I had two situations recently where key differences around communication between introverts and extroverts showed up for me.
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 that, 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.
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 thinks I am an introvert. I suppose I have been flexing into introvert behaviors for so long that people don’t realize that I am 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 (and 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) was that you were challenging the relevance or desirability of spending this time 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 from author Nancy Ancowitz which should help you to smooth out some introvert-extrovert disconnects.