Have you ever noticed, when assembling as a group, that some people aim directly for the last row of seats or lean against the back wall, trying to become one with the wallpaper? Is one of your employees reliably silent during your staff meetings? Do you already know which of your colleagues is going to ghost out of your social gathering early?

While there could be many logical explanations for these human behaviors, one consideration might be whether you have an Introvert in the room. 

While Introverts are certainly capable of throwing their two cents into any meeting, certain types of meetings can curl their toes and make them desperate to avoid, cancel, or outright sabotage your upcoming get-together. It’s all about personal energy management and the lengths to which Introverts will go to sustain it.

Read on for the particular types of meetings that Introverts hate and some simple strategies that help motivate and involve them in your next meeting.

#1: Meetings for the sake of meetings

This isn’t about the type of meeting but the sheer volume of them. When you overuse the meeting structure as a way to communicate, collaborate or even celebrate, you’re quickly going to run an Introvert’s batteries to zero. 

Brainstorming sessions, using the meeting for “thinking out loud,” gathering feedback or any physical time spent as a group that could be better done via text, email or a Google form feels like a waste of time to an Introvert. While others are filling the air with words for the sake of more words, Introverts are thinking they could have completed ten tasks in the time it took you to find your seats, pour your coffee, and finish your small talk. For an Introvert, the clock starts ticking the minute they step into the room, and the energy they have to contribute is finite.

Try this instead: 

  • If you must meet, make sure other avenues of data gathering are used first. Then see if you can take your 30-minute meeting down to 15 minutes because you have done the preparation beforehand. 
  • Instead of a round-table meeting, utilize an agenda with bullet points and send it out ahead of time to attendees. No muddling through without an end in sight.
  • Make quiet space during the meeting, an opportunity or even an invitation for the Introvert to speak up. Allow attendees to leave the meeting early without penalty once they have provided their contribution.

#2: Too many new people at once

Meetings that force Introverts to meet a lot of new people at the same time are very challenging for them. Examples include networking, gatherings of the entire company, or meeting coworkers on the first day of work. Small talk, ice breakers and meet-and-greets are necessary parts of working life, but onboarding doesn’t work for Introverts when you do them in one big avalanche. Introverts have to burn a lot of energy in these meetings, simply to manage the noise, information and distraction. It could be weeks before an Introvert is confidently remembering names or positions because they need time and space to process the new information.

Try this instead: 

  • Give out a cheat sheet or use name tags or desk placards. Anything in writing will be a lifesaver to stop the Introvert from drowning in new information.
  • When feasible, hold introduction meetings one-on-one and one at a time. This gives an Introvert the space to step up and take a more active role in relationship-building.

#3: Too many eyes on them

Meetings that put Introverts in the spotlight or hot seat are nerve-wracking events for them. It’s not that Introverts don’t have the confidence or ideas to contribute, it’s just that when there are too many people looking at them, it becomes impossible for them to stay focused and relaxed. This applies to all sorts of situations that require an audience, whether it's presenting, receiving trophies or giving long-winded explanations at the team meeting. In these situations, Introverts experience the slow drain of energy compounded by the expectations of others. Stop staring at them.

Try this instead: 

  • Sometimes, an Introvert will have to be the center of attention, especially if they assume a leadership position. But you can limit exposure. Send out an information packet or press release ahead of time, so the Introvert doesn’t have to always explain themselves.
  • Keep the spotlight moving. Giving everyone their moment under the sun will help to make everyone more relaxed, including the Introvert who is used to observing the show.

#4: Last-minute meetings

Meetings that are unexpected or rushed – the meetings they didn’t see coming – are a recipe for trouble for Introverts. They like to know what they’re going into, to gather their thoughts and prepare so they can perform at their best. A last-minute change in plans, a spontaneous social gathering, or an emergency meeting could catch them flat-footed. Introverts can end up uncomfortable, irritable or mute in these situations. Valuable contributions can be lost when Introverts feel overwhelmed or rushed.

Try this instead:

  • If an unexpected meeting is required, try to bring in the smallest group possible.
  • Go with pointed questions to the Introvert’s area of expertise instead of asking larger, random ones.
  • Make decisions after the meeting, not during it.
  • Use written feedback, like forms, as tools for reaching a quick consensus. This allows Introverts an extension of time to give you a thoughtful response. Schedules are an Introvert’s best friend.

#5: High-drama meetings

If your meeting involves intense emotions such as conflict resolution or heated debates, then the Introvert's energy will drain quickly. Many Introverts tap into the emotions in a space and if these are too strong, it's difficult for them to contribute at their best. Put them in this situation, and you leave them with the choice between you seeing them at their worst or abandoning the meeting before the objective has been met.

Try this instead: 

  • Plan ahead to create moments of isolation to calm down and regroup. Time outs are beneficial for everyone.
  • Accept that sometimes it is better to have everyone sleep on the issue and circle back later. Allow a reasonable time frame for the Introvert to do their own research and come back with an informed opinion.
  • If you control the spaces where these types of meetings are an everyday occurrence, aim for environmental support in wall colors, green space, or soothing music or lighting. Turn off the cell phones. Strive for professional calm.
Jolie Tunnell
Jolie Tunnell is an author, freelance writer and blogger with a background in administration and education. Raising a Variety Pack of kids with her husband, she serves up hard-won wisdom with humor, compassion and insight. Jolie is an ISTJ and lives in San Diego, California where she writes historical mysteries. Visit her at jolietunnell.com