Are you an Extravert who manages – or works with – an introverted colleague? Maybe you wonder why they don’t often join your conversations, or you’ve been tasked with including them more. What are some things you can do to get the Introverts you work with to verbally engage with you and others, without trying to turn them into Extraverts? Here are our 10 top tips.
1. Address them directly
While the Introverts in the room may say little, that doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. They just aren’t as comfortable speaking up or it may not feel worth the effort to compete to have their voice heard.
Try addressing them by name and asking them a question. They may have been trying to gather the courage to weigh in and be grateful for the opportunity. Just try not to make them feel put on the spot. Which leads to point 2…
2. Prepare them
If you plan to address an Introvert around others, ask them a question or have them participate in some way, be sure to give them a heads up so they won't be taken off guard. Then they can prepare their words carefully. You may even want to give them a chance to practice with you ahead of time.
The surest way to make an Introvert clam up is to put them on the spot. But if they know what to expect, they’ll be more ready to talk to you – and with impact.
3. Start with smaller groups
Though an Introvert could give a prepared talk in front of a large group if necessary, they’ll likely feel much more comfortable speaking spontaneously around just a (very) few other people.
If you want to get an Introvert more accustomed to being included, try drawing them into the discussion with just a few others. This will help them get more comfortable joining in, especially as they get to know those few others better. Then, when more people are added in, at least there'll be a few people they’re already used to.
4. Invite them to lunch
Introverts are usually more comfortable talking with one or two other people, and in low-key settings. Whether you’re a manager or an extraverted co-worker, try inviting your introverted employee or coworker to lunch. Make it just the two of you, or include one other person.
Use this time to break the ice, learn more about them, and help them start feeling more comfortable speaking with you (and the other co-worker). What you learn may be useful in drawing them out later on topics of interest to them.
5. Don’t make it too social
While the occasional lunch together may be effective, an invitation to an office party or for drinks after work with “a bunch of us,” probably will feel more like a summons than a treat, and send your Introverted associate running in the other direction.
To Introverts, parties aren’t necessarily enjoyable, the more isn’t the merrier, and mixing work and “fun” isn’t always fun. So keep the conversations small and closer to the workplace and workday.
6. Let them write
Many Introverts are more comfortable writing than speaking in person. You can start the conversation by sending them a question by email or asking them to write up a few notes related to a meeting or project. You may even ask them to write an agenda, group email, or other materials that can be shared, as their way of adding their ‘voice.’
7. Play to their strengths
While most Introverts have certain skills in common – such as being thoughtful observers – they’ll likely also have specific talents related to other aspects of their personality. For example, Introverted Thinking types are tuned into data, so you can call on them when you need someone to share a statistic or research point.
This will help them feel more comfortable by focusing on the information instead of the interaction. It’s similar with introverted idealist types who are highly empathetic. Try enlisting them to help someone who needs emotional support, a listening ear, or kind and creative solutions.
8. Discover their passions
While most Introverts dislike small talk, there’s probably something they love talking about. Even if their passion isn’t directly related to the job, finding out what moves them can facilitate workplace communication.
Maybe the Introvert you’re working with has a hobby they share with a co-worker they seem to have nothing in common with. Or they love books, and can always find a relevant quote, fact, or idea that can be applied to the task at hand. Use whatever they love as a way to start the conversation.
9. Allow them to opt out
This may seem contrary to your goal, but it may be more effective in the long term to make their participation optional rather than trying to push someone to participate before they’re ready. Many Introverts need to warm up slowly and feel safe before they’ll willingly chime in.
There are some types of meetings that Introverts hate. If they feel mandatory, even forced, they’ll likely push back and avoid you as much as possible. But if you take the pressure off and invite them to have their say when they’re ready, they’ll likely jump in sooner.
10. Give them a partner
While Introverts like spending plenty of time alone, that doesn’t mean they don’t ever want to interact with people. They just prefer deeper, more intimate connections with a few people.
Try having them frequently work with the same compatible co-worker, probably someone who’s a bit more extraverted but not so assertive they’ll do all the talking. You might assign them to give a presentation together, so the Introvert can provide quiet support and let the extravert do more of the talking when they need a break.
While this may seem like a lot of work, you might want to remember three things:
- Introverts regularly expend a great deal of energy adapting to the high-volume, high-energy Extraverts around them, so you’re just reciprocating their efforts when you try to bring out the best in them.
- Just because they don’t say as much, doesn’t mean Introverts aren’t contributing as much. They’re probably just doing much of it quietly, behind the scenes.
- If you make the extra effort to help them join the conversation, you’ll likely find that your Introverted co-workers have valuable contributions to make, perhaps in ways you never would have thought of.
When both Introverts and Extraverts make the extra effort to understand each other better and work together, both are likely to learn and benefit from each others’ strengths, and be better able to accept a style that seems strange to them at first.