How to Make Introverts and Extroverts Happy, and How to Drive Them Crazy

“We suspect that our team can be a lot more effective if we can do a better job of acknowledging, appreciating and accommodating the introverts among us. We also want to acknowledge what our extroverts need to operate at their peak potential.”

That’s the challenge my client recently asked me to help solve for her 20-person (mostly virtual) marketing communications team.  If her team is like most, about one-third to one-half of the members are introverts.

As I set to work designing an onsite workshop for this team, I assembled some tips that can be used by all types of teams looking to create a safe, productive environment where introverts and extroverts alike can thrive. (I also put together some tips for what not to do if you want to keep your introverts and extroverts happy.)

To create a safe space where introverts can thrive:

  • Give everyone prework prior to your next meeting. Your introverts will appreciate having a chance to think through things and offer ideas in advance
  • Slow down the pace and build in time for silent reflection. Insert pauses into your agendas for recharging
  • During your meeting, whether onsite or virtual, allow for some kind of written responses instead of, or to augment, verbal responses
  • Appreciate that introverts typically prefer speaking only when they feel they have something to contribute; sometimes their silence simply means they have nothing to add
  • Create a space for introverts to speak; don’t force them to interrupt their more gregarious counterparts. Give them fair warning before welcoming them into the conversation by saying their name first
  • Provide opportunities for people to work in pairs or small groups for at least some of the time when designing large-group meetings
  • Give them opportunities to work on tasks that don’t rely on teamwork as a constant state
  • When organizing social functions, set up activities that don’t require free-form mingling for any length of time, which can be particularly painful and draining for an introvert

To drive an introvert crazy:

  • Push her to speak when she insists she has nothing useful to add
  • Assume he has nothing to add because he is not chiming in; move onto the next topic without checking in
  • Let extroverts do all the talking, even if they interrupt her when she tries to speak
  • Insist that she spends more time with the team to build camaraderie
  • Hold frequent unstructured meetings, and spend much of the time indulging in social chit-chat; ask personal, intrusive questions to make conversation
  • Cram agendas so full that there’s barely time to breathe
  • Thrust her into the spotlight; ask her to regale the team with her latest achievements
  • Situate her in a boisterous location, such as in the middle of a noisy, open space

To create a happy place where extroverts can thrive:

  • Keep things moving at a brisk pace; don’t stop to slow things down
  • Design group meetings for frequent interaction; vary activities, format and flow to keep things fresh  and include the element of surprise somewhere along the line
  • Inject frequent stimulation, such as the use of color, graphics, music, improv and games
  • Respond quickly to signs of boredom by offering breaks, shifting the energy or doing an impromptu exercise
  • Design work that calls for frequent teamwork and group conversations
  • Encourage their enthusiasm and energy
  • When organizing social functions, set up activities that allow for social conversations with a variety of people; competitions of any kind are almost always a big hit

To drive an extrovert crazy:

  • Insist that he work independently, with little or no interaction with team members
  • Stick to the tasks at hand, and minimize social conversations of any kind
  •  Ask her to wait her turn before expressing her ideas; when she starts to speak, suggest that she stop to think through her ideas first
  • Keep things structured, predictable and consistent; insist that everyone follows the rules
  • Never interrupt her while she’s working, even if it’s to ask her to lunch or check in to see how she’s doing
  • Situate him in a quiet, out-of-the-way location, apart from colleagues
  • Don’t show her any attention or affection; treat her with the same regard as you treat everyone else

Creating a team environment where both introverts and extroverts feel comfortable, productive, safe and happy is worth the effort it takes. The first step: Create awareness as to how people on the team identify themselves, since many introverts work hard to present themselves as extroverts. Then find ways to discover what introverts and extroverts need from each other and what this means about how they want to work together. As Susan Cain, author of the groundbreaking book Quiet cautions: “It’s never a good idea to organize society in a way that depletes the energy of half the population.”



Related Communiques from Guided Insights:

Related links from Susan Cain:

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