Many of us erroneously believe that introverts are shrinking violets, and extroverts are chatterboxes. A more accurate understanding of these personality traits can improve our communications and the quality and efficiency of the decisions we make together. Some introverts are also shy, and some extroverts happen to be loudmouths, but there are many exceptions because the quantity of words that pour out of our mouths is not what introversion and extroversion are really about.

Extroverts tend to need fairly frequent social interaction to get their mental gears turning, or keep them turning. They often do their best thinking during a lively meeting. After a meeting or party, they often feel energized, and this is one of the ways you can recognize them.

Introverts’ mental gears are almost always turning anyway. So, when they engage in conversations, meetings, or social gatherings, they may find so many thoughts and ideas bouncing around in their heads that they can’t sort them out. They may also feel exhausted after intense interaction. They need frequent and lengthy periods of alone time in order to let these thoughts settle into a pattern or a well-reasoned decision.

What does this tell us about communication and joint decision making? If you are dealing with an extrovert, speak with them frequently, in person if possible. Engage them in the conversation by asking plenty of open questions; don’t just lecture them. If you are an extrovert, whenever you feel stumped or low in energy, find someone with whom you can talk through the issues you’re dealing with.

When interacting with an introvert, don’t push for immediate decisions on important matters during, or at the end of, a meeting. Schedule some downtime as well as a time to reconvene and aim for a decision. And if you are an introvert, be aware that an important decision you make during a meeting, or when you feel overwhelmed, is one you will likely regret. Insist on the time you need to reflect and let your thoughts settle.

In general, introverts can make themselves behave in a more extroverted manner. So they must be particularly careful about making decisions too quickly. They may feel they have come to a good decision, and enter an agreement, only to regret it afterward. Extroverts, on the other hand, often find it impossible to behave more like introverts. They will do well to turn their need for interaction in another direction, engaging with different people on a different issue, while their introverted colleagues take the time they need to get their thoughts together.

has this article changed your ideas about yourself or someone you deal with often? If so, how might you improve your communications and mutual decisions?


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