In the previous post, we identified the primary differences between Extroverts and Introverts. If you haven’t read it, make sure you go check it out.
Today, we’ll take a deep look at the differences in communication between Extroverts and Introverts, and how you can begin to communicate more clearly.
Hint: Take notes on all the ways you can get better at communicating with people who are wired differently than you!
Let’s start with Introverts.
As a result of their preference for internal consideration and thought, most Introverts prefer written communication. They would rather think through the best way to say or accomplish something before they volunteer it into the external world. Introverts very rarely share verbally or in writing something they do not consider to be their final and well-vetted opinion. As you can imagine, e-mail and text messaging have been a true boom for Introverts because they can edit what they want to say, read and re-read it, then edit it again before they send out their communication.
Most Extroverts, on the other hand, are quite happy to think out loud and will move the pieces of thought around until they discover a great idea.
The issue comes when we don’t understand what’s going on in our teams. That’s when differences between Extroverts and Introverts can often become frustrating and annoying to one another. In the negative environment, where Introverts and Extroverts don’t understand one another, here’s what each might be thinking about the other:
Most Extroverts look at Introverts and think, “What’s going on? I’m not getting a lot of feedback. You don’t appear to be very engaged with what I’m saying, and you don’t tend to say anything.”
Most Introverts look at Extroverts, saying, “Are you still so immature and utterly insensitive that you think out loud yet again and cause deep offense because you can’t engage your brain before you engage your mouth?”
The Introvert’s Challenge of “I Already Told You”
The Introvert’s communication challenge, however, is that they often think they’ve communicated their thoughts or opinions clearly when in fact no one else has heard it. This happens when an Introvert has been turning an idea over in their head again and again, and it’s been crafted and honed, feeling so real in their world that they assume everyone else has picked up on it too.
Here’s an example from one of the GiANT Worldwide founders, Steve Cockram (He is an ENTP):
My wife, an ISFJ – God bless her, we’re opposites in everything – will insist she has told me something. She will say, “I told you, I told you that.” And obviously, I will respond, “No, you didn’t,” and then we have this negotiation. So the first time, she always comes back with, “No, I did tell you that.” And then I say, “Well, when did you tell me that?” This usually prompts, “Well, I think I told you that.” I respond, “Well, you think you might have. Can you think when you actually did?”
Her response to that is, “Well, you probably weren’t listening,” and that’s usually where she’s got me. And I just say, “What that usually means is you didn’t say it, but I can’t now win, which is deeply frustrating for me, but I’ve learned that’s the place to call time out because it doesn’t go any better from there on in.”
This tendency for Introverts to think they’ve communicated far more than they actually have means it’s often a good idea to remind Introverts to over communicate almost to the point they think they’ve bored or annoyed people with their thoughts. When the Introvert feels like they can’t say it anymore, that’s usually the point at which they’ll have said it loudly and clearly enough for others to really hear what they are saying.
Processing and Conversation
When most Extroverts get a new challenge they say, “Hey, let’s all get together and brainstorm, and then I’ll go away and think about it,” engaging first in the Extrovert world then in the Introvert world. Introverts tend to do the opposite. They usually need a chance to say, “That’s the problem. Let me go away and think about it, and I’ll come back when I’ve got something that is actually reasonably well-crafted. Then we can discuss.”
Exploring the external orientation of Extroverts further, you will find a number of commonalities among them. Because Extroverts tend to share their thoughts quite freely, it’s usually fairly easy to get them to talk. If you ask the right questions and appear interested in listening, they will usually talk to you for as long as they want. Furthermore, they will often disclose all kinds of personal details to complete strangers who appear to be interested in what they’re doing because to the Extrovert life is a buffet of people, ideas, conversations, and connections.
Introverts, on the other hand, tend to crave not just conversation, but depth, and therefore dislike superficiality and often struggle to make small talk. Most Introverts would much rather deal with someone they know well and go deep from the get-go rather than having to go somewhere to meet a lot of people and work their way through small talk to get to the depth conversations. Extroverts can certainly enjoy deep conversations too, but the excitement of connecting with new people and sharing what they’re interested in is energizing to them rather than draining. By contrast, the Introvert might struggle to find the process of working through the get-to-know-you phase with new people worthwhile, given that their existing, close relationships would provide an immediate entry into meaningful conversation.
Introverts Who Look Like Extroverts
The most difficult hang-up people have in determining Extrovert vs. Introvert tendencies is that many Introverts look like Extroverts. This is particularly true with Extrovert-dominated cultures, such as America, where every Introvert has to fake it in order to make their way in the world.
But that’s not to say Introverts cannot truly become the life of a party without faking it. What you’ll find is if you put Introverts in a world where they know people, and they feel known by them, then they can become some of the most gregarious raconteurs around, and everyone looks at them thinking they must be an Extrovert.
The difference is that the Introvert feels, “It’s safe to be me, because we’re dealing with depth and people I know.” That fits perfectly in line with the Introvert’s greatest relational drive, which is to know a smaller number of people incredibly well. Most Introverts, if you ask them, “How many close friends do you have?,” will reply with somewhere between two and six, and a lot of them go back 20 years or more of friendship.
Extroverts, however, prefer giving breadth to life. They tend to know an awful lot of people, they like playing with lots of things, but they’ll tend, at times, to be slightly shallower in their relationships because they just like knowing lots of people and connecting in so many different ways.
Your Action Plan
- Given everything we’ve covered in this post, ask yourself, “Do I tend to recharge as an Extroverted, solar powered person? Or do I need time to myself and space for reflection to truly refill the fuel tanks and get back at it?”
- What are some specific ways you can begin to acknowledge and value the communication differences of those who are wired opposite to you?
Next week we’ll look at some clarifying questions to help you be more confident in whether you are more extroverted and introverted, and how to begin using this in your daily life.
This was originally posted by GiANT Worldwide and I wanted to share it here as well. If you’re interested in learning more about how your personality affects your leadership, I’m happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let me know!