Hello, Extrovert Leaders! How are you? I’d love to meet you in person, but I seldom have the chance.
You see, I give talks on how organizations are overlooking and under-utilizing the people who are generally called introverts, whom I call “quietly brilliant.” (The term introvert is fine, even though in our society the label is too often confused with shy or neurotic.)
When I give my talks, the room is generally crowded – sometimes with standing room only – with introverts. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm but sad that I am repeatedly preaching to the choir. Introverts are grateful to have their positive attributes discussed openly, along with ways leaders can help them engage. But they often say the same thing, “The person who needs to be here isn’t. I wish my extrovert supervisor could hear this.”
So I’m asking you: why do you not come? Is it that you think you don’t need to know how to engage with us because there aren’t that many of us in the workplace? Perhaps you don’t realize introverts are over 50% of the population; this would include your employees, staff, and team members.
By the way, that includes your customers and clients, too.
Wouldn’t you like to:
• Turn those cool and seemingly unapproachable colleagues and teammates into warm and dedicated contributors?
• Run meetings where EVERYONE contributes without pulling teeth?
• Discover new sources of innovative leadership in your organization that you didn’t suspect existed?
• Develop warm collaboration within your department and with other departments?
• Work with resistant, deep-thinking prospects to earn their respect – and eventually their business?
• Use rewards that really fit individual temperament – and truly motivate people?
And this knowledge and these skills aren’t limited to your professional life.
Maybe you have one of the following challenges:
• A child who doesn’t seem motivated in the same ways you are, and you are exhausted trying to reach them.
• Your mate sometimes retreats into a private world where you can’t seem to follow.
All of these and more are reasons to understand the neurological differences between introverts and extroverts, and to be willing to work with those differences to facilitate communication.
Here are a few starting points:
We prefer quality over quantity: “Innie’s” brains respond more strongly to external stimulation of all kinds – conversation, noise, clutter – than do “outies.” So we get overwhelmed and exhausted more easily. As a consequence, we need to retreat to recover from too many conversations and ideas. We want meaningful conversations, not “small talk.”
We process things deeply: Information that enters the introvert’s brain is processed through more areas of the brain than for the extrovert before the introvert responds. In addition, quiet people are often storehouses – no, warehouses – of detailed information that they can pull together to give a really insightful picture of a situation.
So how do handle these differences? Here are some of the things you can do to connect and communicate:
• Send advance signals when you want to engage an introvert
A good place to start, if you run meetings, is to have an agenda that you give out in advance (not just on the table as the meeting starts). Or you can casually give verbal advance notice, as in, “We’re meeting later today and I’d like your thoughts on ….”
• Slow down and allow pauses in conversation
You may expect conversation to flow quickly and easily. When there is a pause, you may be tempted to fill the silence with prompting, such as, “So what do you think?” or “Should we go ahead with this?
Curb that impulse. After you’ve fired your request, if you’re pretty sure you’re talking to one of these quiet people, take a deep breath, relax your body language, and wait for what you will feel is an interminable amount of time but is actually just as few seconds. The result can be a thoughtful, in-depth response, and can be well worth waiting for.
You can also fire off your request, leave the scene, and come back later, asking, “Do you have any further thoughts on what I said earlier?”
More reasons to motivate you to understand introversion
Introverts may constitute more than 50% of the intellectually gifted. In fact, one study indicates we may be 75% of the gifted. With people such as Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett on our team, it’s no surprise to some of us.
As a lifelong introvert, I realize introverts also need to develop skills to understand the extrovert temperament, reach out, and communicate better. It’s a two-way street on which I am dedicated to making the traffic flow better.
But I need both sides to participate to make this truly happen. Please join in the discussion if and when you have a chance. Learning how to connect and communicate with people who are different from you is a life-enriching experience, both professionally and personally.
Finally, when faced with what seems to be a non-participating employee, consider this question asked by a veteran consultant: “Did you hire them that way, or did you make them that way?”
Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based acclaimed national speaker, author, and executive coach with more than 30 years of experience in speaking and training.
Author of The Confident Introvert, and a life-long successful introvert, she believes that America is overlooking and even discouraging its intellectual treasure: the 51% of the population who are introverts, and who are highly representative of the gifted.
In addition to helping quiet people thrive in a culture that idealizes extroversion, she gives leaders the tools to manage diverse groups in the same setting, and to develop the talent that is quietly under their noses.
Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.