‘The Extrovert Ideal’ — How To Drive Inclusion and Enable Introverts to Fly Too.
It is a common theme that the COVID-19 pandemic taught us many life lessons about the art of the possible and what or who is important.
National quarantine and work from home mandates meant that I got the opportunity to get to know myself better. The 20 plus months at home opened the window to my sweet spot and the conditions required for me to be at my best.
So, what did I learn? I sit on the Introvert end of the Introvert-Extrovert spectrum.
Those who know me well may be surprised that I am at my best in quieter environments, given the space to contemplate and mull over life’s conundrums. I have been described as an avid talker and relish the opportunity to present on topics that matter to me.
My chatty style fooled me into believing that I was an Extrovert.
Carl Jung first coined the terms ‘Introvert’ and ‘Extrovert’ to describe personality types that help define who we are. In its most simplistic terms, Introverts are happiest when in lower stimulation environments, e.g., social, noise or light.
This is me: I am happiest curled up reading a book with a strong coffee and fragrant candle burning. Extroverts function better when the stimulation levels are higher.
Why does this matter? As Susan Cain highlighted in her best-selling book ‘Quiet’, it matters because we live in a world with an Extrovert Ideal. Despite that around one third to a half of people are introverted, our schools and organisations are set up to mainly favour the Extrovert. That’s 1 or 2 in every 3 people. So even if you are not an Introvert, the chances are that you are living with, friends with or working alongside one.
Some of the greatest thinkers and innovations have come from self-confessed introverts — Bill Gates, J K Rowling, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks. So why do we not always make space for the people that make up so much of our society?
There are some Introvert myths to debunk that may help move the dial towards a world where Introverts and Extroverts are valued for their differences equally.
- All Introverts are anti-social — wrong!
- Introverts are shy — some are, but not all
- Extroverts make the best leaders — not necessarily
- There is zero correlation between the best talkers and the best ideas
6 Ideas for action for leaders, people managers and the wider workforce.
- Let’s not forget the power of alone time. Group work is not always the answer to solving business problems. By allowing people to independently generate ideas and come back together to discuss them, we can minimise ‘group think’ and enable all ideas to bubble to the surface.
- For those running a meeting, prepare yourself by firstly ensuring that a meeting is actually required. We all know that meeting could have been an email. If the meeting is necessary, set up the agenda topics in the format of questions to enable all participants, particularly Introverts, to prepare their talking points in advance.
- Don’t make introverts feel guilty about wanting to go off by themselves sometimes. I’ve certainly seen improvements in office design in the past 5 years, with private nooks set up to enable 1 person or small group discussions away from the gaze of others. However, if we don’t change perception and societal biases favouring Extroverts, the guilt will be intense for those who need time to recharge at various points in the day.
- When we return to in-person meetings and conferences, let’s think about how we can set them up to include silence, quieter time, room for independent thinking and time to refuel in the breaks and lunch period.
- One of my favourite tips shared by Susan Cain is to designate a ‘Yoda’ role to ‘read the room’, picking up on what’s working well and what needs to change.
- If you are an Extrovert leader or colleague, how can you champion the Introverts you work with?
Before I sign off, I want to ensure that anyone reading this — thank you, by the way — does not walk away with the view that I’m suggesting we switch to 100% independent work. I am also not saying we should swing the pendulum to a solely Introvert Ideal and that, as leaders, we shouldn’t create an environment where our people are pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.
What I am proposing is that we allow all people to thrive without losing who they are and that, as Susan Cain suggests, we give people a longer runway in new and/or challenging situations.
Signing out from the quiet confines of my desk.
This blog contribution was made by Nikki St Paul.
Nikki is a life learner currently living out her passions as a D&l Lead striving to create a more inclusive workplace.
Her superpowers include
connecting people & themes to make things happen as well as realising and releasing potential in herself and others through reflection, mentoring & coaching.
How can you keep in touch?
What is LMF Network?
The LMF Network is a global social enterprise (not for profit) focused on empowering, enabling & educating women and marginalised groups into tech, entrepreneurship & digital. We specialise in designing and delivering accessible programmes and supporting a global community. We’ve gone from a brunch club to a social good brand based on what the community wanted. We are a real community run by real people.