March 9, 2014
How to Effectively Manage Introverts
by Josh Lowry
It is estimated that one-third of Americans are introverts. Introverts are people whose flow is directed inward toward ideas and concepts versus extroverts whose flow is directed outward toward people and objects. Other differences include: Introverts are thought-oriented; extroverts are action-oriented. Introverts get energy (and recharge) from solitude; extroverts get energy from people. Introverts prefer substantial interaction; extroverts prefer frequent interaction. Introverts seek depth of knowledge and influence; extroverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence.
The chemicals that transmit information between the brain and body (neurotransmitters) are different in introverts and extroverts. The reticular activating system in the brain stem ensures the brain maintains an optimal level of stimulation. Stimulation is regulated by socializing. An introvert’s brain is highly stimulated. They need less socializing to reach the optimal level. Too much socializing exhausts them and creates stress. An extrovert’s brain is less stimulated. They needs more socializing to reach the optimal level. Too little socializing creates boredom and dissatisfaction.
If you are not introverted yourself, chances are you are managing an introvert on your team. Because introverts and extroverts are not “wired” the same, they should not be managed the same. In fact, introverts and extroverts communicate and work very differently. One of a leader’s primary functions is to align the right people with the right roles and ensure they are empowered and supported to be successful. To achieve optimal communication and effectiveness in the workplace, below are five myths about introverts and ten tactics for effectively managing them.
Five Myths about Introverts
- Introverts are not social. Introverts do not talk unless they have something to say. They minimize small talk.
- Introverts are rude. Introverts are honest and real. They bypass social pleasantries for direct communication.
- Introverts are shy. Introverts are not afraid of people. However, they rarely interact with them without a reason.
- Introverts do not like people. Introverts value close friends and family. They are loyal to their inner circle.
- Introverts do not like to go out in public. Introverts like to go out, but not for long. They get overstimulated.
Ten Tactics to Effectively Manage Introverts
- Creativity – Give introverts advance notice and time to prepare before an ideation session.
- Judgment – Do not judge introverts for being quiet or reserved – they are processing information.
- Meeting – Provide an agenda in advance of meeting to enable preparation and engagement.
- Participation – Create an environment that encourages everyone to be heard, either verbally or in writing.
- Privacy – Give introverts alone and quiet time to re-charge themselves for greater productivity and efficiency.
- Recognition – Avoid giving introverts public recognition (putting attention on them) without advance notice.
- Teaming – Know that introverts perform better and are more comfortable in small groups versus large events.
- Time – Give introverts a specific time frame for socailizing (e.g., 6PM-8PM); undefined periods overstimulate them.
- Urgency – Give introverts time to reflect and respond during conversations and meetings.
- Writing – Accommodate an introverts preference for writing over conversation whenever possible.
All contents copyright © 2014, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.