Category Archives: introvert

Communication Gaps Between Introverts and Extroverts


I had two situations recently where key differences around communication between introverts and extroverts showed up for me.

Scenario #1:

When was the last time you came back to your office and listened to 100 voicemails? More likely you responded to the many emails in your inbox.

I reached my saturation point a few weeks ago after I realized that I hadn’t had one live conversation all day. That is an energy drain for an extrovert. The real tipping point came during a back and forth email dialogue with an introverted work colleague.

As our email tennis match proceeded, I could see the misunderstandings multiply. I wrote him to ask for a five-minute phone call to clear up the issue. He wrote back, asking me if we could “settle it on email”. “No way,” I thought. “It would take more time to write each other again than to talk.”

With some apprehension, I decided to pick up the phone and dial his number. We had a brief conversation in which he explained his position and we discussed several viable options. The matter was resolved in less than four minutes.

I know, as an introvert, he prefers to communicate via email. I agree — most of our communication can be handled that way. But there are times that we need to do the extrovert thing and talk it out. We can ask each other questions, dig a little deeper, and listen to our respective voices.

Scenario #2:

One of the lessons I have learned from introverts is the value of preparation. So when my colleague, Caroline, asked to talk to me about her new website, I wrote back and requested that she send me a few questions to consider. I wanted to have the time to adequately prepare so that I could give her valuable feedback. Was she looking for help with the design, the content, or the branding? There were many aspects of her website I could consider. She didn’t take too well to my questions at first but then realized that our style differences were probably the reason for her concern.

I found it interesting that she thought I was an introvert. I suppose I have been flexing into introvert behaviors for so long that people don’t realize that I am much more extroverted.

Here is what Caroline wrote:

“When you asked what questions I have for the conversation, it didn’t even occur to me that you, as an introvert, prefer and become more comfortable thinking ahead of time. My instinctive reaction was that you were challenging the relevance or desirability of spending this time with me. This was probably reflective of the fact that I am doing a lot of selling these days in which I’m asking strangers to meet with me. It was only after writing the questions down that it occurred to me that the I/E difference might be at play.”

I assured her that I just wanted to be prepared. She thought about what she wanted from me and I had a chance to reflect upon her questions. We had a productive dialogue as a result.

It is natural to have differences in communication between extroverts and introverts. Here are some tips which should help you to smooth out some introvert-extrovert disconnects.

Introverts, arriving early and my German adventure

Introverts, arriving early and my German adventure

On the way to the Junfermann Verlag book launch event for Genial Gengensatze (The Genius of Opposites) in Berlin I found this poster in a neighboring bar.

I lay awake the night of April 8th with the pre-trip jitters “Do I have my passport?””Will I make my connection?” Will any people speak English?” I was headed to Germany to speak at a series of events and the unknown was both exciting and unnerving.  In recent years I have been fortunate to visit Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Netherlands, Spain, Canada and now Berlin to open up a dialogue about the importance of introverts at work.

Every international trip I embark on transforms me and this one was no exception.

So what did I learn?

1. Be flexible in your communication  –  I don’ t speak German but I did discover that not knowing the language can actually have some advantages. Learning a few words and Incorporating them goes a long way. When you say “Guten Tag (Good Day)” it is greeted with smiles and a recognition that you are at least trying to connect. I also picked up on cues like voice tone, body language and words we use in English (like “goot (good)” and “manager” (manager) to piece together context. One night I even took a Yoga class (all in German of course) at my hotel’s gym and surprisingly, was able to follow along. The Yiddish language I heard in my home as a young girl and common German words like “Gesundheit” helped.  And as my translator Ruben converted my words into German, I used that time to formulate my statements and synthesized the important points to convey.

2. Debate is not personal  – When Germans challenge you it ain’t personal. Class discussion and question and answer sessions were marked by fiery debate and passionate, loud voices. People dissected ideas from all angles and they raised deeply provocative questions. Marta, a woman in one of my sessions unequivocally stated that introversion didn’t exist, only to return the next day, arguing the opposite position! My brain worked overtime and it was exhilarating to explore new research terrain. On a side note, before I left for Germany, I was at a retreat where I met Erica Jong, the famous author. She had just returned from her own book tour in Germany and said that she was impressed at how the Germans were “readers.”  I concur and would add “provocateurs” to that description. They rarely take ideas at face value.

3. Arrive early .  My German publishing liaison Stephan and I had a planned meeting at 6:00/18:00 p.m. for dinner prior to my book launch event for The Genius of Opposites and Quiet Influence. When I pulled up in my cab at 5:59/17:59, p.m. Stephan noted this with a smile of approval. Before driving me to see the Olympic Stadium, Dirk, my  business partner picked me up in his car a minute after the appointed time and  apologized for being late.  A note to my American trainer friends:  class participants were typically in their seats at least 10-15 minutes before the class start time. They took the chance to settle in and connect with others in low-key conversations. What a best practice we could adopt here!

4.Walk briskly. The Germans view walking and breathing as one in the same. It is a natural and done often! Also, as a native New Yorker,  I thought I walked fast but was actually slow compared to my German colleagues. A 20 minute stroll to grab lunch was normal. Stephan kidded me about taking a cab for the 1.5 kilometers  from the hotel. This would be a rare practice for a German coming that distance. No wonder Europeans are in good shape!

5. Introverts are  being recognized Though relatively new to the zeitgeist (another German word btw) the people I interacted with (many were coaches, psychologists and trainers) were intrigued by how they could incorporate knowledge of introversion into their work and their lives. Many of them identified with the traits of introverts. Discussions ensued about introverted leaders like Angela Merkel and the quiet strengths introverts use to influence and lead. Some insights even translated into real time changes.   At the Eilert Akademie for Emotional Intelligence  a quiet room was set aside for class participants to take breaks and recharge.  And they did.

That April pre-trip anxiety now seems far away. I want to sincerely thank  Ute Eilert, Dirk Eilert and Ruben Langwara of The Eilert Akademie for Emotional Intelligence,  Johanna Vondeling of Berrett-Koehler ,Dr. Stephan Dietrich  of German publisher Junfermann and Britta Gansebohm of Der Literarrische Salon  for making my German trip such a memorable one.

One last learning? Humor knows no borders. Quiet Influence:The Introvert’s Guide To Making a Difference translates into into Die Starken der Stillen. Using Google Translate it is The Art of Breastfeeding. Upon learning this, my audiences had a good laugh and while I breastfed my daughters many years ago, fortunately  none of my audiences expected a lecture on this topic!

“I am an introvert” says Jeb Bush

I am an introvert says Jeb Bush I listened to the next presidential candidate put his hat in the ring. My ears were not deceiving me, were they? Had former Governor Jeb Bush just called himself an introvert?

I replayed the clip a few times and sure enough, there was the “I” word. Jeb said, “I’m different than George….” I will share all about that…It is something that took some getting used to since I am kind of introverted.”

The press has latched onto the introvert moniker and that is significant because it is different. In the past presidents, let alone aspiring presidential candidates would not have seen this label as a positive. Consider Washington, Adams or Jefferson, all considered to be introverted. I don’t think they would have used the term, do you?

New York Magazine in a somewhat tongue and cheek fashion, actually pegged candidate Bush’s key word as “introvert. “It is horse-race scripture that all presidential candidates must be boiled down to one adjective by the end of the election. The word must be appended to every story profiling the candidate, or the story must be discredited. To understand Jeb Bush, you must never forget that he is an introvert.”

President Obama never said he is an introvert, but after studying his temperament  I believe he shows the characteristics of an introvert. His measured words, preference for privacy and distaste for socializing offer a few clues.

But this time around, we actually have a candidate publicly owning his introversion Bush said that he has determined he is an introvert based on his Myers-Briggs assessment results. He also said “he would rather read a book than go out on a conga line. “ In the CNN clip, he also describes himself as a good listener, a skill often associated with introversion.

So does this mean that we now accept introversion as a valued personality trait in our leaders? Yes and no. It is more socially acceptable for leaders to view introversion as a positive quality. In time, as there is more understanding about its meaning,  public perception has also shifted in a more positive direction.

It was as recently as 4 years ago that I was interviewed by Joann Lublin, the  WSJ reporter about a story on introverted executives.  Joannn had a difficult time finding introverted leaders who would talk with her on the record! I would like to think she would have an easier time today.

Big ships don’t change direction as easily as people do. We still have miles to go in exploding the myth that a leader needs to have a Type A, highly energetic and outwardly charismatic vibe to succeed.  But the “rise of the introverts” is in full swing. There is no stopping it now.





Why I Am a Fan Girl of Techies

Why I am a fan girl of techies

With Janet Davis and Jennifer Ng AIn Kin, technology leaders at the 2015 IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference in San Jose, CA

I am a fan girl of techies. Yet it makes no sense at all. From my earliest school days I suffered from math anxiety. I still do.

Ms. Walsh,  my 2nd grade teacher would write a math problem on the chalkboard, and my throat constricted, my stomach tightened and my eyes got blurry. Things didn’t get much better in junior high and high school. The problems just got harder and more confusing. Even the math tutors my parents hired to help me decipher this foreign language couldn’t do much.

Fast forward and now even doing my taxes can send me into a total tailspin. So what’s up with my fascination with techies? I think it  comes down to three key reasons:

1) TECHIES ARE CREATIVE.  Techies use numbers creatively to design robots, create time saving applications and access instantaneous information.  And that creativity is closely associated with a wicked sense of humor!  Just take a look at the photo above of Canadian engineers   Jennifer Ng Ain Kin  of Abbott Point of Care  and Janet Davis of ciena,  who called attention to the superpower of techie women at the 2015 IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference in San Jose, CA.

2) TECHIES LOVE WHAT THEY DO. In describing a new process or program I lose myself in their exuberance. It doesn’t matter that I have no idea about the intricacies of the problem they are solving. I just enjoy watching their utter joy in describing it to me.

3) APPRECIATE AND RESPECT “SOFT SKILLS.”  Many techies are introverts.  In order to sell their ideas, obtain resources and instill innovation they know that people skills are necessary. And they look for ways to apply these tools to get results.

Fortunately I don’t have to worry about that next algebra exam any longer but remembering that anxiety is useful. It gives me empathy for introverted techies who detest walking into a social gathering or speaking up at a meeting. Maybe we aren’t that different after all.

Networking for Introverts

What an engaging dialogue I had recently with two well known networkers – Andy Lopata and Ivan Misner, Ph.D. Andy and Ivan are global gurus in the area of how to network like pros and write and speak extensively on networking.

A brief write up of the show follows with a recording of the Google Hangout video.

“Increasing numbers of people recognise the important role networking plays in building businesses or growing a career. Yet introverts often feel at a disadvantage. Uncomfortable with attending big events, putting themselves at the centre of everyone’s attention or standing out from the crowd, many introverts prefer to get on with their job and expect to get noticed.

Does it need to be this way? Do introverts need to network and if so, how can they do so comfortably?

Ivan and Andy are joined by the Champion of Introverts, Jennifer B Kahnweiler Ph.D. CSP author of Quiet Influence, The Introverted Leader and the upcoming, The Genius of Opposites (Aug. 2015) to explore these and other questions about how introverts can network with confidence.”

See if you agree with our points about networking for introverts.

Clutter an obstacle for introverts


Clutter an obstacle for introverts

I am so pleased to present a guest post by my friend and colleague Tricia Molloy, corporate speaker and author of Working With Wisdom . Tricia is one of the calmest, even tempered people I know and has helped thousands get to a clear place where they can set their goals AND achieve them. Her post highlights some wonderful tips for introverts and all of us to put into action. 

By Tricia Molloy

Clutter distracts and confuses us. It drains our energy, keeps us from doing what’s most important and gets in the way of our goals and our dreams. While extroverts seem to thrive on juggling lots of balls, introverts who are more sensitive to the world around them may find that clutter is truly an obstacle to their ability to function.

As your life becomes more crowded and complicated, it’s important to realize how clutter has robbed you of what matters. When you clean out the clutter, you have more energy and clarity to achieve your goals faster and easier. According to the ancient philosopher Aristotle, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” When you consciously create that space, it’s often filled with what serves your highest good—whether that’s a better job or healthier relationships.

Ready to clean out the clutter? It’s best to start small and build from there. Otherwise, you may become overwhelmed with the task as you start to see clutter everywhere. Let’s look at the three areas that clutter lurks.

  1. First, there’s physical clutter, like a messy workspace with files overflowing with outdated or unnecessary paperwork, junk mail, and tools on your desk that are better off in closed drawers. At home, the clutter might be in your bedroom closet where half the clothes no longer fit your size, lifestyle or your era. It’s time to bag up the clothes to give away and throw out the worn-out or damaged items. Fill a box with nostalgic pieces that have an emotional charge for you, like that concert t-shirt you’ll never wear again, and store it out of the way in your attic or basement.


  1. Next is technical clutter. Information overload. Spending too much time on the Internet and on social media sites. Your over-reliance on your cell phone. Watching all the gloom and doom of the evening news on TV. You know where you waste your time and where you allow technology to control you, instead of assist you. It might help to restrict your time on the computer or create a “No Technology Zone” a few hours in the evening to really connect with family and friends. Revving down your devices will give you that introvert quiet time that is vital.


  1. Finally, there’s emotional clutter. This is the clutter that keeps you up at night. That’s the regrets, resentments and what you haven’t forgiven about someone else or perhaps yourself. When it comes to the clutter of unfinished business, take an objective look at your to-do list, delegate when you can, and drop anything that doesn’t need to be on there. You’ll find this one practice liberating. For unnecessary obligations, make a list of all your ongoing commitments in a typical week, month or year. Those include committees not essential to your work responsibilities and regular gatherings of social groups. Rank each on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. Consider dropping out of anything less than a seven. Taking this introvert time to reflect will benefit you so much when it comes to making these hard choices.

Now let’s talk candidly about the clutter of those exacerbating, toxic people in your life. We all have them. I found they tend to fall into one of two categories. They’re either family or people you work with or for, or they are friends or neighbors. You can choose to no longer associate with those in the second group. It’s the first group that can be the real challenge. My advice is to set up healthy boundaries so you can give them what they need but respect your own needs by spending less time with them.

As an introvert, where will you choose to start to clean out the clutter? You’ll find that once you begin, you’ll enjoy more energy, have time to tap into your quiet time and embrace a simpler life that will allow you to reach your goals.

Tricia Molloy is a corporate leadership speaker on work-life balance, a mentor and the author of “Working with Wisdom.” Clean Out the Clutter is the first step in her most popular employee development program, “CRAVE Your Goals!”

Tips for Introverts In Meetings

Tips for Introverts in Meetings

Introverts can gain visibility and make a difference in both large and small meetings.

“The introverts loved it but the extroverts were frustrated. They wanted to talk out their ideas but I think we got so many more creative suggestions by using this method, ” said Katrina, a participant at my Wyoming Library Conference program this past week. She was referring to the brain writing technique I wrote about in The Introverted Leader.

Put a problem on a piece of paper and pass it around. Each person adds their solutions and builds on ones that have been written down. And there is no verbal exchange. Katrina has used the method twice in her staff meetings. She noticed that better and richer ideas emerged from  giving everyone time to think and reflect.

In my guest post on The Axelrod Blog , Tips for Introverts in Meetings  I mentioned brain writing and 4 other introvert-friendly meeting approaches.  Dick and Emily Axelrod, authors of that blog are also great new book Let’s Stop Meeting Like This.

Here is an excerpt:

Have you ever been told by your boss that you need to speak up more at meetings? Have you been frustrated that a few people seem to dominate every conference call?

If you are an introvert, meetings are places where you can influence change AND be recognized for your value. I have learned a great deal from research for my books The Introverted Leader and Quiet Influence about how to make the most out of the meetings you lead and attend.

So what do successful introverted leaders recommend? Consider these 5 meeting tips for introverts (I’s) that extroverts (E’s) can learn from as well.

  1. Get hold of the agenda. Take prep time to think about your comments and questions beforehand. This caters to your introverted sweet spot of preparation and allows you to confidently present your thoughts. No agenda? Offer to create one and your teammates will be grateful that someone is taking the organizational reins.  

Read the 4 other tips here and let me know if you have others. Thanks!