In an ideal situation, each employee attending a meeting has an equal opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas. However, what typically happens in a meeting is that reserved team members only listen to the conversation while more outspoken coworkers drive the conversation
The above scenario depicts the most common communication styles of introverts and extroverts in meetings and other workplace settings. Each personality type has both advantages and areas of improvement when it comes to office communication.
The goal for managers is to optimize communication between introverts and extroverts in meetings with your team, allowing for each person’s strengths to be encouraged so that they are contributing to the best of their capability. The Harvard Business Review writes in an article on better managing introverts and extroverts that managers must work from a “mindset of curiosity and understanding”.
What are the differences between introverts and extroverts?
Webster’s Dictionary defines an introvert as “a typically reserved or quiet person who tends to be introspective and enjoys spending time alone” and an extrovert as “a typically gregarious and unreserved person who enjoys and seeks out social interaction”.
Regarding introverts and extroverts in meetings specifically, the distinction between the two personality types comes down to how they manage their energy in social settings. Introverts gain energy from moments of reflection and introspection, often needing time away from groups of people to recharge. On the other hand, extroverts are stimulated by interactions with other people and gain energy from social activities.
As regularly as possible, prepare meeting agendas in advance to send out to attendees.
For introverts, being presented with information in advance is preferential, 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 to think on the spot, can also benefit from having an outline of what topics will be discussed ahead of time.
In meetings, introverts may not initially speak up as much.With the right tactics, however, these great listeners can be encouraged to verbalize their ideas as well.
- Integrate a series of prompting questions into the discussion. During moments when the conversation is being carried by just a few members, get the rest of the room to chime in by asking a prompting question, for example “What are the rest of the room’s thoughts on this proposal?”. Most introverts will share what’s on their mind if prompted (and if not, don’t force it).
- Be cognizant of nonverbal cues—such as an obvious raised hand or a more subtle lean forward—as 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 an ongoing discussion.
- Check in on the quieter members of the room by allotting time throughout the meeting for anyone to ask questions or share any lingering thoughts they may have.
In meetings, extroverts are comfortable 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 an introvert’s thought process.
- 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).
Post-meeting debriefs can help meet an introvert’s preference for reflection.
When afforded the time and space to process the information shared at a meeting, introverts can think through, dig deep, and then come back to the team with fully formed ideas and solutions.
The main goal for company meetings should be to ensure that all team members feel comfortable both participating and actively listening. By being mindful of the communication preferences of the different personality types of your people, you can help them be 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.