The differences between introverts and extroverts can come into full light during a meeting. Extroverts are more likely to say what they think and talk through their thought processes, while introverts take in the information and sort through it in their own heads. The fact is that most meetings cater to extroverts, although this is rarely intentional. Left to run its natural course, a meeting will ultimately see more extroverts getting to contribute than introverts. The introverts in the room often go unnoticed; even if they have a game-changing idea, it never gets shared.
It doesn’t have to be this way, however. Sure, introverts could speak up more, but that’s not in their nature. Instead, meetings should cater to everyone who is attending them, not just the most outspoken. Looking at it this way, you’ll get better input overall from everyone in the meeting and each person will feel they get the recognition they deserve. In order to even the playing field, meeting managers first need to understand the different behaviors and needs of introverts and extroverts in meetings.
No one is an introvert or an extrovert all of the time. There might be people who are normally extroverted but become quiet in meetings, or who usually have an introverted personality but are outspoken in meetings (or just some meetings!). The following descriptions reflect the typical behavior of an introvert, or someone who behaves as an introvert in meetings.
Introverts don’t want to be in the spotlight. There may be the rare exception, but as a general rule, introverts don’t like being in the spotlight. They may hesitate to speak up because they aren’t comfortable being the center of attention (or they don’t want to steal the show from others).
Introverts may jot down notes as they mull things over. If you see an introvert taking notes during a meeting, it means they are prepping their own ideas. So if you catch them doing this, know that they are readying their opinions – it’s just a matter of getting them to share it.
Introverts will often speak up when prompted. While they might be quiet if left to their own devices, most introverts will share what’s on their mind if they’re asked to do so.
If you’re an introvert:
Write down your thoughts about the agenda items in advance. Give yourself a timeframe in the meeting to reflect; wait too long and the opportunity will pass by. You can get more time to think as you speak by first thoughtfully repeating out loud what you’ve heard.
If you’re working with an introvert:
Send agenda items well in advance so that your introvert can have time to consider their ideas. Consider doing a round-robin or a more structured meeting that ensures every person in the room gets a turn to speak.
In contrast with introverts, extroverts are usually the stars of the show. Instead of needing to be pushed, they sometimes might need reigning in. Here is what you can expect from an extrovert in a meeting:
Extroverts thrive in meetings and are energized by interaction. Few extroverts have trouble sharing their thoughts in a meeting – it’s just comes naturally. Extroverts can endure long meetings because they genuinely enjoy exchanging ideas with others.
Extroverts sometimes don’t think before they speak (or think while they are speaking). Not every idea that comes out of an extrovert’s mouth is fully formed. They will often do their thinking out loud, whereas introverts are more likely to think before they speak.
Extroverts may assume that others think like them. Since they’re used to speaking up for themselves, they may not consider that others aren’t as comfortable with it.
If you’re an extrovert:
You don’t have to completely change, but it can be helpful to the group for you to tweak your own behavior. If you find yourself talking a lot, reign it in. Be respectful of others’ time and right to speak. Take more time to think about what you say rather than speaking your raw thoughts aloud, and ask for the opinions of others (especially the quiet ones).
If you’re working with an extrovert:
Some extroverts may need help managing their own behavior. If they’re talking too long, find a tactful way to get them to wrap up and then ask others to speak. Having a facilitator in your meeting can help ensure that everyone gets a fair share of talking time. Don’t let any one person take over the meeting.
All meetings need balance to maintain productivity and keep participants happy. Differences between extroverted and introverted personalities can cause meetings to seem lopsided. By understanding the common behaviors of each personality type, meeting leaders can better manage their meetings to improve results and enhance feelings of respect and collaboration.