Ever wonder why the introvert in your small group isn’t talking?
Occasionally I will hear another leader complain about someone on their team who the leader feels doesn’t contribute as much as others. “She’s too quiet.” “I wish he would speak up more.” “He doesn’t participate as much as some of the others.”
And, sometimes I wonder if the team dynamics allow for them to be heard.
The fact is, introverts can be highly creative. They have original ideas. They usually take time to think things through thoroughly, which is a valuable asset to a team. They can lead, take charge and drive a project to completion.
And, on behalf of my fellow introverts, I should say your team needs to hear from them.
If I may be so bold to say, chances are, if introverts aren’t sharing, you’re likely missing out and some of the best ideas are not being discovered.
Here are seven reasons introverts may not be talking:
Everyone else kept talking – Most introverts aren’t going to talk over other people. They’ll wait their turn. If it doesn’t come. They simply won’t share.
You are rushing the answers – You have to give introverts time to process. Introverts take time to find the right words to say. If you press for quick responses, they’ll likely share less. That’s true in brainstorming too, where you’re looking for many responses.
I often receive push back from introverts and leaders about the process of brainstorming and their participation. Brainstorming often involves quick thoughts being shared. But, I don’t think the problem is brainstorming, but rather how we do it. The process is too important not to do it, and the collective thoughts are too important to miss anyone. And, fellow introverts, we don’t get an “out” of everything uncomfortable because we are introverts. No one does. We just have to adapt, and leaders have to get better at leading everyone, which is the point of this post.
There are too many people, especially extroverts, in the room – If there are plenty of “talkers,” an introvert will often let others do the talking. Again, they won’t likely interrupt. If introverts are easily outnumbered, they are usually silenced. You can sometimes solve this by breaking larger groups into smaller groups.
You have them in an uncomfortable seat – Put an introvert in the awkward front row seat or in the middle of a crowded room and they aren’t going to be as vocal. They won’t likely share if they feel they are being made the center of attention. The set up of the room is a huge part of team dynamics for everyone, but especially introverts. Give them their space, maybe even let them have a corner, but mostly don’t assign seats. Don’t force it—let them choose.
They’ve got nothing to say – And, it could be as simple as that. Perhaps it isn’t their subject. Introverts aren’t as likely to talk about subjects they know less about as an extrovert will. Their words are typically based on thoughts they’ve processed longer, so if it’s a new subject, they may still be processing internally.
The conversation isn’t going anywhere – Introverts aren’t usually fans of small talk or chit chat. If too much time at the beginning of the meeting was about nothing they consider of great importance, then you may have lost their interest. The more you can stick to your agenda the more likely they will be to participate.
You put them on the spot without warning – Introverts are often NOT opposed to making a presentation. (The “not” is capitalized on purpose.) The myth is that introverts are always silent. Not true. And, it’s not that they have nothing to say. They simply want to be prepared before they share what’s on their mind. The more advance notice you give them the better. You might even say, “Tracy, I’m going to ask you to share in just a few minutes about ______,” and then come back to them. You’ll get a better answer.
Of course, all of this means you need to understand the team you’re trying to lead. Who are the introverts on your team? And, how introverted are they? What is their ideal setting for being heard? This takes time and practice—and realizing everyone on your team is not the same.
But, everyone on your team has thoughts you need to hear. If not, why are they on the team? Our challenge, as leaders, is to create an environment conducive for hearing from everyone.
By the way, I have a whole chapter on this subject in my book The Mythical Leader.
This article originally appeared here.