Top 10 Tips for Communicating with Introverts

By People Leaders | People Leaders Podcast

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We’ve previously covered our top 10 tips for communicating with extroverts on our podcast and blog. Today it’s the introvert’s turn*. It may well be that you think you don’t have many introverts on your team or in your workplace but that could be because introversion is often misunderstood.

Some think of introverts as shy and/or quiet. This is often the case but these are definitely not universal attributes. See if the tips below help serve as clues for who on your team might be introverted and adjust your approach to them accordingly. And as usual, you can also hear us discuss this on The People Leaders Podcast here. 

1 - Practice active listening

Of course extroverts like it when you listen actively but there is a subtle difference with introverts. Extroverts like to have your attention whereas introverts like to have your interest. They like to know they are understood. Nodding your head, leaning in and taking notes, if appropriate, are all good signs of active listening for an introvert.

2 - Think before speaking

We’ve already told the introverts to make concessions for extroverts that like to think out loud, but sometimes it can help make it less confusing if extroverts meet them halfway. And if that’s not an option, let them know that you are thinking out loud so they can become more attuned to your conclusions than your process.

3 - Respect the need for privacy

This is privacy rather than secrecy, especially when it comes to personal details. Extroverts are more comfortable in open offices but introverts can be more prone to discomfort in them. If you are to engage in a conversation that might be private in nature, invite the introvert to a space where you are less likely to be overheard. Do this and they will be likely to engage more fully with you.

4 - Speak slowly and calmly…

...without being condescending. Introverts are not slow but they do like time to process. Think of the difference between savouring your food and gulping your food. Introverts savour conversations. They like gaps between sentences so they can experience the aftertaste so to speak. You will often ‘see’ them thinking during those pauses. It will be worth the wait because they will then contribute to the conversation with value.

5 - Choose a time and a place to communicate with a minimum of distraction

Distractions are called distractions for a reason. While extroverts like their attention to be in multiple places at once, introverts do not. And they are especially disturbed by interruptions as they like to keep their train of thought on one track at a time.

6 - Pause and wait for a response

An extension of tip #4 above. It’s often said that it’s the gaps between the notes that make music. For introverts, it’s the gaps between sentences that make the conversation. This is where they can process what’s been said and run it through their databank to make sense of it all.

7 - Don't come across as imposing or demanding of an immediate response

Introverts don’t just like pauses, they like time to analyse. They hear what you say then they go away and make meaning from it. If a decision or an opinion is required, it can be difficult for them to arrive at one without this processing time. This doesn’t mean to leave it open ended though. Ask if they need time to think about it and get an agreement as to when they will come back to you. It will be worth the wait for sure.

8 - Provide information and allow time for processing in advance

Catering to the introvert’s need for processing time, an agenda or a few discussion points in advance will help them prepare for the conversation. And if you are already in a meeting and are seeking feedback from those present, start with the extroverts as they will likely be more ready to offer feedback than the introverts.

9 - Stick to topic

One. Topic. At. A. Time. Extroverts like breadth so are more comfortable skipping from one topic to another. Introverts like depth so would rather explore each topic more deeply before moving on. Think of the difference between a tango and a jitterbug and you’ll get a sense of the depth and focus that introverts like compared to extroverts.

10 - Summarize your final thoughts and the direction that you've agreed on

This applies to extroverts as well but it also serves as confirmation for an introvert. Often the summary will bring to light a detail that they simply ‘forgot’ to share or an assumption they have made that the other party hadn’t picked up on. Be clear what is expected of whom and when.

Next steps

Did you discover any new introverts on your team based on the tips shared above?

And which tip will you take on first? You are likely doing some of these tips already so choose something new from the list and focus on that for a day before taking on another. Keep cycling through them until they become second nature to you.

And please share with your extroverted colleagues so they can become masterful at communicating with introverts also.

*These tips are adapted from “Introduction to Type and Communication” by Donne Dunning, published by CPP Inc.

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