The unspoken battle between introverts and extroverts
By Jacob Espinoza
Lauren sat silently in the meeting as Chris and Kate bounced ideas back and forth about a new internal program rollout. A few others chimed in, but with eight people in the room, Chris and Kate did 80% of the talking.
Lauren was promoted a month earlier and was still getting comfortable with her new group of peers. She felt like she was supposed to be contributing to the conversation, but there was good energy in the room, and she didn’t mind letting others do most of the talking.
Zach pulled Lauren to the side after the meeting.
“I couldn’t help but notice how quiet you were in the meeting today. Is everything okay?”
Lauren had always been a quiet person. She didn’t realize this was a potential problem.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just wasn’t sure what to add to the conversation.”
“Well, I’ve worked with you in the past, and I know you are brilliant,” Zach responded. “I know you are new to your role, but this team is going to be better because of the ideas you bring to helping us launch programs. It’s a big reason why I hired you.”
It felt good having her value recognized by her new boss. The group met the following week again to finalize details before rolling out the plan. Lauren was ready to step in and contribute, but finding space to step into the conversation seemed impossible.
It seemed like there was always someone immediately stepping in to add to someone else’s thought. Did they freaking rehearse this before the meeting?
She tried raising her hand a few times, but nobody noticed or cared.
After a bit, she felt defeated, put her hand down, and returned to her role as an observer.
The meeting was wrapping up, and the team had their plan on the board. Lauren knew that plan was incomplete and was going to fail, but she felt like it was too late to say anything.
Then Zach caught her by surprise. “Lauren, I saw your hand up earlier. Did you have something you wanted to add?”
She felt the pressure of the room’s attention.
“I think we have a lot of great ideas on the board, but there isn’t any clarity around who is owning each piece of this project. We also don’t have any due dates. I feel like this is what happened last time also. We had a lot of great ideas, but there was a lack of clarity around what everyone was supposed to be doing.”
What can you takeaway from this story?
Great leaders create space for both introverts and extroverts to thrive. A team can only be at their best if everyone is able to contribute.
When a few people dominate the conversations, your results will suffer.
A few things to keep in mind when it comes to navigating the introvert/extrovert dynamic.
Everyone is both an introvert and an extrovert, but we also have a place where we are most natural. (Think of it like rooms in a house. You travel around the house during the day but return to your room at night.)
Extroverts are comfortable interrupting.
Introverts will wait for space.
Extroverts think and talk at the same time.
Introverts will want time to think through an idea before speaking it out loud.
Extroverts: Do > Think > Do
Introverts: Think > Do > Think
A few basic to know about introverts:
- prefer brainstorming solo or in a small group of people they are comfortable with
- are private and contained
- work out ideas by reflecting on them
A few basics to know about extroverts: –
- like brainstorming in groups
- use our hands when we talk
- enjoy talking through problems
Introverts want time to think.
- Don’t put them on the spot and expect them to speak to a large group of people.
- Send out agendas before meetings.
Two easy ways to show your team you respect them and are supportive.
Not all silence is equal.
- If an introverted teammate is quiet and tells you they are fine, believe them and don’t take it personally.
- If an extroverted teammate suddenly gets quiet and says they are fine, get worried.
What have you learned about navigating the introvert/extrovert dynamic?