Getting Introverts to Speak Up

Have you ever sat in a meeting trying to wrap your mind around the item that's being discussed, but are unable to come up with any creative comments? Then, long after the group has moved on to the next agenda items, you finally think of something to say?

Meetings favor extroverts. Extroverted thinkers often do not know what they think until they have said it. So, launching off on a topic suits them just fine. Sometime later in the discussion, these extroverts may come to their position, but no one is the wiser. Introverts, however, don't talk for talk's sake.

Meanwhile, it's the introvert who may come up with the most creative ideas. It's just not at that time. Perhaps the meeting is long over, or the topic is no longer being discussed. There is nothing wrong with being an introverted thinker, even though you might feel left in the dust by extroverts. The introvert's thought process is slower because it involves longer synapses in the brain. It may also take longer because the introvert goes into more complexity in the process.

The introvert's contribution is a worthy one, and an important resource within any organization. This more deliberate thinking process needs to be described and brought to the attention of everyone in the organization so that introverts gain the consideration and appreciation that extroverts often receive.

Build in Practices to Include Introverts

Bosses and organizations would do well to build in structures and mechanisms that recognize and take advantage of the introvert and the resources he brings. For example, at the start of the next meeting, the chairperson could specifically ask for any additions to the discussion from the prior meeting, making it a regular part of the meeting and the first agenda item of business.

If you would rather not wait until the next meeting for new information, you might consider incorporating a bulletin board or kiosk in the office where new ideas could be filed under the appropriate topic heading. Or, if the topic is confidential, the involved parties could be included in email that is sent only to participants as soon as the introverted thinker is ready to make her ideas explicit. The point is to offer as many ways as possible for the introvert to express his ideas.

Introverts Need to "Sleep on It"

Part of the introvert's process is to "sleep on it." This provides him with more time to mull things over and process his thoughts thoroughly. Even in golf, for example, the coach who is extroverted may have a student take a certain swing repeatedly, consuming most of the hour-long lesson. The student, meanwhile, would do better by being able to sleep on what he had been taught in the lesson, in order to integrate it into both body and mind. By the next day, he might have greatly improved on his swing just by taking the time to sleep on it.

Introverts have strengths and weaknesses. Introverts will spend more time coming to an opinion, decision, or conclusion. And they may tend to deliver the result as a kind of decree or "pronouncement," as if there is no other possibility. However, knowing of this tendency to sound imperious, they can use humor and humility to help convey their openness to consider other possibilities.