make an occasional comment, offer a suggestion, or ask for clarification of someone else's point. She can nod, smile, or even frown in response to others' comments to show she's fully present and paying attention. And, to avoid giving the wrong impression when she needs more time to think about an issue, she can explain that she needs more time. That way, coworkers won't falsely think she has simply tuned out.
Sure, she might find it uncomfortable to speak without taking that extra think-about-it time. In fact, initially, speaking spontaneously is likely to feel extremely awkward. But it might not take long for people to see her more positively.
Both Kurt and Sandra seemed surprised when I suggested that they should take the lead in effecting the kinds of changes they want to see. But, if they want to transform negative perceptions into positive ones, they need to be willing to make some small adjustments in their communication styles. In the process, they might discover skills and capabilities they didn't know they had.
At the end of an introversion/extroversion workshop I presented for an IT division, I invited participants to describe some small adjustment they were going to make. A self-described "relentless extrovert" said he was going to try harder to be a "self-stifling listener." And an introvert-one of the most reserved in the division-said she was going to venture out of her cubicle once in a while to drop in on teammates. On hearing that, the entire class cheered!
If you feel others misinterpret your behavior and your good intentions, what small first step will you make to transform that perception?