Monday, October 18, 2010

Extraverts Working With Introverts

We are all aware that our personality traits exist within a wide or narrow spectrum. Within that band, we can be low, moderate, or high on the introvert /extraversion trait.

If you are low in extraversion, you are referred to as being high in introversion.

While personality can help predict how someone is likely to behave, it doesn’t always determine how we behave towards them. The situation, the setting, how others act, our mood, our values, our intentions, etc – are just as likely to have an impact or force a reaction in our behaviour and actions.

None the less, the behaviours of an extreme introvert and an extreme extravert can vary so dramatically in response to an identical situation. If you are apart on th eintrovert /extravert scale then you may have difficulty understanding how and why the other person is reacting in the way they are.

To be an effective leader, you must be able to recognise and adapt your style to integrate and complement the characteristics of others. To work effectively in a team situation, it is essential that you recognise, respect, and meld with the differences of others.

Emotional Expression
One hallmark of extraverts is that they are very likely to display positive emotions whenever they feel them. In contrast, an introvert may be very happy or pleased, yet less attentive colleagues around them may not recognise a change because they are more restrained and reserved in their emotional expression.

Introverts will not jump up and down in response to a birthday gift or a promotion but you cannot assume that they are unhappy or unappreciative of the event. They are more likely to express their true emotions through words rather than actions. Remember to take those words at face value and don’t read too much into them.

Information Processing
Extraverts will express their thoughts as they occur and sometimes start talking before their thoughts are fully developd or make sense, even to them.

If introverts start taking without a plan in mind, then they will only get very embarassed and confused by the immediate feedback from their colleagues. This is especially true in problem-solving.

Don’t expect an instant answer from an introvert because they have a complex checks and balance thought process to undergo, prior to providing a response.

It's always good meeting management to provide everyone with the agenda, the problem, the questions, etc and a summary of the expected outcome or action. It maximises the contributions that everyone will make and is especially important to give the introverts a chance to pre-think their views.

In recent years, open collaboration spaces have become very popular and are great for the extraverts. However, make sure you also have private, quiet spaces where work can be done relative 'privacy' and without interruptions. Introverts work better if their 'personal space' is not invaded.

Social Interaction
It is a misconception that introverts have poor social skills or are shy. It appears this way because introverts expend more nervous energy and become drained after interacting with others and they need to recharge after such event by retreating into their 'personal space' and taking some '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 and in additionally complex way, they may be slow to express what they are thinking through speech. Give them time to finish expressing themselves, without interrupting.

Quick tips:

  • Extraverts tend to dominate brainstorming sessions. Ask introverts for their opinion specifically in a 'round robin' manner and create an atmosphere where they can be heard without interruptions.
  • Phone conversations create awkward pauses when the introvert is thinking. Use email if you want to get their clear and comprehensive thoughts around a topic.
  • Introverts will often keep their emotions, interests, ideas, and thoughts to themselves. It takes time, trust, and relationship bilding 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.

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