We often think of introverts and extroverts as irreconcilable as chalk and cheese. But can they come together harmoniously in the workplace? This was the key question for Workplace Experience Manager Mitali Das and her colleagues at the last Book Club session which discussed Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’.
Everyone sits on different points of the introversion-extroversion spectrum, and this affects how we communicate. In her book, Cain discusses how extroverts prefer verbal communications and are energised by social interactions, where introverts take slower, more deliberate approaches to thinking and communicating. This could explain their preference to written and visual self-expressions.
People say opposites attract, but how do we communicate?
This can lead to extroverts taking control of working meetings, throwing reticent introverts off-course. “For introverts, the instinctive urge is to stop the extroverts and bring them back to your agenda - but the wiser approach might be to let them have their say before you summarise their key points, and steer the conversation in the direction you want,” suggests Mitali. “Extroverts should remind themselves that introverts are constantly adjusting their speaking patterns to have conversations with you. The best way to reciprocate their efforts is to be more self-aware and adjust your conversational style too. For instance, you could ask, “What do you think?” The invitation to get feedback changes the rhythm of the conversation and gives both parties the opportunity to contribute effectively.”
And when disagreements arise, how can we move forward?
Cain points out that conflicts aren’t necessarily bad - a sentiment Mitali echoes as she reminds introverts to focus on getting into a rational phase instead of getting trapped in an emotional loop. “Verbally disagreeing with someone who is visibly emotional can be very difficult. But learning to cope with such situations, over time and with practice, provides you with the opportunity to stand up for yourself; you’ll get creative working with different types of people and problems, too.”
As for the extroverts, she urges them to give introverts time. “It’s unrealistic expecting an introvert to communicate with you immediately. The more bent you are on a confrontation, the more they’re going to need to recede - emotionally and physically. Give them time and space to get in touch with their thoughts and feelings, before attempting to reopen the conversation at a later time by asking, “Is there anything you would like to raise from our conversation last week?” Chances are, you’ll get a compelling response out of them.”
Acknowledging the unique ways in which we’re wired
At the end of the day, our differences allow us each to bring something valuable to the table. The goal is to accept each other and actively find ways to make space for dissimilar personalities and needs. That’s how we’ll be able to create a great work environment for everyone.
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