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Conquering the Introvert-Extrovert Communication Gap, Part 1

How to get a word in edgewise with extroverts

Used with permission/iStockphoto
Source: Used with permission/iStockphoto

Getting a word in edgewise at a meeting with extroverts* can be daunting for introverts. Listening carefully without interjecting can be a stretch for extroverts. Yet we all need to do some talking and some listening to work together productively. How do we strike the right balance?

The tugs on our sleeves are different. If you're an introvert, you feel the tug to solve problems alone in your cubicle, corner office, or Batcave. If you're an extrovert, that sounds like solitary confinement. The tug on your sleeve is to bounce your ideas off others, brainstorming energetically out loud. However, an extrovert's brainstorming powwow can be overwhelming for an introvert. How can you communicate well with those who are so different from you? Here's what I share in my book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead:

How introverts can communicate well with extroverts

  • Be prepared to discuss a few light conversation topics as a way of connecting with your extroverted conversation partners.
  • Arrive at meetings well rested and refreshed to help prevent sensory overload.
  • Just as you prefer to think through your ideas before you talk about them, extroverts often like to work through their ideas out loud and bound them off others. Expect to do some brainstorming at a meeting with extroverts.
  • While you may normally prefer to wait your turn to speak, be prepared to jump in when speaking at a meeting of extroverts.
  • Be patient with questions extroverts ask that seem invasive. Rather than critiquing their questions, just offer whatever you're comfortable sharing.
  • If you're stumped by a question, respond that you need a moment to think about it or that you'll follow up with an answer later.
  • Recognize extroverts' needs to have plenty of varied activities and people to talk to; an extrovert may be bored by an in-depth discussion behind closed doors with one person on a single topic.
  • Keep in mind that extroverts tend to be action oriented and to rely on the outside world for input and stimulation; balance that with your more inward focus.
  • Just as you may have deep knowledge about a few topics, appreciate extroverts' breadth of knowledge on many topics.
  • Avoid sending extroverts long e-mails or leaving detailed phone messages. (Many busy introverts will appreciate this too!) Extroverts may skim or only focus on the first few words.
  • Remember that while you're likely to have just a few close friends, extroverts like to know lots of people as acquaintances.

Come back next week for Part 2 of this story and you'll get tips about how extroverts can communicate well with introverts. Even if you don't need those tips, surely you know someone to forward them to. Meetings will never be the same! Meanwhile, check out "10 Ways Introverts Can Promote Themselves to Extroverts" on

Excerpt adapted from: Nancy Ancowitz, Self-Promotion for Introverts®: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead, McGraw-Hill, 2009, pp. 217-219.

*Also spelled "extraverts" by Carl Jung and the communities of the MBTI® and other personality assessments such as the Five Factor Model.

© Copyright 2010 Nancy Ancowitz

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