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The Challenges of Introverts

The Challenges of Introverts, through the eyes of an Extrovert

As an extrovert who has grown up in a family of extroverts, working mostly with extroverts for the first 15 years of my career and living in a country that is typically more extroverted, I grew up assuming everyone was like me, with extroverted behaviours.  Thank goodness that is not actually the case.

First of all let’s just clarify what an introvert versus an extrovert is.  Simply, an introvert thinks to talk and an extrovert, talks to think. When you next sit with someone that you know is quite different to you, take a moment to notice, what do they do compared to you.  Do they process in their mind before they talk, or do they talk and then talk some more, to make sense of what they have just said?  One cannot always assume that extroverts are always the loud ones and introverts are always the quiet ones but mostly, in my experience this is the case.

Working with introverts (both colleagues and clients) I see how useful it can be to think, articulate in your head and then speak, rather than speak to fill the silence. I see first-hand how introverted leaders can gain a following as ‘Quiet Leaders’ and I see the quality of conversations introverts have when they have the space to engage in depth, rather than superficial chit-chat.  Yet as many extroverts do, I can also find introverted ways challenging and understand the challenges that introverts face in a day to day business environment.

Some examples:

  1. Not having time or space to process thinking – I have seen introverts ‘go inside their own head’ and become quieter and quieter to the point they are almost pretending that the extrovert is no longer in the room.   Just because you ignore extroverts, doesn’t mean they will go away.  In fact you will probably have the opposite effect.
  2. Having verbal information only – Introverts will typically prefer email or written information to conversation or excessive dialogue. However, in most cases a face to face conversation will save time and confusion that an email can often bring. The key is finding out which method is more appropriate for the situation and/or can both be used?
  3. When people meet for the sake of meeting – All of the introverts I know need to have a reason to meet whereas extroverts are quite happy to meet to “chit chat” and to simply catch up. Don’t underestimate the benefits that can come from ‘shooting the breeze’ now and again – to build increased connection with others.

As an extrovert, when working with introverts I have learned to slow down and take a moment to think before I speak and I allow some space so they can process what I have said.  I also accept that it’s ok if they would rather sit in the other room to focus on their work rather than converse with me to work through the project together.

It’s about recognising what works not only for yourself but for others you work and interact with on a day to day level.

As an introvert, what are you doing to find out what works for extroverts in your day to day life?


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