The clash between introverts and extroverts is ever prevalent. In the past, extroverts have steamrolled over the introverts with charisma and back-slapping punchlines.
But as the introverted geeks take over the world and break away from their computers to attend mega-conferences like South by Southwest, extroverts should learn to tap into their introverted side and learn to tone it down. Here are five benefits:
1. Take a moment to be quiet and observe. There is something to be said for being a wallflower. At a conference or social event, take a moment to observe your surroundings. Don’t allow your compulsion to find your new best friend over power you. Watch people. Who are the big players? What is the relationship dynamic between two people? I have learned about business deals in the making simply by inconspicuously standing near two industry rock stars. Later in the day, I let my extroverted side take over and casually approached the two men separately. It was such a “coincidence” that I knew some people that could help them with a project they were working on. Must have been kismet. You can learn more from a distance than while being the center of attention.
2. Prompt discussion from others. Introverts will let others dominate a conversation so that they can avoid the conversational spotlight. They usually are very skilled at asking questions for this very reason. Follow their introverted lead, but be strategic about it. Improve your skills of asking follow-up questions instead of jumping in with “Oh, yeah, me too!” statements. The more follow-up questions you ask, the more you learn about people. The more information you have, the easier it is to build a relationship. The best follow-up questions have the word “why” in it. When you ask, “why did you choose that direction?” or “why does that pique your interest?", you will learn so much about that person, their perspective and decisionmaking process and what motivates them.
3. Time to recharge and reflect. Extroverts draw their energy by being in the presence of others. Introverts are drained by it. That’s why introverts will purposefully seek out time to sneak away and be alone to recharge. Extroverts should consider doing the same. As an outgoing extrovert, you’re likely a social butterfly, skipping happily from one conversation to the next without taking the time to reflect on those conversations. Deliberately choose your moments to break away. Ask yourself, “What did I learn from that person? What did I learn about that person?” You get a gold star if you capture that data for future reference or take notes in software such as Evernote. You won’t be able to remember everything from every conversation. So in between discussions, type a few thoughts into your phone before striking up the next one.
4. Delve a little deeper. Introverts are not naturally inclined for chit-chat. Surface-level conversations are unnerving. Introverts are known for enjoying a long one-on-one discussion about the bigger issues in life. Extroverts, on the other hand, excel at small talk because they are constantly meeting new people to avoid standing alone. Challenge yourself to take conversations to a deeper level. Really focus your efforts on getting to know the other person and avoid the never-ending loop talking about the weather and other mundane topics.
5. No more winging it. Introverts are methodical and love to be prepared. Extroverts wear the phrase “winging it” like a badge of honor. For extroverts, their charisma and charm give them leverage in many different situations. But don’t rely on it all the time. Plan ahead, especially when it comes to giving presentations. Follow the lead of your introverted friends and have a solid plan. Bonus points for actually rehearsing! When you wing it, you make more errors than you think. Don’t believe me? If you’re brave enough, record one of your “winged” presentations and watch it back. You’ll see mistakes that your brain didn’t register in the moment because it was too busy scrambling for what to say next. Add the introverted preparation with your extroverted charisma and you’ll be golden.
For too long, society has tried to turn introverts into extroverts. We all can learn something from each other. Extroverts can get the best of both worlds if they tone it down sometimes and access their introverted side.