Catherine Flavin

Much of our work with leaders is about advancing self-awareness in a compassionate, inclusive way.. Susan Cain’s 2013 book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, does just that for introverts and for people who want to effectively engage introverted colleagues. It is a great read, rooted in authentic life experience and research.

Since one-third to one-half of people are introverted, gaining skill with this element of personality is important. Jumping to where the rubber meets the road, what can we do with the insights Susan Cain offers?  If you are an introvert, or if you aspire as a leader to bring out the best in an introvert, read on.

Below are 16 highlights from the book, delivered directly to you.  There won’t be a quiz.  There will be plenty of real-time moments at work and home — team meetings, project design, family get-togethers — where you will be able to engage different types of people with a sharpened focus because of her guidance.

For more insights on personality:

9 Strategies for Engaging Introverts:

  1. Remember introverts are less comfortable in high-stimulation situations like large groups.
  2. Play to an introvert’s strengths — focus, deep thought, problem solving, and creativity.
  3. Strive to make your points and feelings very clear in conversation. Introverts and extroverts can perceive instructions, commendations, and reprimands very differently.
  4. Don’t expect multi-tasking; do encourage introverts to focus their energy on a single task instead.
  5. Remove unnecessary stimulations and distractions, such as music, that might be problematic for an introvert
  6. Invite people to spend a few minutes brainstorming on their own before bringing them together.
  7. When collecting thoughts or opinions, invite introverts to write their ideas down and email you. (Don’t over-rely on conversation.)
  8. Recognize that introverts are wired to recharge their energy away from stimulating environments. (They can still be social butterflies when they have energy. Do not take offense if an introvert declines a social invitation or prefers to be alone to recharge after a long day.)
  9. When possible, keep group activities to smaller groups to ease introvert participation.


7 Strategies for Introverts in Group Settings:

  1. Commit to speak early. Don’t let a meeting or conversation take off without you.
  2. Offer to take notes, create a flow chart, or fill any other active role in a discussion.
  3. Position your work area as far from distractions as you can without alienating yourself or others, but keep your door or work area open and inviting.
  4. If you’re in a work area with background noise, use white noise at a low volume to drown out distractions.
  5. Be diligent about taking short breaks from your work at appropriate times. take that as an opportunity to converse with co-workers or colleagues.
  6. Before you begin working with a group, acclimate not only to the work area but to the people you will be working with. Strike up a conversation with a co-worker, or host a small get-together. Help people get to know you — e.g., explain that even though you prefer solitude to help you recharge your energy, you do enjoy social activities just as much as anyone else.
  7. Remember that it is easy to misinterpret someone else’s emotional state. If an extrovert is passionate about a topic, it may be misinterpreted by an introvert as angry or aggressive.

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