The past few decades have seen the rise of a deeper understanding of personality types and how they affect everything from how we communicate to the way we work. One of the most commonly discussed personality topics is the continuum between introverted and extroverted personalities.
Introverts vs. Extroverts
The distinction between the two types has not always been well-defined. In fact, thanks in part to the work of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, introversion has been associated with narcissism and neuroticism and was described as a flaw. However, continued research has revealed that introversion is simply a personality trait, created by genetics and perhaps nurture, which forms the building blocks of the person we are to become. One can not be cured of their introversion; they can only fake extroversion for periods of time.
In “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World,” author Marti Olson Laney states that “introverts draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions, and impressions” while extroverts are “energized by the external world–by activities, people, places, and things.”
4 Ways to Increase Introvert Effectiveness in the Office
You probably already know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, or if you’re somewhere in the middle. Whether you are an introvert or work with some, here are some things you can do to make yourself or the introverts around you more comfortable in the workplace.
1. Extra Time
Introverts need time to think. Studies have shown that introverts use their long-term memory storage as their default setting. It takes time to access this information, so when you put an introvert on the spot, you might be met with that deer in the headlights look.
Introverts: Don’t be afraid to ask for time to think before answering. “That’s a great question, can I get back to you tomorrow? I’d like to think about this before I give you an answer.”
Extroverts: When possible, give introverts advance notice if you’d like their input on something in particular. Let them know ahead of time the purpose of meetings so they can have time to prepare mentally.
2. Check in
Some introverts may need extra encouragement to state their thoughts and opinions. Because they think about problems deeply, their quiet thoughtfulness can sometimes help them see issues that others may miss.
Introverts: Don’t hesitate to speak up. Your thoughts are important, and your point of view could bring insight and new information to the conversation.
Extroverts: You can help introverts open up by asking them their thoughts and giving them time to respond without interruption.
3. Writing vs. Speaking
Due to requiring extra time to think, many introverts prefer communicating in writing over communicating in person. Of course, this is not always practical, but allowing an introvert to write rather than speak will give them the time to organize their thoughts and carefully analyze their response. This also allows them to work uninterrupted, allowing deeper concentration.
Introverts: If you prefer writing, you can use this to your advantage even when you must speak. Organizing your thoughts on paper will help you speak more fluently when it is time to state your opinion.
Extroverts: Resist the urge to pick up the phone or visit face-to-face when a text or an email will do. Your introvert co-workers will thank you!
4. Office layout and noise levels
Introverts thrive in environments that are overall more quiet and calm. An open office concept, with constant interruptions and distractions, can make it incredibly difficult for them to focus. The same goes for environments where co-workers regularly stop by to chat or have loud conversations nearby.
Introverts: If you find yourself in this environment, try to minimize distractions. You could try working from home, or working earlier or later hours to avoid a crowded office. Wearing noise-canceling headphones (even if nothing is playing) could help you focus and keep others from interrupting you. Make the most of your breaks by spending time in a quiet environment if you can.
Extroverts: Don’t take it personally! Introverts really do need quiet to be productive, in the same way you need stimulation and excitement to get those brain juices flowing. So when you see your introvert co-worker quietly typing away at their desk, trust that they are kicking butt and taking names in their own quiet way.
Diverse Personalities Create Better Solutions
Many introverts think that introversion is an undesirable trait. Our society tends to value the loud go-getters with charming smiles and the right words on the tip of their tongue. Introverts have a lot to offer; rather than putting information into the world they are watching, listening, and thinking. Their insights and hard work are valuable contributions to the workplace.