Summary: If you are more of an introvert and manage / work with extroverts, you first have to acknowledge that they are different to you and then above all let them speak and don’t kill their enthusiasm. Also, train yourself in the extrovert ways.
I think this post is really an auto-coaching one for me, almost a stream of consciousness as regards my daily adjustments to the world around me. This is me collecting and systematising thoughts on how to maintain full access to your calmness and internal resources in a world / environment with strong extroverts. I hope that by the end of this post, I’ll have some sound advice for myself and maybe it will be useful to you as well.
The world is split between people who tend to be of a more of an extrovert nature and people who are rather of introvert nature – according to some estimates, the population consists of a third to a half of introverts. I am an introvert who flexes their style accordingly – e.g. if I’m in a room full of introverts, I will make an effort to connect with people, try to get that team spirit going, drop a joke or two etc. Generally, though, if I don’t have anything valuable to say in a meeting, I have to remember to participate by summarising, encouraging etc. instead of just sitting there in silence.
But I’m definitely not an extrovert. How to tell if someone is? Here are some major characteristics:
- They speak to think (introverts think to speak) and therefore everybody around them can hear their thinking process
- They thrive in group processes – brainstorming is an extrovert orgy – as they get energy from outside and they are most creative when they can bounce ideas off other people (introverts like to think first a bit and then get an idea out there)
- They are normally loud and enthusiastic. Quite often they will challenge the more introverted team members as regards their ‘pessimism’ – that’s their defence mechanism, as they absolutely need that energetic feedback from their environment and if they’re not getting it, they are overcome with a certain type of extrovert anxiety
- They very often will talk about themselves – not because they are self-centred, they’re just thinking out loud!
- I’ve also noticed that they have a tendency to have a different definition of ‘personal space’ to an intovert’s definition – they like physical encouragement like pats on the back, as well as louder, verbal acknowledgement of their contribution
Those are the main points for me, obviously this topic’s been explored pretty heavily, so there will be more descriptive texts about them. These are my observed criteria to help me understand who I am dealing with. And that’s the key – because if you treat an extrovert like an introvert, you will get nowhere, apart from head first into the land of eternal frustration. But once you know that the person in front of you has extrovert tendencies, you can start replacing your frustration with thoughtful acceptance and focus on making it work instead. Awareness is the first step!
Moving onto the next part of my stream of consciousness – you’ve identified the other person is an extrovert, you acknowledge and accept it and you want to build a working relationship with them. How do you do it and what to watch out for:
- Watch out for being snappy when answering questions (even closed ones) – I’ve noticed that if an extrovert asks a closed question, he / she doesn’t actually expect the answer to be ‘yes’ or ‘no’, even though it defies the very definition of a closed question. So make an effort – ‘yes and…’ or ‘not really, because…’. Remember that they need interaction with you to be able to get the energy to function on a creative level
- Make the other person aware of the differences in thinking to inoculate them trying to treat you like an extrovert – you as an introvert can be easily overwhelmed if you don’t agree some boundaries. Full of enthusiasm and openness discuss your way of working with the extrovert, tell her / him how your brain ticks and agree that e.g. before you both go and stand next to the board to do some brainstorming out loud, you will be given some time alone in silence to have a think about the ideas first and organise thoughts that way. Otherwise you’ll be frustrated that you can’t get a word in – but remember that this is not the extrovert’s ‘fault’, it is not done intentionally or marginalise you. It is just the way they function
- One of the worst things you can do is to try to curb the extrovert’s enthusiasm, especially in a passive-aggressive way. You as an introvert can build a beneficial synergy between you two – but if you try to make the extrovert behave like an introvert, you will inevitably fail. If they’re being too optimistic, offer your maybe more realistic opinion in a non-confrontational way and direct the extrovert’s efforts into actions around your potentially more realistic points
- Help each other, grow together. As I mentioned at the beginning, there’s way too many extroverts / introverts on our globe to just be able to say ‘don’t care about them, I’ll just work with people similar to me, don’t need to improve my communication skills / attitude’. Well, you’re missing out on a great opportunity then and will regret it someday. Look at the tech introverts of our times – Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Musk – all of them have been working hard on adding extrovert elements to their way of being, as they understand that they are indispensable if you want to connect with more people. So instead of ignoring extroverts, establish a ‘grow together’ culture, where the extrovert will be telling you when your answers were too snappy or when you (most likely unintentionally) killed his enthusiasm by being too ‘realistic’. It’s a great thing to have that kind of a source of feedback that is so different to you, as you will gain some valuable insights you don’t hear everyday (because most of us spend most of our time with people similar to us). Similarly, tell the extrovert (in private, though!) when they dominated the discussion too much and interrupted everybody or when they didn’t allow you to think things through, wanted your opinion straight away and were then frustrated with you refusing to offer it there and then
- Finally, don’t be frustrated or annoyed with extorvert’s amount of talking and under no circumstance tell them to stop talking – remember, this is as if you told them to stop thinking!!
Yeah, this auto-coaching post really helped me structure my thoughts. If you got to the end – well done, hope it was worth it! Now go out there and harvest the synergies you’ll build with the extroverts.
Picture at the top comes from keydifferences.com