How to get introverts to talk in meetings

English: The CEJISS Administrative Board meetingIf you’ve ever held a meeting and gotten frustrated because only the extroverts are talking, I bet you’ve asked yourself this question. What can you possibly do to get the introverts to talk more?

But let’s think about that problem from a different angle. What can we possibly do to get the extroverts to talk less? Or, even more to point, why do we need to have a meeting to discuss this issue as a group?

Where extroverts thrive on meetings for the iterative back and forth, the energetic discussions, the heated arguments, and the hypothesizing and postulating, introverts sit back and wonder why no one is simply getting down to business. Why waste hours of time with talk when all you need to do is write out the issues in an email? Why hypothesize about endless possibilities when all you need to do is have each person write out a list of pro and cons which can then be summarized and circulated by one person?

Computer feestjeThe problem with meetings is that they are planned by extroverts for extroverts. Introverts have tons of ideas. They just don’t feel the need to share a multitude of extraneous thoughts at the same time. When introverts need input on an idea, they recognize that a meeting is not always necessary. Perhaps all that is required is for each person to write out their input and email it to them.

So how do you respond to those folks who are unable to do so, the ones who insist that their thoughts will be better understood if they are discussed rather than written out? Well, how about a comparable response such as their thoughts will be better understood if they are written out rather than discussed. What a bold idea.

There is no right way to share ideas. There are, however, different ways to share ideas. Perhaps it’s time not to ask how to get introverts to pretend to be extroverts but rather to ask extroverts to pretend to be introverts. Give it a try.

2 responses

  1. It would be great if we could bend the Type A folks to our will. I’d vote for that. But in my own workplace I favour a combination of approaches: Face-to-face when there’s a lot of uncertainty around an issue or a need to thrash around ideas, and via written memo otherwise. The effectiveness of face-to-face tends to break down with each additional participant, though … once the group gets past five people, at least one person is going to clam up while two others begin to assert dominance. I think that’s why it’s important to have written adjuncts for all meetings, no matter how informal: An agenda going in, and a summary or list of planned actions coming out. I’ll bet you that both of these are innovations introduced by introverts, as part of an evil plan to inherit the earth. Anyway, they work.

    1. I do agree that a combination of approaches is best. It does seem though that the extraverted approaches are thought of as the correct and ideal approaches.

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