A lot gets written by people like me (eg this article) about how we Extraverts need to appreciate the Introverts more. Susan Cain’s “Quiet. The power of the introverted mind in a world that can’t stop talking“ is a superb commentary on the value that the quieter people bring, and it’s a great help in appreciating the very different world that people with the Introversion preference inhabit (click here to work out which is your preference).
But what about the needs of the Extravert?
This subject tends to get overlooked somewhat. Why? Because Extraverts are seen generally to have, on the face of it, an unfair advantage in life. Society seems to favour the outgoing style, the natural relationship builders, the gregarious and socially at-ease. Kids are encouraged to develop their social skills from an early age, and playing quietly in your bedroom or reading is something we as parents have to “watch out for” and “adjust” if it seems to be developing into a “bad habit.”
So because the Extraverts are seen to have the advantage, we encourage them to compensate for the Introverts rather than the other way around. Allow Introverts more space, give them time to think, gently encourage them to open up in meetings, don’t expose them or pounce on them in public, slow things down, shut up for once in your life, run silent brainstorming sessions……
But this is a two way street, surely? Society is split more or less 50/50 into Introverts and Extraverts, so in the interest of fairness surely the Introverts need to adjust as well? Too right, say I. Let’s hear it for the Extraverts!
So, in what way do we want the Introverts to adjust?
I think this grid, for which I’m grateful to Knowledge is Power, is a great place to start. All of these work for me, particularly number 7. Just ask my wife. Put me in front of a problem and I will want to attack it immediately (preferably with a 14lb sledgehammer). It can produce surprising results (and of course regularly ends in disaster).
It’s great advice for an Introverted Leader who may have a bunch of Extraverts in his or her team. Susan Cain makes the point that Introverted leaders who have a proactive team can make a great partnership. Using the principles shown on this grid, the energy of an Extroverted team can really be unleashed. It’s a case of “light the blue touchpaper and stand well back”, as the rocket fires off into the night sky, fizzing and cracking as it goes. Just make sure that fireworks are allowed, and that you have pointed it in the right direction, well away from that thatched roof.
I’d love to hear from the Introverts what other strategies they use for harnessing the potential of the Extraverts they work with.