There’s an interesting question that’s been thrown around the business world today: Is it better to be an introvert or an extrovert in business today? Perhaps this is being fueled by a range of authors writing on the topic (or more often, about introversion specifically) and the uptake of their messages by being mainstage speakers at conferences coast-to-coast.
Whatever the reason for this increase in popularity of the topic, it’s a very interesting question. But first, let’s explore this with a few warnings:
- It is not uncommon that individuals use the terms incorrectly (e.g., introverts are antisocial, extroverts are obnoxious); assumptions and misunderstandings ensue
- We often label people as opposed to describe as it as a preference in how energy is used; people aren’t introverts but they have an introverted preference
- It can be a powerful opportunity to open up our understanding of preference, sometimes there’s a polarization; I am either one or the other when in fact we’re a combination of both
- The polarization of groups can sometimes lead to competition or resentment, neither of which help us in our teams and working relationships
Here’s where the opportunity lies; if we’re going to be talking about an introverted or extroverted preference, we need to start embracing the roots of this dialogue, which is about personality typing, and that these are traits. Traits on a continuum. You’re not all the way one, and not all the way another.
We’re not mutually exclusive categories and there is value at every spot on that continuum.
When the discussion about energy reference – introversion and extroversion – it allows us to better understand each other, value differences and fuels the broader discourse about inclusivity. If we consider it to be a part of that broader discourse about how everyone is valued and has a place, that’s where it’s more helpful, as opposed to putting people into camps.
Here are a few things that I’ve discovered in organizations, where it doesn’t become a polarizing conversation, and actually helps everyone to be at their best.
- Introversion and extroversion are about how to best harness energy.
Do you know your talents’ preference to these questions?
- Do you get more energy by processing and having a bit of time reflecting and hearing what people are saying?
- Or do you process information best, and you get the most energy from other people?
Can you see how knowing this would be helpful in a meeting context? Or even knowing that you have more people with one preference than another would be insightful? It impacts how you run meetings, how much time you need to give people when you identify an issue that needs resolving, even accurately reading peoples’ body language!
- Have a balanced conversation.
Understanding energy preferences is also about a balanced conversation. How you have meetings, celebrations, and process decisions likely lean toward one preference or another. How can you better balance it? For example, if you know that you have people of both preferences, provide information ahead of a meeting so the people with an introverted preference can process it. Leave room on the agenda for individuals with an extroverted preference to process it by talking it through and building on each other’s ideas. By having a discovery process that leverages the strengths of each preference, you are more likely to make the best decisions as well as leave people feeling heard, valued and engaged.
- Be inclusive.
Language needs to be inclusive. Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve shifted the language to Introvert or Extrovert. Instead, start describing versus labelling; Introverted becomes having an introverted preference. Also, give space for people to be able to describe their current preference. I know I can have more of an introverted preference some points in the day even if I’m normally on the far side of the extroverted preference. And similarly, if I’m a little bit grouchy, and maybe because I’ve only had myself to talk to all day, and as interesting as I’d like to think I am, it’s not as interesting as when I’m with other people.
How can you use this inclusive approach to make sure that every person feels valued and has a good environment to do their best work? What other suggestions do you have? Pop them in the comments below.
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