Why is that? Because you need to know people’s tendency towards introversion and extroversion to help foster a more inclusive atmosphere. Knowing this background on someone can help you better understand how and why s/he engages the way that s/he does and why s/he may pick certain projects and avoid others.
How does this play out on a team? Do you have a few people that are quiet in team meetings? If they have a tendency towards introversion, they might not feel comfortable speaking up in team meetings. This silence doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to contribute. Quite the contrary—they could have rich ideas that they just don’t feel comfortable sharing in a group setting. Knowing that they have a tendency towards introversion, you can have a private conversation with them to ask if they have ideas, and also ask if there is a something you can do to help them feel more comfortable sharing in a group setting. Reaching out to them also has another potential positive side effect—it shows them that you value their input. Sometimes introverts, especially if their tendency is so strong that they run from the spotlight at all costs, find themselves ignored. This is unfortunate. The perfect team has people on all parts of the introversion/extroversion spectrum. Failing to recognize the “quiet contributors” could lead to turnover, decreased engagement, and a less-than-optimal performing team.
Do you have extroverts on your team? Knowing that someone is an extravert can give perspective when you see someone taking frequent “water breaks”. In this case, chatting around the water cooler, which to some might be perceived as wasting time, is actually an important way for an extravert to recharge. As a side note, those water cooler chats also help your team connect with other teams, break down silos, and actually get work done in more collaborative way. Starving extroverts of opportunities to engage with others can frustrate them, drain their fulfillment, and lead to turnover, decreased engagement, and a less-than-optimal performing team.
I’m not saying that you should cater your entire team towards each person’s tendency towards introversion or extroversion—that wouldn’t be ideal or efficient. Additionally, people tend to migrate towards the jobs that fit their tendencies, so part of this should naturally occur. What I am saying is that being mindful of someone’s tendencies can help make sure you’re creating opportunities for them to engage in a way that’s comfortable to them. Additionally, knowing your own tendency can help you be more aware of biases you may have—and help you understand others better when they choose to engage differently than the way that you would.
There’s one important caveat to all of this. Don’t assume that, just because you know whether someone has the tendency towards introversion or extroversion, you know what they what. We all know the sayings about assumptions. People can change their tendencies in different situations, as they evolve, and/or as they get more familiar and comfortable with their teams. The best way to know if people would be interested in a particular project, team, or initiative is to ask them. It’s amazing how often this simple fact is overlooked. Extroverts might get all the opportunities to give presentations, as people often assume that introverts don’t like public speaking. This is not always the case—I’ve seen introverts give amazing presentations, especially about something they are personally invested in and passionate about. I’ve also seen extroverts learn and grow from passing on giving a presentation and choosing to sit back and give someone else the opportunity to present.
While I’ve been talking about teams, all of this applies to your family as well. In fact, I find it’s a little trickier to manage your bias as a parent. I’m reminded of this often—most recently as my daughters started selling Girl Scout cookies for their Brownie Troop. In situations that involve selling, I have a strong tendency towards introversion. In fact, when I was a Brownie, Cookie Sale time make me very uncomfortable. My daughters, who are both extremely extroverted, love selling cookies. My five-year-old loves selling cookies so much that she cries when we have to stop. As a parent, I found myself really trying to control my introversion—making sure that I wasn’t telling them to “stop selling” or not to go up and ask people to buy cookies because it was making me uncomfortable.
On the other hand, parents that are extroverts that have children with a tendency towards introversion might want to be mindful of pushing their child into situations where the children are so uncomfortable the experience causes more pain than joy. When putting your kid in activities, make sure you’re asking yourself if you are putting your child in situations that are comfortable to them, or forcing them into situations that are comfortable for you.
Again, as with teams, I’m not saying that you should never “crossover”. People grow from uncomfortable situations, and life doesn’t always cater and coddle. You would be doing your child a disservice if you made every situation comfortable for him/her. But being aware of your children’s tendency towards introversion and extroversion can help you, and them, find the right balance. And in doing so, you might just grow in the process. I’ve learned a lot more about confidence, speaking up for myself, and asking for what I need by watching my two little extroverts in action.
Introversion and extroversion is just one of many tendencies a person can have, yet a very important one. Don’t just force what works for you on others—leverage the power of empathy and try to see things from their perspective and tendencies. And also share with them what works for you. Learning more about someone in general can help foster better communication, understanding, and relationships.