What your Low Extravert Colleagues Want You to Know
Curious how to collaborate better with your co-workers who have lower extraversion or are less extraverted? It’s a question that often gets overlooked in the sea of articles and tips about “bringing out the extravert in others” and “getting introverts to speak up.” We often place the burden of change on low extraverts, but the responsibility of collaboration should be shared equally. Understanding how to work effectively with low extraverts can lead to a more productive and inclusive workplace. So, let’s dive in and explore the world of low extraversion, break down misconceptions, and learn how to connect with our introspective colleagues.
High Extraversion vs. Low Extraversion
Before we delve into the specifics of working with low extraverts, let’s clarify what high extraversion and low extraversion mean.
Extraversion is one of the key dimensions of personality and behavioral styles. In the Predictive Index®, Extraversion is called the B factor. Individuals with a strong need for working with and through others are considered to have high Extraversion (high B) and tend to be outgoing, sociable, and energized by social interactions. They thrive in group environments and are quick to speak up and share their thoughts.
On the other hand, low extraversion (low B) individuals are more reserved, introspective, and prefer solitude while working or one-on-one interactions over group settings. They may find social interactions more draining and need time alone to recharge more frequently. Low extraverts often think deeply before speaking and may take longer to process information or make decisions. But their superpower is in their natural tendency for analytical thinking.
Now that we’ve defined the terms, let’s tackle some common misconceptions about working with low extraverts.
Misconceptions About Low Extraverts
- Low Extraverts Don’t Like People: It’s a common misconception that low extraverts are anti-social hermits. In reality, having lower extraversion doesn’t automatically make someone an introvert. Low extraverts may prefer solitude at times, but it doesn’t mean they dislike people or are inherently shy. They simply have different preferences for social interaction, especially in the workplace. Assuming they want zero interaction is a misconception.
- Low Extraverts are Uncaring: While low extraverts may communicate more succinctly and directly, it doesn’t mean they lack feelings or care less than their boisterous colleagues. They often have deep emotions but express them in their own unique way, which you’ll see more often in a one-on-one setting rather than group forums. What’s great about the low extravert communication style is that you never need to second guess what is being said– they mean what they say. Economical communication doesn’t equal lack of caring.
- Low Extraverts are Overly Critical: Many individuals with lower extraversion tend to be systems-oriented and analytical, which leads to a high volume of questions (paired with the succinct communication style we just mentioned). When a low extravert asks questions, it’s not an attempt to undermine someone’s goals or ideas. Instead, it’s a genuine effort to understand and be supportive. Low extraverts are often creative problem solvers who gather information to assess solutions thoughtfully.
In summary, low extraverts are not automatic introverts, they’re not allergic to humans, and while they’re communication style may seem puzzling to you, they are simply deep thinkers.
What Your Low Extravert Co-workers Want You to Know
Now that we’ve debunked some myths, let’s explore what your low extravert co-workers would like you to understand about working with them.
Provide time for thought and introspection. By far, the most common request from a low extravert is “give me some time to think!” While high extraverts gravitate towards in-person interactions for verbal brainstorming, selling an idea, and group problem-solving, a low extravert’s first instinct is to work on the problem independently. Low extraverts appreciate having questions and topics in advance of brainstorming sessions or meetings. This gives them time to process information thoroughly, ensuring they can contribute confidently and effectively to discussions.
It’s okay to be direct. In fact, a low extravert prefers direct communication because it is substantial and to the point. Direct communication can sound like giving an agenda at the beginning of a call, asking for what you want with clear deadlines and expectations, or just being more matter-of-fact. No need to read between the lines or add extra “fluff” – say what you mean and mean what you say!
Embrace written communication. It’s not that they don’t want to talk to you (and they certainly don’t want to hurt your feelings), but written communication is often a preference for many low extraverts because it is efficient and direct (see previous point). In addition, a quick email or instant message feels less intrusive whereas an unannounced video call or in-office drive-by can really throw off their workflow and impede productivity. You may feel it’s faster to “just call and talk about it”, but chances are your low extraverted colleague may not feel the same way. Be direct about your intentions and give them a choice: would they prefer to think and then meet, write their thoughts down, or are they prepared for a live conversation now?
Give them complex problems. Low extraverts thrive when presented with challenging, complex problems. Their introspective nature allows them to approach issues from different angles and come up with innovative solutions. So, don’t hesitate to delegate your gnarliest problems to them (just remember that they’ll want to think about it first to prepare for the conversations).
Respect their schedule. Low extraverts need “heads down” time to be productive. And they may attempt to schedule that by blocking their calendar for think time or by engaging a hybrid or remote work schedule. This allows them to balance independent work with collaborative office days so that they can both have much-needed focus time and recharge after socially taxing events. Understanding and accommodating this flexibility can boost their productivity and well-being.
Now that you know the juicy insights of what your low extravert colleagues have been trying to tell you, let’s jump into a few ways that high extraverts can adapt their own behavior and become more self-aware.
How High Extraverts Can Adapt Their Behavior
As high extraverts, it’s essential to adapt our behavior to create a more inclusive and collaborative environment for our low extravert colleagues. Here are some tips on how to do just that:
- Practice Self-Awareness When You Talk: Be mindful of your own extraversion levels and how they might impact your interactions, especially in a group setting. Avoid dominating conversations, talking past the point of productivity, or interrupting others. This will only shut down your low extravert colleagues further. Keep your communication clear and concise. Avoid unnecessary repetition or verbosity, which can be overwhelming (did we hear someone say ‘annoying’?) for low extraverts and feel like a waste of time.
- Create Space for Equal Contribution: In meetings, make an effort to create space for low extraverts to contribute. Encourage their input and allow for moments of silence as they process their thoughts– there’s no need to fill that silence with chatter or reframing the question, give things a moment. Practice active listening techniques such as counting to five after asking a question, muting your mic on video calls, or sitting on your hands (seems weird, but it works). Be especially cognizant if your low extravert team member is remote or dialing in to a call– it can be harder for them to interject in this setting. If you notice in hindsight that you may have missed a low extravert’s contributions, send them an email follow up and ask for their written thoughts.
- Provide Previews: We’re not talking about movie trailers here, but avoiding blindsiding your low extravert colleagues with impromptu calls or meetings. For any meeting, it’s best to be clear about the agenda and desired outcomes, regardless of extraversion (but your low extraverts will find that preparation especially helpful). If there’s a decision to be made during a meeting, consider providing a written preview, sharing the expectation of the decision-making deadline, or questions to consider ahead of time to your low extravert colleagues. This can help expedite the decision-making process and lead to more productive outcomes. Provide as much detail as possible about scheduled events, agendas, and information needed in advance to allow them to prepare effectively.
We can all adapt to work better together.
In conclusion, working with low extraversion colleagues can be a rewarding experience when we understand their preferences and adapt our behavior accordingly. By getting to know your colleagues, recognizing their strengths, and respecting their communication styles, we can foster a more inclusive and productive workplace.
So, the next time you collaborate with a low extravert co-worker, remember these insights, and watch as your teamwork becomes more effective, harmonious, and enjoyable.