There are a lot of articles, books and TED talks at the moment about Introversion. There are 3 key things that you should know about Introverts and how they can be at their most effective at work and in life.
1 – It’s about energy
Introversion and Extraversion refers to how we get our energy and where we focus our attention. Extraverts are energised by interacting with people and Introverts find it draining. Introverts need alone time to recharge.
For Introverts to function at their most effective, they need to take recharge breaks. Whether that is a quiet office space (open plan offices bring out the best in extraverts), a quiet break in the park, or even a corner to shut out the world for a few minutes, Introverts need to manage their energy levels and recognise the need for a top up. Extraverts can help the process by recognising that it’s necessary and not overwhelming Introverts.
Like your phone, Introverts need to plug in and charge quietly when the batteries get low. Introverts often get good at creating their own “cone of silence” even in a crowded place. They can zone out and will literally not notice someone speaking to them. They don’t intend to be rude, they are just inside their own heads. This happened to me the other day at the airport. I was walking along the concourse inside my cone of silence and realised someone was calling out to me. It was someone I know and I hadn’t noticed her even though we nearly bumped into each other.
2 – Introversion is not shyness, or social ineptness.
Extraverts are interested in and pay attention to the outside world of people and things around them, while Introverts are focused on their internal world of thoughts and impressions. Introverts tend to have a small group of close friends with whom they are very comfortable.
Because they are less interested in the world of people, they may find it more difficult to make small talk with new people, until they find some common ground. Introverts tend to be quite private people and are not comfortable talking about themselves. This can make small talk challenging for them also. Find a topic in common with an Introvert and the conversation will flow.
Networking, while a crucial part of business, is not something an Introvert looks forward to. As a clear Introvert, I know I need to network, but find it a real struggle. I set myself targets to help, like “I will meet 5 new potential clients, chat to them about their businesses and exchange cards”. Setting myself a task prevents me from taking the safe option of only talking to people I know. I have also included networking events in my business scorecard to keep me on track.
3 – Introverts process by thinking
When a group of Extraverts work together they create ideas using “draft speak”. This means that what they are thinking comes out of their mouths and they build on each other’s thoughts. I had a very clear Extravert tell me one “I don’t know what I’m thinking until I say it”! Meanwhile, the Introverts in the room are thinking quietly about the issue until it is fully processed and they have their final idea or thoughts. Then, and only then, will they speak.
The challenge with groups and teams is they are more than likely going to consist of both Extraverts and Introverts. So, the Extraverts are creating thoughts and ideas by speaking, and unless the Introverts get space to speak, they are often not heard. Something they will say is “by the time I am ready to say what I think, either I can’t get a word in or the conversation has moved on and it’s too late”!
Groups I have worked with have developed processes to manage this issue. Some groups agree to circulate the agenda and papers in advance, to give people time to think about it before the meeting. Others create a respectful process where before moving on to the next topic they do a round table to capture everyone’s thoughts. Introverts can accept that draft speaking is a valid way of processing and learn to participate, and to interject perhaps before they feel 100% ready or risk missing the moment.
The big learning? It’s about understanding and accepting each other’s differences. What works for you won’t necessarily work for others – and that’s perfectly ok.
Are you an Extravert or an Introvert? Let us know in the comments!
Image via flickr
Rosalind Cardinal is The Leadership Alchemist and Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.
Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 25 years. Ros brings an energetic and proactive approach combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Her expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.
Visit www.shapingchange.com.au to pick up your complimentary copy of Ros’ e-guide to Leading Change. Written for managers who are tasked with leading organisational change, the guide presents practical steps to leading successful change.