In an ideal situation, every employee in attendance in a meeting room will have an equal opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas. However, what typically ends up occurring in meetings is that the reserved and quiet team members are observing the conversation at hand, which is driven by the more outgoing and outspoken members of the team. 

The above scenario depicts the most common communication styles of introverts and extroverts in workplace settings. Each personality type comes with advantages and areas of improvements when it comes to their office communication.

The goal for people managers is to optimize the communication between the introverts and extroverts on your team, allowing for each person’s strengths to be encouraged so that they are contributing to the best of their capability and capacity in equal measures to the rest of the team.

To create an environment in the meeting room that allows for active participation and inclusive participation from your employees, keep the following tips in mind when facilitating your next company meeting.

What are the differences between introverts and extroverts?

When it comes to introverts and extroverts, the distinctions between the two personality types come down to two key differences in their communication preferences:

  • How the individual relates to their environment in terms of energy management.
    Introverts gain energy from moments of reflection and introspection, often needing moments away from groups of people to recharge. On the other hand, extroverts are stimulated from their interactions with other people in group settings and gain energy from social activities. Being mindful of one’s energy levels has a significant effect on work performance.
  • How the individual processes and articulates information.
    The adage ‘think before you speak’ applies to introverts, as they prefer to think within, opting to think, edit, and talk in that sequence. The old adage ‘thinking out loud’ applies to extroverts, as they prefer to sort out their thoughts and ideas by verbaling them in a stream of consciousness manner.

Preparation for meetings

As regularly as possible, prepare meeting agendas in advance to send out to your team members. For introverts, being presented with advance information is preferential for these wizards of preparation, as they benefit from the opportunity to research and gather their thoughts and points before entering the meeting room. Likewise, extroverts, though more naturally inclined with the ability to think on the spot, can also benefit from having an outline of what topics will be discussed ahead of time.

During the meetings

In meetings, introverts may not initially speak up as much, but with the right tactics in place, these great listeners can be encouraged to verbalize their great ideas as well.

  • Integrate a series of prompting questions into the discussion. During moments when the conversation is being carried just a few members, get the rest of the room to chime in by asking one of these questions, for instance, “What are the rest of the room’s thoughts on this proposal?”. Most introverts will share what’s on their mind if prompted.
  • Be cognizant of nonverbal cues, such as a raised hand or a lean forward, as a cue of an opportunity for another member of the meeting to speak up. By acknowledging these nonverbal cues, the more introverted team members will feel encouraged to partake in instances of polite interruption during an ongoing discussion.
  • Check in on the quieter members of the room by allotting time throughout the meeting minutes for anyone to ask questions or share any lingering thoughts they may have before the moment escapes them.

In meetings, extroverts are comfortable with leading and carrying the discussion. The aim is not to discourage their contributions, but to even out the playing field for all members of the group by making slight alterations to the regular pace of meetings.

  • Integrate moments of pause into meetings for everyone to gather their thoughts. This exercise will provide extroverts with a productive challenge to try the introvert’s approach to the thought process of thinking, editing, and then talking.
  • Encourage extroverts to be facilitators of a meeting, allowing them a chance to experience meetings from a different perspective (and also serving as a good learning and leadership opportunity.)

After the meetings

Post-meeting debriefs cater to an introvert’s preference for reflection. When afforded the time and space to process the information shared at a meeting, they can think through, dig deep, and then come back to the team with fully formed ideas and solutions.

Seeing as extroverts benefit from expressing ideas through instant idea gathering via brainstorming, when they are allowed to have (and lead) roundtable sessions to problem solve and innovate out loud, they thrive.

Over to you

The main goal for all company meetings is to ensure that every participating team member is heard and is actively listening to one another, which will lead to the flow of ideas and the action steps that follow. By being mindful of the communication preferences of the different personality types by which your people identify, people managers can allow their people to feel free and comfortable in being their authentic selves at work, unlocking their full potential, increasing productivity, improving communication, and ultimately creating a positive work environment grounded on trust and respect.

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