Misconceptions in Communicating with Introverts

Working within a team can be a fun and rewarding experience. There is something exciting about coming together as a group and delivering the highest performance possible, while utilizing the skills of everyone involved. With that being said, I have been fortunate enough to work together with a variety of fabulous people and on great teams. However, there have also been teams where it was a constant struggle. I would fantasize about days being ripped off a calendar counting down towards the deadline so we could go just all go our separate ways.  Invariably, at the root of the issues of these dreary and underperforming teams is the ineffective way that we communicated with one another. 

When there is a lack of communication on a team, we tend to fall back on assumptions or completely rely on our own instincts when making decisions. These judgements completely dismiss the advantages of teamwork altogether.  Teams are generally made up of a variety of individuals who bring with them varied experiences, personalities and ideas. Getting input and leveraging all that knowledge would seem to be of great value, keeping in mind the old saying of ‘’Two heads are better than one.’’   Assumptions and misconceptions, in place of simple communication, can be especially dangerous when it comes to decision making. 

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) theorizes, in part, that people have preferences in behavior with how they like to operate within their ‘’Favorite World.’’  Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Introversion and Extraversion. These are fairly common words that I believe most people have the understanding on what they generally mean. But how do they help in communicating with one another? And what assumptions do we have about Introverts or Extraverts that get in the way of harmonious team?

Introverts typically like to live in a world where they can think things through thoroughly before making their thoughts public. They tend to be more introspective and do all the refining of their ideas internally. When the idea is presented to the group, it is usually very polished and close to what they feel is a final version.  Where a negative assumption comes into play is the misconception that Introverted personalities are too quiet and not offering anything up in a team meeting or brainstorming session. In reality, they have great ideas but they just have not had the chance to be refined. They are not generally comfortable in throwing those ideas out as an Extravert is. Ever been part of a brainstorming session and wonder why a handful of people are very quiet and don’t seem to be offering anything up? Chances are, they are an Introvert. Again, the misconception is that they have no ideas and sometimes leads one to think they are not valuable and maybe are not simply smart enough to contribute.  In our human nature when we feel someone isn’t contributing, we tend to cut them out of any future thought processes or team decisions because clearly they are not invested in what we are doing. This is not reality.  What would work best would be recognizing someone who might be more introverted and allowing them the time to go back from a meeting and give their thoughts after they have had time to think about it.  Brain storming sessions are a great way to get everyone involved but keep them open ended and allow people to still input after the meeting is over.