In its October 2010 issue, Psychology Today discusses introversion. Which got me thinking about the way we do business in the West. Our society is skewed toward the extrovert, yet according to the Myers Briggs Personality types, about half of us are introverts.
First, introversion is not shyness. Introverts gather their energy internally, while extroverts get their energy from the environment around them. Extroverts are typically talkative, assertive and enthusiastic. Introverts are “collectors of thoughts”, and prefer long stretches of solitary activity. Introverts tend to need quiet to think, while extroverts need more stimulation around them. In fact, the level of stimulation that an extrovert craves may overwhelm an introvert.
Often in the work place, the most talkative person emerges as the leader. And many people assume that if someone doesn’t say much, they don’t have much to say. According to the research, introverts do have a lot to say. They just prefer to think and reflect carefully, before jumping in.
So this brings up the question, how do we better engage 50% of the employees in the workplace? Perhaps we need to balance our decision-making processes a bit. For example, rather than presenting PowerPoints and expecting people to respond immediately to the presentation, why not distribute a one page memo a few days in advance? Then allow people time to craft a response in writing. Or, separate the information delivery (the presentation) and the decision-making process, giving people time to reflect on the material.
As a die-hard extrovert, I know that increased time for reflection can improve my decision-making, as I’m too likely to jump to conclusions. Even a few minutes to think quietly in a meeting (or in the classroom) can improve contribution from both extroverts and introverts.
Are you unintentionally imposing your extroverted personality style on 50% of the population? How might you change to get the best out of the people you work with?