Tag Archives: extroverts

The Sound of Silence

Silence.

I think the universe is giving me the high sign to be quiet. For extroverts like myself, it is too easy to talk and make conversation. But what are we missing when we fill the space with our words and do not stop to let our pauses land?

Why, for instance, when waiting in line, is it easier to chatter or pick up your phone than simply stay present and notice what is going on with you and your surroundings?

I attended a retreat in Mexico and was away from technology and deadlines. The silence was beautiful. I meditated every morning and spent time in quiet reflection. To my family’s surprise, I even attended a silent dinner.

That last activity was a surprisingly relaxing and calming interlude. It was hard to believe that it lasted 1½ hours. I ate slowly, thinking about my food and how it looked and tasted. I was simply being. I came back determined to live more in the pause.

“The truth is in the silence. People are afraid to have a silent moment. People are jumping up and giving their opinion too quickly.” These words, spoken by the late comedian Gary Shandling  are profound. In an interview with podcast host Mark Maron, he went on to say that he believed that not being silent was a defensive reaction to not going deeper.

In my research for my book, Quiet Influence I found that introverts value quiet time above all other strengths. It is the place which is the wellspring for their creativity energy and where they go to recharge.

In Krista Tippitt’s podcast, On Being, Tiffany Shlain, a web guru, described how she and her family take a technology Sabbath on Friday night and Saturdays and how it has changed all of their lives for the better. Taking a radical step like that might just be the answer to reclaiming silence.

So, what will you do to build silence and a quiet space into your hectic life? Things are not going to get less busy, so it is probably wise to figure that out now, not tomorrow.

Five Tips to Handle Conflict with Your Valentine

 

Vera is a newly married introverted project lead in a high tech company. Over lunch, she told me that she finds it easier to address conflict with her diverse work group than she does with her extroverted spouse.  She told me she was afraid that by tiptoeing around each other they would end up like her parents, who barely spoke and didn’t have the happiest of marriages. “Any tips?” she asked.

Experience Teaches 

I am by no means a marriage expert, but I have learned a few things from being married to my introverted husband, Bill for over 45 years. The biggest learning?  I can’t change him. He will never jump up and down when he is excited or tell me that he wants to talk about our “relationship.”  I never will sit and think too long about our disconnects but will often express them at the moment.

I and have also learned that you shouldn’t avoid conflict as your major way of operating. Stuffed feelings and fiery reactions can let off steam but lead to resentments and anger that comes out later in larger explosions.

What I Learned From Genius Opposites

I researched “genius opposites” at work, introverted and extroverted pairs who make their relationships work and who achieve results over time. Like Michelle and Barack Obama these couples complement each other and also learn how to wade through their differences, emerging on the other side stronger.

“The Death Knell to Real Collaboration is Politeness” Francis Crick, Scientist 

Extroverts and introverts are profoundly different. Extroverts get charged by being around other people. Introverts find socialization draining and regain their energy with alone time. Extroverts speak in order to think; introverts think in order to speak. These differences can drive some pairs crazy. But for those who are able to work together, their combined strengths can achieve incredible results – ones they could never get to on their own.

Successful opposites in relationships acknowledge their differences, using them to challenge each other and blast apart assumptions. They accept that decisions come with conflict and that conflict is normal, natural, and necessary. They know that disagreements open up the path to an outcome. Successful opposites get that avoiding conflict, on the other hand, creates tension and prevents them from achieving innovative and creative solutions.

Biologist Francis Crick said it well: “The death knell to real collaboration is politeness.”

We Pull Out Our Best From Each Other 

Introvert and extrovert opposites, working together, can do extraordinary things by pulling out the best thinking from each other, like blending two brains into one. But they have to be willing to “bring on the battles” for the world to benefit from the results of their genius. Valentines can do the same.

In writing  The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together  I found partners share six key strategies to work through conflict and manage disagreements. The same lessons can apply at home. As you navigate your new or old relationship with your opposite Valentine, consider these ideas.

1. Remember energy differences. 

Accept that your partner’s introverted energy may wane from too much people time, or your extroverted colleague might get too hyped up during a conflict. During conflict and stress, we exaggerate our strengths (like to talk more often and louder as an extrovert or retreat into yourself as an introvert). Resist the tendency to amplify your natural traits. Sometimes a timeout is the best workaround to help you regroup and reconvene, ready to engage with a clear head. Factor in breaks or a few moments of quiet to keep moving toward a resolution.

2. Tell ‘em what you need. 

You can set the foundation for clear communication when you bring on the battles. Let your partner know specifically what you want and what you need to avoid emotional flare-ups. If you need to find a private space to work, then tell them. Or if you need to spill out your thoughts, say so. Mind reading doesn’t work here.

3. Manage crisis together. 

When an inevitable crisis occurs, put your heads together and figure out a way through. That often means drawing on the partner in the pair who is better suited to meet the problem at hand. Figuring out the logical solution may be your strong suit, while your opponent’s strength might be going to the source and diffusing the situation.

4. Bring in a third party. 

Sometimes when you reach an impasse, no amount of discussion will work. The best action you can take is to bring in a neutral party, an objective outsider, to break through the tension and help you get unstuck and find a win-win way forward. I referred to Michelle and Barack Obama. In Michelle Obama’s book Becoming, she talks about going to marriage therapy as a young people navigating their communication and responsibilities with young children and growing careers.

5. Walk and talk.

Consider moving your conversation outside the doors of your home. Talking out their ideas helps extroverts while walking around helps them gain clarity about their positions. Introverts will respond to the relaxed pace. They also will conserve energy by not having to concentrate on making eye contact and other in-your-face listening behaviors. When you let the juices flow by getting up and moving, new ideas spring up and you will see solutions together.

The more high stakes the situation, the more important it is for opposites to bring on the battles as an outcome-focused team or couple.

Sharing knowledge about  Introvert-Extrovert differences with your Valentine isn’t a cure-all. It may not settle skirmishes over whose dishwasher loading method is best (mine, btw) but it can help you clear the static and bring you back to a flow that attracted you to your partner in the first place.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

How Do You Fit In A Group of Talkers?

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My colleague Susan Cain, Author of the blockbuster Quiet  asked me to respond to one of her readers. Here is what Susan wrote: “I received a letter from a reader named “Lily” who describes herself as extremely quiet and shy.  Lily is part of a women’s group called the “Super Women Sisterhood” which is comprised of eight very boisterous, extroverted women.  When Lily attends the meetings she feels invisible and overwhelmed, and she worries that the women feel she is being anti-social or snobby. She wants to feel comfortable with the “Super Women Sisterhood” because she feels it will become a supportive, nurturing environment once they understand her.  She asked me to suggest some strategies or ice breakers to help her connect to the women and help them bond and learn more about each other. Continue reading

Do Introverts or Extroverts Curse More?

Reporter Alina Dizik contacted me about this touchy subject for her piece,  Should You Get Fired For Cursing At Work?

There is the right answer; you shouldn’t. There is also the grey response; sometimes it is okay. With the stress everyone faces these days, let’s be real. Sometimes the cursing (or “cussing” as we say down here in Atlanta) feels plain good.

But do be careful about who hears you AND about making it a habit. I sat next to another speaker recently whose body visibly shook as she heard our mutual colleague use a few choice words. Also – it just is not a career enhancing move to be known as the office potty mouth.

Who do you think curses more? Introverts or Extroverts? Because they talk more, are outies the number one cursers? Or, because introverts sometimes bottle up their feelings, do they let them out in form of expletives?

What do you think?

Introverted leaders are the best for proactive employees

My Google Alerts and equally alert friends were quick to inform me of some intriguing developments on the research scene. A new study on introverted leaders appeared in Harvard Business Review’s Dec. issue and takes a look at how introverted leaders fare with more “proactive” or extroverted followers. One key learning? They listen and process the ideas of an eager team. Extroverted leaders don’t do as well with other extroverts because they are too busy being outgoing and contributing ideas – leaving little time to act on them. Research was conducted in the research lab and in the field.

Francesca Gino ran the study along with professors Adam M. Grant of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and David A. Hofmann of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Their article, “Reversing the Extraverted Leadership Advantage: The Role of Employee Proactivity,” will appear in the Academy of Management Journal next year.

Note: Extroverted can be spelled with an “a” – the strictly Jungian version. I choose to go with the commonly accepted spelling “o”. Neither is right or wrong:)

Want to hear more? Listen to Dr. Gino’s interview. She explains the study and the potential implications. We have already had a delightful exchange and are meeting soon to share our mutual findings. Stay tuned.

Do Extroverts Pay More Attention to Faces?

A new study thinks so. In a paper presented at the American Psychological Association this month, Brains of Introverts Reveal Why They Prefer Being Alone a research team from the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, California conducted an intriguing study. Here are  some excerpts from a write up in Live Science:

“They used a method known as the “oddball task” in which subjects see a series of very similar images, such as a bunch of blue cars, and then all of a sudden, a slightly different image appears, such as a red car. In the current experiment, subjects saw a series of male faces and every so often a female face appeared. They were also shown pictures of purple flowers interspersed with pictures of yellow ones.

Electrodes placed on the subjects’ scalps recorded the electrical activity in their brains, a technique known as electroencephalography, or EEG. The researchers studied a particular change in the brain’s electrical activity known as P300.

The higher subjects had scored on a test for extroversion, the greater their P300 response was to human faces. In other words, extroverts pay more attention to human faces (P300 can be seen as an indicator of human attention, or how fast their brains’ noticed that something has changed.) There was no link between scores on extroversion and the P300 response to flowers. Introverts had very similar P300 responses to both human faces and to flowers.”

“They (Introverts) just didn’t place a larger weight on social stimuli than they did on any other stimuli, of which flowers are one example,”  said.

“[This] supports the claim that introverts, or their brains, might be indifferent to people — they can take them or leave them, so to speak. The introvert’s brain treats interactions with people the same way it treats encounters with other, non-human information, such as inanimate objects for example,” Inna Fishman said.

The researchers concluded, “The results strongly suggest that human faces, or people in general, hold more significance for extroverts, or are more meaningful for them.”

The ideas here should not be taken as absolutes but perhaps are true to some degree. Keep in mind that the sample size was small (only 28) and limited (ages 18-40) More research should be done on this hypothesis. But it is an interesting start.

How To Manage An Introvert

Introverts may be less noisy in the workplace, but by all accounts they outnumber extroverts. If you lead or manage others in your organization, odds are, there are at least a few introverts on your team. To get the best from these “innies,” it’s important to learn how to speak their language, whether you are an extrovert or an introvert yourself.

Read the rest of my Friday WSJ guest column here: How To Manage An Introvert and let me know if you have other management tips for getting the best out of the innies on your team.

Introverts: “Don’t sell yourself- put your best foot forward”

I had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Gelberg,  career coach and author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career on my recent trip to Cambridge, MA. Wendy offered some job search tips for introverts that I know you will find useful. Introverted insights from Wendy Gelberg