3 Facts To Consider When Working With An Introvert
July 2, 2021
Introverts are often seen as social outcasts who aren’t good for a team because “they’re too quiet” and “don’t have the social skills for business”. While the first one may be true for those observing them, it isn’t true for those who get to know the person, and the second one is definitely not true. This idea of the world needing only extraverts and introverts needing to “suck it up and stop being so shy” is based on the original definitions of the words. To get a better understanding you need to know the origins of the word and how it’s changed today.
Defining The Terms
Just so it’s clear, being shy is not the same as being introverted, being shy is the fear of social judgment whereas introversion is about someone’s preference of environment and reaction to social stimulation. Carl Jung was the person who introduced introversion and extraversion to the psychology world. The popularized definitions of these tend to be:
- Extraverts – someone who is outgoing, talkative, and displays energetic behavior.
- Introvert – someone who is typically reserved or reflective.
Looping back to the definition involving environments, Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, explains that introverts prefer environments with less stimulation whereas extroverts enjoy all the external stimulation. Someone’s reaction to social stimuli can best be explained in the following example:
- Introverts start every day with 100% social battery power, each time they interact with people they lose some of that energy, at the end of a very socially interactive day, they might have 0 % battery and need to recharge, which is done in an environment where stimulation is absent.
- Extraverts start each day with 0% social battery, each time they interact with people they gain some energy, at the end of a very socially interactive day they’re feeling energized and the rest they have is what drains that energy.
In line with the previous definition, there is a spectrum of introverts and extraverts. Some introverts have a bigger social battery and can interact with way more people; they can be mistaken for extraverts by some. On the other hand, some extraverts need an immense amount of social stimulation to feel awake and alive finally.
There are some aspects of introverted people that stand out when compared to extraverts. One of those differences is brain activity. Neuroimaging has shown that the frontal lobe of introverts is more active than extraverts, who have more activity in the parts of the brain that involve sensory processing. This frontal lobe activity is associated with internal processing, so activities such as problem-solving, planning, and recalling information activate it. This is the reason introverts are inwardly focused which usually makes them quiet and reclusive. This is actually part of their strengths, deep thought can be achieved more often with introverts due to their ideal environment (chilled out and quiet). If you need a unique take on something such as a solution for a problem or a fresh idea, don’t hesitate to ask your friendly neighborhood introvert.
Independence And Autonomy
This actually would be a good trait for anyone who needs to buckle down and complete a task. Introverts recharge when they’re alone, giving them a distinct advantage in office and cubicle settings. Without the need for constant supervision, they can work independently with little to no oversight. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t interact with them, just make sure those interactions are meaningful ones. One unforeseen advantage for introverts during the pandemic is the ability to work from home. Being able to stay sharp while isolated for extended periods of time came as a plus, compared to all the extraverts out there who are now struggling with trying to stay sane without much social interaction.
Perfection And Analysis
A majority of introverts have some degree of perfectionism and a need to analyze everything before making a move. These qualities lead to high-quality results, but may also slow things down. Leaders should help introverts focus on what needs to be done, setting guidelines, a process, or flow that allows them to do what they need to, but within a certain timeframe so deadlines are still being met with high-quality results.
This need for higher quality transcends work and goes into relationships as well. Small talk is feared by most introverts as it is very shallow with no actual substance. Introverts prefer to talk about things they care about, their conversations are generally detailed and you’ll know that an introvert is interested in a subject if they don’t stop talking. This would actually make for a good leadership trait in today’s world. With so many millennials looking for a job that serves a purpose and has a meaning, having someone who can speak deeply about a topic would make younger staff feel at ease.
The goal of this wasn’t to have you favor your introverted workmates over the extraverted ones, let alone try to be friendly by making small talk (please no small talk). The objective was awareness. If you have someone that exhibits introverted behavior, give them a chance if you haven’t already. You’ll be surprised at the insight they can provide the team from their unique perspective, especially if you find an extravert who pairs well with them.