Tag Archives: Introverts

Video: Introverts vs Extroverts

I love videos of introverts and extroverts that make me smile AND nail home points. A few years ago, I posted this amusing BuzzFeed video highlighting the differences between introverts and extroverts. I show it in some of my programs – it is a great way to bring up our differences with humor.

Do you think the I’s or E’s get a worse rap in this one? Maybe it depends through whose eyes you are watching it. I think when our traits are exaggerated they all can be very amusing (and very annoying at times).

As organizations increasingly encourage Introverted Leaders to use their Quiet Influence to step confidently into their roles, the next step awaits. How do we get introverts and extroverts – those Genius Opposites – to thrive together?

Video is a great way to get people talking. Another group I worked with used their video camera to interview random team members about their perceptions of different personality types. The video clips were shown at a company meeting and people discussed their assumptions and challenges.

So, to make your points and encourage dialogue in presentations and meetings, consider using video to get it done! 

The Quiet Leadership Speaker Who Stunned the Crowd

The quiet leadership speaker who stunned the crowd.

In the last few days, we have learned more about Robert F. Smith, leadership speaker and Austin billionaire who quietly announced at the 2019 Morehouse College commencement that he was paying off the student loans of each and every one of the 400 graduates. There was shock and then sheer exuberance at the realization that this tremendous financial burden would be lifted.This generous gift will change the lives of these graduates who can feel free to move ahead in their careers without the burden of financial debt.

So who is this man who performed such a generous gesture? There isn’t a ton on line about him but what videos and clips exist reveal a person who doesn’t want the spotlight except when he must stand in it. This makes me wonder if Robert Smith may be introverted in temperament. Introverts shy away from lots of attention unless it serves a purpose..

In videos of his speeches and interviews he describes how he learned and grew in his career.

What else about Mr. Smith have we learned?
  • He believes in having grit,…”calling someone each day for 5 months finally materializing in something you what you want” was an example he shared.
  • Discover the joy of figuring things out. “Fight through those problems.
  • He admired James Bond growing up.
  • He builds and develop people in his company, Vista Equity Partners. 
  • He is a deep thinker as evidenced in his interviews. A technology and business background supports this.
  • He gives to many causes, In addition to Morehousethe NY Times reports that “Cornell renamed its School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering after Mr. Smith, and he has made major gifts to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture and other cultural institutions. “
  • He  seized opportunities in each position he was in at Kraft, Goldman Sachs and Bell Labs before he founded his company.
  • He believes in the importance of studying. “You can make more money being smart than being strong or fast.” No one else can take intellectual property from you.

Robert F. Smith  has stayed under the radar until now. The NY Times reported, “Though he shunned the spotlight for many years, he has recently embraced a more public role, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and making major charitable contributions.”

Mr. Smith opened his heart and his purse. Whether he is an introvert or not may be revealed. What is certain, is that this leadership speaker has changed the course of hundreds of lives.

Why I Am a Big Fan of Techies

Why I am a fan girl of techies
With Janet Davis and Jennifer Ng AIn Kin, technology leaders at an IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference

 

I am a big fan 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 an IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference.

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) Techies 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.

3 Reasons Introvert / Extrovert Partners Butt Heads

 

We live in a divided world. An estimated 50 percent of people fall on either the introvert or extrovert side of the spectrum. With those odds, chances are that you have interacted with and will interact with your opposite often.

Introverts and extroverts can create great harmonies together. Or their relationships can implode. Whether the outcome is wildly successful or totally disastrous is likely determined by whether they are in sync—or butt heads—with each other.

There is no way to assess how many breakthrough ideas never broke through because opposites could not get over the barriers their differences caused. But consider these examples:

  • Lerner and Loewe, world-famous Broadway show composers of hits such as Camelot and My Fair Lady, had much more to offer the world in an already-impressive roster of songs, but they couldn’t get over their dislike of each other.
  • Bob Eaton, the former Chrysler CEO, was outmaneuvered by his German counterpart and new CEO, Jurgen Schrempp of Daimler-Benz, in an ill-fated “merger of equals.”
  • Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, famous newspaper advice columnists and sisters, didn’t speak for seven years.

Perhaps you have a few examples like these in your own life. Maybe you’ve left a project because one of the key team members was an opposite type to you and the frustration overcame you. Maybe you left a job because you couldn’t work through your differences with your supervisor.

There are many reasons opposite partnerships in business don’t make it. Here are three of the major ones.

  1. Opposite wiring causes misfiring

The relationships of high-performing duos don’t just happen. Even as leaders with experience under our belt, we can let those with different styles crawl under our skin. Introverts don’t talk fast enough. Extroverts won’t stop interrupting. And under stress, introverts tend to shut down while extroverts go into hyperdrive. That is when potentially productive conflicts become stalemates.

  1. Not destroying the dislike

Introverted Gene Siskel and extroverted Roger Ebert, film critics, had a hit show together for 13 years, yet they vehemently hated each other. Clips from their interviews reveal a complex relationship in which they bickered and laughed, both on and off camera. But they had a hard time getting past their differences. They had to learn to act like friends and stop competing so their audience could reap the benefits of their great show.

  1. Not realizing your opposite’s strengths are your weaknesses

My daughter, Jessie Kahnweiler, is an LA-based filmmaker and an extrovert. She hired Liam, an introverted director of photography, for one of her complicated film shoots. As they were scoping out shots, Jessie spilled over with ideas. However, she sensed that Liam was not sharing in her excitement and she became frustrated. That is, until the day of the shoot when he appeared with a large notebook of carefully thought-out shots that had incorporated many of her suggestions. Jessie realized that Liam had the same level of enthusiasm as she did but approached it in an internally focused, methodical way. He was a planner and needed time to sort things out in his head—something she needed. His strengths were her weaknesses.

To determine potential landmines, become aware of where you and your opposite can clash. Learn what specific adjustments you can make to become the high-performing, dynamic duo you and your opposite are truly capable of being.

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.

Do You Know the Secret to Being an Ace Interviewer? Introverts Do!

Guest blog by Dean Nelson

I met author and journalism professor Dean Nelson last year at a writing workshop. I was so pleased to hear that he has incorporated many practical lessons about interviewing into his new book, Talk to Me: How to Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers, and Interview Anyone Like a Pro. We both agreed that preparation is the absolute key to ANY successful interview. So whether you have a project or a podcast, check out Dean’s tips in the guest blog post below.

There is a myth out there that the only people who can get sources to talk to them are the hard-charging extroverts, the people who exude confidence through their pores, who have no trouble walking up to strangers and getting them to say things they wouldn’t say even after the fourth waterboarding treatment.

It’s simply not true.

There are some people who see no stranger danger, but most of us are a little more reluctant. Most of us know full well that it takes a willful suspension of discomfort to interview a stranger.

One of my favorite movies is Almost Famous, which is based on a true story of Cameron Crowe’s experience of being on the road with a rock and roll band. The movie is a terrific tribute to rock, and a poignant coming of age story. But if you watch it through the prism of interviewing, it is a clinic on how to conduct interviews when you lack confidence. The main character, William, is 15. And the best way to describe him is “awkward.”

Early in the movie he gets an assignment from the Creem, the rock magazine, to interview the band Black Sabbath. But that interview doesn’t work out. It seems he wasn’t assertive enough. As he trudges away from the arena where they blew him off, another band passes him. He follows them to the stage door and tries to engage them.

“Hi, I’m a journalist. I write for Creem magazine,” he says.

This band is equally dismissive. He seems discouraged, but tries one more thing.

“Russell. Jeff. Ed. Larry,” William says, instantly gaining credibility. “I really love your band. I think the song ‘Fever Dog’ is a big step forward for you guys. I think you guys producing it yourselves, instead of Glyn Johns, was the right thing to do. And the guitar sound was incendiary.”

William gestures with a fist, says, “Way to go,” and starts to walk away.

“Well don’t stop there,” one of the musicians yells.

“Yeah, come back here! Keep going! I’m incendiary, too!”

Then the backstage door opens and they pull him in with them.

Preparation will triumph over personality every time.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when you consider talking to a source, a client, a customer, a witness, or whomever else you think might be reluctant to talk to you:

  • Why do you want to talk to this person? You’d be surprised how often people don’t think about this ahead of time.
  • What do you hope will be the outcome of this conversation?
  • What can I ask this person that hasn’t already been asked many times? In other words, what will make your conversation unique?
  • How can you make this conversation appeal to the source’s self interest?

And here are some methods that will give you confidence as you enter into that conversation:

  • Before the interview, educate yourself on the topic. In the age of Google, there is no excuse to not already know a lot of the answers you’re looking for. What you want from the interview is the human voice, the insight, the complexity.
  • Put your questions in order. Know where the interview is going.
  • Ask the difficult question, even if it’s awkward. Believe me, they’re expecting it.

Doing these things won’t make you someone you’re not. They’ll make you comfortable with who you are, so that you can be authentically you.

If you’re authentic and prepared, you’ll be amazed at the access people will give you. They might even call you incendiary!

 

Dean Nelson, Ph.D., is the founder and director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, and the host of the annual Writer’s Symposium By The Sea. His new book, published by HarperCollins, is “Talk To Me: How To Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers, and Interview Anyone Like a Pro.” This essay is adapted from that book.

https://www.amazon.com/Talk-Me-Questions-Answers-Interview/dp/1982610093

See his interviews with writers at www.deannelson.net

The Hard Reality of Open Workspaces for Introverts

In the research I am doing for my book on introvert-friendly work cultures, open spaces are not getting high marks from introverts.

Although they find ways to adapt, they push against the prevailing idea that open offices are the ideal. There don’t seem to be many attempts to ask introverted employees about how to make these spaces work for them and their challenges fall into three key categories: communication, lack of privacy, and distractions.

Communication
Aside from a lower cost per foot, one stated goal of open offices is to inspire communication and collective creativity, like bees in a hive, as one author wrote. Unfortunately, the research does not always support this claim. In fact, a widely quoted research study from researchers at Harvard found that open-office layouts actually cut face-to-face conversations by 70% and that email and texting replaced these conversations. People withdrew from office mates. They also noticed losses in productivity after open office designs were implemented. The caveat is that the sample size was small.

One company told me that to combat this and encourage communication, they decided to place people in their large HR department next to each other using their last names in alphabetical order as opposed to by function or team. This backfired and the employees found that not being seated near their intact team was very inefficient and frustrating.

Lack of Privacy
Introverts value privacy. They don’t necessarily want to make small talk with extroverted office mates who stop by. Private space is also necessary for thinking. One survey by William Belk found that 58% of employees reported needing more private space for problem-solving.

Introverts like to function under the radar and with leaders of the company standing or sitting next to them, there is little room for handling issues privately without the fear of someone looking over their shoulders. One author questioned whether individuals “might be willing to take creative risks if it means everyone in the office sees their experiments or failures.”

Distractions
Time and time again, the introverts who responded to our survey emphasized how important a quiet environment is to their ability to function.

“We are in cubicles, and sound/voices travel for three to four cubicles. It is very disruptive.”
“Cube walls don’t cut it. We still hear all your extrovert conversations and lose track of what we are doing.

Introverts do not like over-stimulation from the external environment. In a busy open space organization, the physical proximity of people, noise, and light can take them off their game. Conversely, noise and light management can be an effective solution to allowing introverts that quiet they need. For example, one survey respondent found their own way of signaling with light their need for quiet time at their workplace.

“My workplace allows me to use lamps instead of the overhead lights. I don’t always use them, but my co-workers know when it’s a “lamp day” it means I’m pretty overwhelmed and they are considerate.”

How to Create Introvert-Friendly Office Spaces
In an advice column to introverts seeking jobs, the employer review website GlassDoor.com recommended they only look at workplaces where they’d have a door. Their rationale was that introverts will perform better in solitude. While this is true, building predominantly private offices is not a viable option for most companies in today’s changing workspace. And for companies, redoing their office spaces is not feasible. So, what options should introverted employees ask about when sizing up a potential workplace? And more importantly, what are some viable solutions for companies to ensure their current and future introverted employees are set up for success?

When attracting talent and planning ideal office spaces, leaders should look around their company, consider the other factors that play into effective workplace design, and ask introverts what they need to be productive. That would be a good start.

Give us your suggestions

We are still collecting data on best practices so please complete this short survey to tell us your thoughts about introvert-friendly workplaces. Thanks!

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!