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3 Tips for Extroverts on How to Communicate with Introverts

A wise person once told me to surround myself with people who have different strengths than me, both to help offset my shortcomings and to give others a chance to shine. I'm a happy, outgoing, energetic, glass-overflowing-with-positivity kind of person. I see possibilities everywhere and I'm quick to take action. I've had the great fortune to hire and lead some very level-headed, thoughtful, and compassionate teammates who help prevent me from overplaying my strengths. What this has meant for me, though, is that I've had to learn how to communicate effectively to less extroverted people than myself.

I recently reached out to the introverts in my personal and professional life to gain some insights to help extroverts interact with and/or lead introverts. Below are the top three suggestions that came to the surface:

Take a beat before answering

Don't interrupt the speaker, even when you want to do so. This shows them that you relate to what they are sharing. Interrupting a person often leads that person to feel that their contributions are not as valuable as yours.

As much as you may want to make a connection, let them get their idea(s) out before you respond. This is one of the hardest things for me as an extrovert; I love to make connections with people and one of the ways I often find myself doing this is by trying to relate to the other person mid-story.

Try not to assume you know what the other person is going to say

If you interrupt them with your ideas and energy, you may have missed an opportunity to hear some great insight. An introvert in my life recently shared with me that asking questions can allow the other person time to think of their responses and follow-up questions help with understanding. This means when we extroverts ask questions, we have to be willing to pause in our own conversation to give the other person an opportunity to answer.

Give introverts time to come back to you with a response

We don't all process at the same speed; I tend to think out loud and process information as I go, but this doesn’t mean my way is the right way for everyone.

When I asked my spouse for his thoughts around what would be helpful for him as an introvert in the workplace, he mentioned that when an extrovert boss is thinking out loud in a meeting, it can feel like every idea is a call to action and that can be overwhelming for an employee. As he shared this with me, I realized I’ve seen my teammates’ eyes get big in meetings when I’m brainstorming all the possibilities – it never occurred to me that they could be thinking I expected them to take on each idea as a task.

As with anything, improving our relationships with those who consider themselves introverts in our lives will take time and a commitment from us. With consistent, intentional focus on our behaviors, we can sharpen our skills, enhance our leadership, and improve our relationships with introverts inside and outside of the workplace.