In many workplace and social settings, those of us who consider people’s characteristics might wonder about whether someone is introverted or extroverted. Even if we don’t explicitly try to label someone, we might think about whether we should invite them to a social event or ask them to present at a team meeting. This can be influenced by how we perceive they are placed on the introversion/ extroversion continuum.
I recently was fortunate enough to co-facilitate a workshop for education professionals. My fellow facilitator is an introvert, whilst I am a fully “certified” and clearly identifiable extrovert. We both recognise our own preferences, as well as valuing what we each bring to a situation. In this case, we were able to bring a nice contrast of presentation styles. She is quietly spoken, with a gentle and supportive manner. I’m much more energised and passionate in how I present.
Whilst working on the content for our workshop, we were also very conscious of our differing preferences. When brainstorming ideas, she would prefer to sit quietly with a new question or thought, considering it from many angles before proposing numerous ideas. Her ideas were always considered and detailed. In contrast, my ideas almost seemed to flow freely, rapidly moving from one topic to another. We both respect each other’s styles, so we enjoy many benefits from our contrasting approaches.
Not surprisingly, our participants also were a mix of introverts and extroverts. As we had been conscious of this mix when planning activities, we ensured that there was always a quiet space of time, even if it was only 2 mins, to give the introverts time to think quietly, without having the extroverts providing their distractions.
So are you an introvert or extrovert? And what difference does it make to how you work within your team?
If you’re an extrovert, as I am, you may want to provide breathing space in your team meetings for introverts to contemplate a new idea. I will often consciously hold back on sharing my view until I know that the introverts have had time to express themselves. In teleconferences, consider occasionally naming each person in turn, giving them the opportunity to share their ideas.
As an introvert, if you know that you prefer to think about new ideas before offering an opinion, you might ask if there is any pre-reading to help you prepare for a meeting. You could also consider offering to chair the meeting, thus promoting yourself, whilst practising those skills that appear to be so valued in the workplace. In networking situations, prepare a few open-ended questions that will make it easier to engage with other participants.
Ultimately, a mix of introverts and extroverts helps provide balance to interactions, working styles and energy levels. As one member of the workshop commented, ‘I had a great and informative day and have taken a great deal away, ready for my next presentation. I don’t know if the extroverts wanted to hear that the introverts exist, but I’m glad that was acknowledged’.