For the introverts that have often left meetings feeling like they haven’t had the chance to contribute, or have thought of things to say once they've left... We understand you.
Too often introverts are made to feel like they’re the problem, either they’re too ‘shy’ or disengaged, however, the problem usually lies in how the meetings are set up which tend to lean more towards the ideals of extroverts rather than finding a nice balance to suit both introverts and extroverts.
The question now lies in how you organise a meeting, workshop, or focus group that help introverts to shine through by supporting their preferred way of contributing thoughts, ideas and feedback…
Here are some tips for facilitators to make sure you’re getting the best out of the introverts in the group:
– Circulate the agenda and give time in advance (2 days min.) for participants to think through items that require a decision in the meeting.
– Depending on the nature of the meeting, consider having a pre-meeting call to run through the agenda.
– Ask attendees to prepare the agenda and items for consideration so they are involved and prepared.
– Allow checking in time. Facilitate an introduction and an all-time favourite icebreaker which allows other thoughts to be parked and for attendees to be mentally and physically, fully present.
– If an item throws up new perspectives, allow time for these to be considered.
– Remember that silence doesn’t mean a ‘yes’. Always ask how committed people feel they can be at this point knowing what they know now or ask if they need more time to consider the best action to take.
– Allow time for new thoughts to arise on previously discussed items and give them airtime in the meeting.
– Stay clear of using group discussion as the way to reach consensus. Build the consensus from individual thinking time, to a discussion in pairs, and then to a discussion as a group. This approach follows the natural thinking pattern for introverts.
– If a point is to get equal consideration, format the discussion so that everybody gets air time and invite those into the discussion if they have had the opportunity to speak.
– Allow better ideas to emerge after the meeting for up to a day later.
For meetings to be most effective and for them to involve everybody, create an environment where people are encouraged to take notes and write thoughts down as they go. Provide sticky notes and an opportunity for interactive feedback where people can contribute their thoughts through written word rather than verbal.
Lately, where possible, we would encourage organisers to establish a way for the introverts in the room to signal that they would like to talk as they tend not to interrupt or talk over other people – there need to be moments of silence for them to feel free to speak and for them to contribute verbally.
If you’re sat there wondering whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you can take the quiz in Susan Cain’s wonderfully articulate book Quiet.
Author: Kate Jenkinson
Kate is an insightful Executive Coach and Business Leader with over 20 years experience in HR & OD, she runs her own entrepreneurial Coaching Consultancy in the North West – Next Step HR, growing her business based on the values of Purity, Love, Appreciation, and Yearning. Kate is also a spoken word poet and improv performer and uses her creativity in her coaching, as well as more traditional profiling tools such as MBTI, TKI and personal values assessments. She has been on a journey – exploring the potential for poetry to make a positive impact in the workplace. As an introvert and a poet Kate is keen to create better work and working lives for everyone through her speaking, writing and coaching.