- So first, you need to be able to recognize yourself. Are you an introvert or extrovert?
- Second, you need to be able to make some observations about the people you work with. Are they introverts or extroverts?
- Third, you need to be able to apply this knowledge at work to have the best possible relationship and outcome.
What about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
You might be an extrovert if...
- You're the life of the party
- You like to talk (a lot)
- You get bored being alone
- You're energized from interacting with people
- You sometimes feel wiped out after spending time with people
- You need to retreat to solitude to recharge your batteries
- You think about what you say before saying it
- You're energized from time alone
Now, what about the people you work with? Are they introverts or extroverts?
You can't necessarily know just by looking whether someone is introverted or extroverted, because it's not about their external social interactions, but about how they get their energy - whether they get energy from within, being by themselves or from without, being with others. But you often have clues...
In the extreme, extroverts often seem chatty, talkative, energetic, open, outgoing, uninhibited. They may like to work in a group and meet face to face to talk things through. Introverts may appear to be shy, reserved, quiet, thoughtful and serious. They may like to work alone and meet with others only when necessary.
Now, once you understand where you fit and more about the people you're working with, how can you work better together?
Working with extroverts:
- They like to talk things out and this is part of their process for solving a problem.
- They work things out as they speak, versus working things out before they speak.
- Don't expect them to come up with a fully formed plan right away, but to be working it out as they talk through it.
- White-boarding style brainstorming sessions are a good forum for this.
- Be prepared to spend extra time listening.
- Be prepared to spend time listening about non-work related personal topics, but set boundaries if you need to, if extroverted socializing starts to intrude on getting your work done.
- They like to think things out before they speak. This can lead to long pauses and blank looks as they are considering what to say.
- If you ask them a question, they may not be ready to answer right away, but may want to go off and consider it first.
- Realize that just because they're not talking, doesn't mean they're not paying attention or trying to solve the problem.
- Extroverts may dominate group discussions, so don't miss out on the good things an introvert might share. If they're not speaking up, you might ask "What do you think about this, ______?"
- Help them mentally prepare for a meeting by sending out an agenda and meeting materials ahead of time.
- If you need them to share something specific in a meeting, give them forewarning.
- Don't be put off by their reserved nature - go out of your way to get to know them better.
My personal experiences...
I am an introvert. Others have had the impression that I am shy or stuck up and as a child I was nicknamed "bookworm". Here are some of the things on the job I've discovered that help me out. My work is often full of interpersonal interaction. Sometimes I am overwhelmed and need to regroup. I try to include downtime to think things through. I also try to balance out my workload during the day and the week - so if I have many meetings I also spend time doing solitary work that involves things like writing or number-crunching. I'm learning to be more comfortable not forcing myself to come up with an answer when I'm put on the spot, but instead to say "Let me think about that and get back to you". I find I do better in meetings when I'm prepared for them ahead of time, so if I'm leading a meeting, I put together an agenda, so I can stay focused. I enjoy working with extroverts I've encountered, but it helps to recognize and accept their unique differences. I'm prepared when I'm talking with certain people, for the conversation to be a little longer and range a little further afield, but knowing that in advance makes it easier for me.
What about you? Are you an introvert or extrovert? How does it affect your style at work?