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Knowing who your introverts are, and how to best use them, can help you achieve incredible rankings and stratospheric backlinks.
I begin this post in an extroverted style, but my aim is to discuss how to get the best from introverted types.
Firstly, a (necessarily brief) supporting definition: "Extraverts (also spelled extroverts) tend to be gregarious, assertive, and interested in seeking out external stimulus. Introverts, in contrast, tend to be introspective, quiet and less sociable."
Modern life’s a celebration of extroversion: we love it and applaud it. Introverted traits, however, are often misunderstood and undervalued. They’ve become slightly unattractive, even suspicious. I discussed this post with a friend and she recoiled in disgust when introversion was mentioned.
This iniquity is also present in the office, where extroversion is often expected or forced. We often bias our systems, judgements, and processes around it and reinforce it through reward.
We usually do this unthinkingly, it's not obvious or crude, but a symptom of how our cultural expectations and methods have developed over time. In a creative meeting, for example, an idea that's communicated assertively can usurp a better idea, but only because the situation doesn't facilitate the better idea’s effective emergence.
How can this be resolved? The solution’s often rationalised as: 'how do we change this person's style?' When it could be reframed as: 'how do we reorganise to better accommodate this person and their ideas?'
I think it makes sense to get closer to these ideas: arguably some of man’s greatest insights have been made by the quieter, more cerebral types, and attractive personality traits have been linked with introversion too, like insight and creativity.
Admittedly, I’m taking a facile view of human personality to make a general point. Nobody is pure introvert or extrovert; we're all mongrels of mood. Still, we do need more thinkers and less bluster in this increasingly byzantine industry.
So, shouldn't we start celebrating introverted traits with more gusto?
Yes we should. We need to keep our cunning-introvert-hunchbacks happy. So, to do so, here's a list of ten specific points that we should pay more attention to:
1. Identify difference
It’s worth appreciating who the more introverted types at work are as their ideas might surface from alternative conditions. This process will usually be natural but could be helped by basic online testing. Regardless, this appreciation precedes all of the points below.
2. Pay close attention
Someone who's particularly extroverted might say or present something in a captivating and charismatic way, but is it the quality of what’s being said that’s listened to?
3. Communicate online
Platforms like Google+ can help those who find it easier to express themselves in writing, while still being collaborative and social.
4. Allow response time
Spontaneous situations like ‘brainstorms’ might not suit those who need to think a bit longer and harder about things; quietness in these situations might indicate a digestion of information rather than a lack of attention and engagement.
Thinking time and follow-up opportunities afford everyone the opportunity to contribute.
5. Permit indirect feedback
Someone with a reserved style might show a lesser propensity to directly approach with new ideas or opinions and may prefer anonymity. It makes sense to put indirect processes in place so these opinions can emerge. A weekly staff discussion, or anonymous online forum/wiki, might be a better feedback-forum than a management meeting, for example.
6. Cultivate innovation
Specific time for invention could help to extract the ideas of more analytical types. Google’s ’20% time’, for example, supports a day of time a week for innovative pet projects - even those unrelated to roles - and has fostered a lot of the company’s development.
7. Provide personal (and virtual) space:
The stereotypical office environment isn’t ideal for everyone, and can be unnecessary. If some prefer their own space and time then it makes sense to give them it - if it’s productive - either through virtual meetings, screencasts, home working, quiet areas, or otherwise.
8) Advance notes & materials
Not everyone’s capable of wholly grasping an idea that’s presented in the moment, or even communicating it, particularly those who’re more introverted and analytically minded.
Supporting materials (supplied both in advance and afterwards) can help to support everyone’s understanding.
9. Encourage collaboration
More introverted types may work best when complemented by those who’re more extroverted - and vice versa. This includes the generally extroverted types who can end up in forceful leadership positions.
10. Hire wisely
Talent, or lack of it, can potentially be obscured by an extroverted veneer. If a job is practical then the superficial should be looked beyond.
Alas, this topic deserves more than a blog post.
So, contributions much appreciated to make my opinions more complete and refined.