Original Post by Christina Todisco
Maybe the rise of social networking is the cause. Or perhaps mobile devices with their array of immediate communication capabilities—such as texting, instant messaging and streaming video—are the primary drivers. And quite possibly, the reason is a mix of both.
Whatever the impetus, the difference between extroverts and introverts is a hot topic in today’s workplace. And ironically, introverts are receiving most of the attention, as a regularly undervalued and underappreciated asset in businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Why? Because, as executive coach Jeff Boss explains in his column for Forbes, introverts tend to “listen more than they talk,” while extroverts tend to “seek the spotlight.” So, the contributions of introverts often go unnoticed and unrecognized.
“In many meetings, the expectation is to speak up if you have something to say,” Boss writes. “The onus is on each individual to voluntarily provide a voice because, if you don’t, then you won’t be heard.”
The problem with this situation, according to Boss, is “organizations unknowingly cater to extroverts” and create impediments to the performance of introverts. Not a good way to encourage productivity when experts reckon one third to half of all people are introverts. And in the least, not the best approach for making the most of meeting time—whether you’re tapped to lead a session in person, over the phone or online.
Time management is the core challenge for anyone trying to balance the attributes of introverts and extroverts in a team environment. How do you keep extroverts, who work best when they “think out loud” from dominating the agenda? And how do you draw introverts into the discussion when most prefer “quiet concentration” to group settings?
Understanding Introverts & Extroverts is the First Step
Start by understanding which way you lean, which means you need to have a basic understanding of the two personality types.
The Myers & Briggs Foundation, an organization dedicated to continuing the work of two pioneers in the field of psychological types, offers a simple quiz for self-reflection. In short, extroverts pull energy from “active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities,” while introverts draw energy from an inner world of “ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions.”
Neither extroversion nor introversion are 24/7 occupations. People may act extroverted or introverted depending on conditions. As Boss and White point out in their articles, it’s possible to have shy extroverts and outgoing introverts. So, you must know your own tendencies in order to help others manage theirs. “You need to own your personality type in order for others to understand it,” writes Sarah K. White in her article for CIO.com. “Be vocal about being an introvert, or an extrovert, so you can help others better understand you and, in turn, better understand them.”
Techniques for Introverts During Meetings
If you’re an introvert, blogger Dan Rockwell suggests these preparation techniques:
- Connect One-to-One – Reach out to key participants ahead of a meeting as a means of giving yourself time to process their contributions.
- Write in Advance – “Look within with writing. Explore options, decompress, and find solutions with your pen” (or keyboard.)
- Reflect Beforehand – “Get quiet. Recharge yourself with quiet time.”
During a meeting, Rockwell recommends playing to your propensity to think before speaking: “Listen and paraphrase. Give yourself time to reflect by paraphrasing what you’ve heard.”
Techniques for Extroverts During Meetings
If you’re an extrovert, Rockwell gives these tips for engaging introverts:
- Allow Plenty of Prep Time – Send agendas ahead of time to all attendees and avoid putting anyone on the spot during a group session. As an example, Rockwell says: “When I bring up an unplanned idea to my introvert team members, I relieve stress by saying we can decide next week.”
- Acknowledge Out Loud – “Introverts know how to push themselves,” Rockwell writes. “Encourage them to push and acknowledge their efforts.” The same tactic should encourage the extroverts in the group, too.
No matter your orientation—extrovert or introvert, facilitator or contributor—practicing these methods helps you develop other business skills vital to productive meetings, such as building rapport or resolving conflict. Anything that makes your communication clear and crisp is an advantage in today’s rapid-fire digital landscape.
Do you work mostly with introverts or extroverts? What other ideas do you have for improving collaboration between them?
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