How extroverts can become allies for introvert-friendly workplaces

Here’s how to lift a voice for those in your organization who prefer to listen than speak.

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How are extroverts, who gain energy by being with people, going to endure without the social aspects of the workplace?

Surprisingly, many are finding that they’re more than coping: They’re tapping into their inner introvert. They’ve experienced time to think more deeply, prepare for their day and their meetings, and be more present with friends and family. They’ve been learning to breathe a bit more slowly.

As extroverts tap into their introverted side, will they better appreciate and empathize with introverts at work? This walk on the quiet side will likely make them more willing to look at their workplace with fresh eyes. They may realize that workplaces are geared toward extroverts, and they might even become advocates for change.

Extroverts have been discovering their quiet strengths and the positive qualities of introverts in these ways:

Embracing silence. Silence has so many advantages. It unleashes creativity, helps you think more deeply and develop understanding of yourself and others. Many extroverts have also stepped into silence by getting out and walking. Taking breaks in nature helps us replenish ourselves. These silent practices also help manage the inevitable stressors of the day. Exercising, reviving old solitary pursuits and discovering new ones like playing music, painting or gardening are all introvert-like behaviors that extroverts are now exploring.

Taking time to listen. Introverts relish listening to others in one-on-one conversations of substance. Forget small talk — it’s about depth versus breadth. As virtual conference calls become the new way of conducting meetings, many extroverts are learning how to refrain from their common practice of interrupting, and are instead listening better to others. They can see how taking pauses to give others a chance to speak allows more ideas to flow. Extroverts have also made it a practice to check in with teammates through one-on-one calls. These conversations have helped them connect with others on their team in deeper ways than they might have before.

Allowing time to prep. Extroverts often “wing it,” as they’re usually able to come up with impromptu answers. However, without having to dedicate time for commuting to work, they’ve gained more time for preparation. They’re actually preparing with focused questions and spending time on background research. They’re finding out what introverts seem to know intuitively, which is that preparation helps them be effective contributors to projects, conversations and meetings.

Still, workplaces remain geared toward extroverts. While changes like remote work and flexibility are positive moves for introverts, most organizations lack a cohesive strategy for harnessing the strengths of introverts and keeping them engaged. Unless they take measures to address this situation holistically, companies risk losing the contributions of 40 to 60% of their teams, which is detrimental to innovation and growth.

Organizations need champions who will speak up about introversion and push for change. Workplaces will change when we bring more awareness to this topic and open up the dialogue at all levels of organizations. Extroverts can play a role in harnessing the power of their introverted co-workers. To help influence sustainable change, they can take these five steps to make their workplaces more introvert-friendly:

1. Manage extroverts’ airtime. Make room for introverted peers to be heard and to emerge as true leaders.

2. Be a voice for the quiet. Raise the issue of introvert inclusion in meetings, training sessions and other conversations.

3. Intentionally address the needs of introverts. Thoughtfully examine your practices in key organizational functions to ensure that introvert concerns are addressed. Ask introverts their ideas for creating more inclusive workplaces, and provide forums they’re comfortable contributing to.

4. Encourage teams to address introversion. Facilitate discussions about individual team members’ work and communication preferences.

5. Bring senior leadership into the conversation. Change must occur across the organization to ensure introvert inclusion becomes an organizational priority.

If introversion is to be valued and nurtured, then all members of an organization, introverts and extroverts alike, must be catalysts for change–and for moving toward a workplace where introverts feel they belong.

Click here to take a quiz to find out if your workplace is introvert-friendly.

Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph. D., is an author, certified speaking professional, and one of the top global leadership speakers on introverts.  Her new book is Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces: How to Unleash Everyone’s Talent and Performance . Learn more at jenniferkahnweiler.com.

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