How to Work With Introverts

Jul 13, 2010
6 Min Read

Extraversion is one of the major personality traits. Our personality stays relatively stable throughout our lives. Personality traits exist on a spectrum, so we can be low, moderate, or high on the extraversion trait. If you are low in extraversion, it is referred to as being high in introversion.

While personality can help predict how someone is likely to behave, it doesn’t determine how we behave. The situation, the setting, how others act, our mood, our values, our intentions, among other things – are just as likely to have an impact on our behavior and actions.

That being said, the behaviors of an extreme introvert and an extreme extravert can vary so drastically in response to an identical situation that one may have quite a difficult time understanding where the other is coming from. To be an effective leader, you must be able to adapt your style. To work effectively in a team situation, it is helpful to recognize, respect, and work with the differences of others.

Emotional Expression

One hallmark of extraverts is they are very likely to display positive emotions whenever they feel them. In contrast, an introvert may be very happy or pleased, yet nobody around them would recognize it because they tend to be more reserved in their emotional expression. They most likely will not jump up and down in response to a birthday gift or a promotion. But don’t assume they are unhappy or unappreciative. They are more likely to express their true emotions through words rather than actions. Take those words at face value and don’t read into it.

Information Processing

Extraverts sometimes must start talking before their thoughts begin to make sense to them. Introverts are opposite in that if they start taking without a plan in mind, they will only get more confused. This is especially true in problem-solving. Don’t catch them off-guard with a question and expect a good answer. Prior to a meeting or a collaboration session, provide everyone with the agenda, the problem, the questions, etc. This will maximize the contributions that introverts make. In recent years, open collaboration spaces have become very popular. However, make sure you also have private, quiet spaces where work can be done without interruptions.

Social Interaction

It is a misconception that introverts have poor social skills or are shy. It probably comes about because introverts become drained (and thus, ineffective) after interacting with others and they become recharged after taking alone time. Introverts are more likely to enjoy interacting with others one-on-one than in larger group settings. They also tend to enjoy getting to know a few people very well rather than lots of people superficially. Because introverts process information internally, they may be slow talkers. Give them time to finish without interrupting.

Quick tips:

  • Extraverts tend to dominate brainstorming sessions. Ask introverts for their opinion specifically and create an opportunity for them to be heard without interruptions.
  • Phone conversations create awkward pauses when the introvert is thinking. Use email if you want to get their clearest thoughts around a topic.
  • Introverts will often keep their emotions, interests, ideas, and thoughts to themselves. It takes time, trust, and a great relationship to get to know them fully.
  • Introverts have a larger personal space bubble and a lower tolerance for external stimuli. Hold the hugs, turn down the music, and give them some space.

To work effectively in a team situation, it is helpful to recognize, respect, and work with the differences of others.

Great team members, as well as great leaders, come in both varieties – introverts and extraverts.

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