ways?
You know, I don’t even know if it’s more positive or more challenging but I would say that it’s probably 50/50. I enjoy that I have become more impactful and more influential. I have the privilege to hear different feedback from different people and get to know people that I would never have had the chance to know if I didn’t write the book. So, for me, that’s a huge privilege - to know that people would listen to me without me having to scream all the time in trying to get visibility or attention. So, that’s definitely a huge plus for me. On the more challenging side, because I’m an extremely private person, and I prefer not to expose my personal life in front of everybody, I needed to compromise and find the right balance. I have two agents. One is based in Taiwan, one is based in the US. They both encourage me to do more social media and do more speaking engagements, etc. But that’s probably not my favorite way of interacting with the world. *laughs* And I also feel that because people know my name and face, people would recognize me when I’m not as prepared, so that’s the most challenging part! I feel like I have to always be prepared even when I’m just grocery shopping, you know? *laughs* That's definitely the more challenging part.
Exploring Taiwan in Vicky
In your book, you championed “listening” and “empathy” in the workplace. How best can we practice now that most of us are working from home?
I really like this question because I’ve been working remotely for six years now, and I feel that in a remote working setting, people are more willing to listen. For me, it’s great because that means there are more space and opportunities for introverts to express their perspectives, it’s a great direction for us to move forward.
To answer how we can best practice these traits, for example, “empathy” is the ability to put yourself into the other’s shoes, right? It’s helpful in the remote work setup because we all experience different situations at home; there are people who have kids, people who are juggling other tasks - you learn to be more understanding and to be more helpful. It’s an important skill because the cost of communication is so high that a lot of times we are required to over-communicate. Having the ability to read or sense people’s needs is helpful in remote communicating. Whether it’s a remote or in-person work setup, for me empathy is the baseline of communicating with others. It’s putting yourself in their shoes, and understanding what they need, and how to help them, because eventually, it will help the team work better. We first have to try and understand each other’s differences and try to respect that and find a way to adjust and adapt to them.
A lot of times, especially for introverts in an in-person work setting, it’s not always easy for everyone to see an introvert’s talents and capabilities. We are always quiet and usually silently sitting in the corner. For all of us now working from home, it’s a good opportunity to show more creative ways to work with our team, bring out our team members’ talents, and align on how to make the best use of everyone’s capacities and capabilities.
What were the challenges you faced growing up, and how would you address them differently in the present, knowing what you know now?
I would say the number one challenge was the lack of confidence. I always thought I was too quiet and that made me different, and I didn’t think being different was a good thing because you wouldn't fit in, people wouldn’t want to be your friend, and when you grow up it will be harder to find a job, and it would be harder for your boss to like you, and it would be harder to get a raise - it’s a life long list of problem.
So if I had the opportunity to go back and talk to my younger self, I would tell her that instead of looking at the people you really admire or the people you would want to become, I would say to her to look at what you are really good at and try to maximize your strengths before looking to improve your weaknesses.. A lot of times that leads to overthinking or over reflecting on ourselves, and in turn that would lead to more self-doubt. I would encourage the younger me to embrace who I really am, to be positive, and try to be creative about it.
How would you instill the principle of Quiet is a Superpower to your daughter?
I don’t think it’s applicable here, because my daughter is on the extroverted side of the spectrum. *laughs* But one thing that I have found true for both introverted and extroverted kids is that they get nervous when they are introduced to a new environment; going to school for the first day, or meeting new friends for the first time.What I did for my daughter was to guide her in getting to know a new environment or a new group of people gradually. Unlike how my parents did it with me, they just sent me to that new environment and left me there alone. *laughs* which I kind of appreciate now because I know where they were coming from, and that was a good learning experience too. But for my child, I use a more gentle way of guiding her to be engaged. I would take a step-by-step approach, instead of placing a lot of stimuli around her. Another principle that I try to share with my daughter is to use creative approaches she is more comfortable and confident with to solve problems. Let me share an example because a lot of times my daughter comes to me and says: “Mom, I don’t know how to do this, this is new to me so I don’t know how to solve this problem.” and I would tell her, “Yes this is new to you but there will be new challenges every day over the next 40-60 years for you! *laughs* I tell her, I don’t know everything either but what you can do is take a look at the resources you have and how you can use them to help you solve the problem. You don’t always need to turn to others because their experiences and approaches won’t always fit yours, right?” So, I would always encourage her to be creative, and use the talents that she already has in ways she is most comfortable with, and just be creative in engaging all the resources that she has at that point. One of the core values of this principle (Quiet is a Superpower) is that you don’t always have to follow rules because their experiences don’t always apply to you. What’s more important is to know who you are, what you are good at, know your strengths and try to maximize those strengths instead of doing what everybody else is doing or has done in the past.
How would you guide your kids in communicating with different kinds of personalities?
She’s only six *laughs* so she is too young to understand different personalities. She would know that some people are more talkative, and some are quieter, some are more active than others, and that’s all she knows about personalities. But the guideline that I am sharing with her is to respect the differences among us. I remind her every day that every kid is special in his or her own way. And having the ability to play with them, to hang out, to interact with them despite all those different personalities is a gift. So what I encourage her to do is that whenever she says, “Oh, someone is really bad, he stole something”, I would go back and ask her - okay, in addition to stealing that, what else do you see from that boy? Is he helpful when the teacher needs help? Or when someone is hurt, does he approach them to comfort them? I try to bring in different perspectives when my daughter tries to understand that person because a lot of times kids are more single-dimension because some teachers would be “Okay, that’s a bad boy because he is always noisy and that’s a good girl because she’s always quiet and gets good grades” but that’s not the only criteria we need in society, right? So, that’s how I show her people’s differences in personalities. And I think that helps her to better understand that everyone is different in their own way.
As an introvert, how do you protect your energy or reset after a long day?
My working hours are really long. My team spans sixteen time zones. I try to find time during the day to do nothing. It’s either to read a book to recharge or take a nap. *laughs* to protect my energy, and get my energy back so that I can go back to work. So like today, I started working at 5:30 AM, and the last call will start at 9 PM - so that’s my life. *laughs* Sometimes the last call will start at 11 PM - that’s definitely worse. I try to manage my schedule and my energy level by taking myself out of work. I turn off my laptop for an hour just to read or take a nap or take a walk or to workout to recharge my energy. That’s the best way I know-how.
What is your advice to introverted moms who are struggling with the guilt of needing time alone?
Oh my gosh, that’s me. *laughs* It’s especially tough for introverted moms because we do need our own space and time alone to recharge. For a period of time, I felt drained every day just by staying at home, not by working or socializing - just by talking to my kid on a daily basis and hearing that “mom!” every 30 seconds *laughs*. I think that’s a period that every parent needs to go through especially when the kid is younger, and there’s really no way to set boundaries or rules. But as the kid grows older, I think it’s very helpful - especially for introverted parents - to set the schedule. For example, every day I would set aside 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the age of the kid, as a quiet time. During that window, we can do our own things. The kid can color, scissor practice, or even watch some TV - I don’t care as long as he or she is doing his or her own thing, and I am not required to be there and respond to their needs. Quiet time is extremely helpful for remote working moms. When the kid is old enough to be aware, setting boundaries in a remote work setup is important. I learned a helpful color system to let the children know if it is a good time to talk to you or not. Like, red means definitely “no”, yellow means “yes, but only the important things you can talk to me about”, and green means “you can talk to me anytime”. There are different systems and tools that the parents can share with their kids, and that can be discussed and practiced together. It doesn’t mean that one system applies to all families, because every kid is special, every kid is different. In general, it’s to respect that introverted parents need that alone time and try to secure that because eventually in the long term, that’s what’s good for everyone.
Any fashion tips for feeling confident?
This is the most difficult question for me! *laughs* I thought about it and I think what helped me feel confident when I’m getting on the stage, or in front of a crowd is when I’m wearing a blazer with rolled-up sleeves. It makes me feel: “Yes, I’m here. I’m ready to do things.”
Warrior Lightning Round:
Early bird or night owl?
TV series or movies?
Coffee or tea?
Yoga or cardio?
What books are you reading for pleasure right now?
It’s called The Overstory by Richard Powers. It’s a novel about trees.
What is your favorite word in the English dictionary?
Adam Grant and Brandon Flowers.
If you could visit a fictional place, where would it be?
I wish I could visit one of my own dreams.
Most useful app on your phone?
It’s a Tawainese caller id app, WhosCall.
What’s your personal favorite fashion item?
Necklaces with simple jewelry like a single pearl or diamond.