My last blog post was about understanding the basics of personality type, with a focus on the differences between extraversion and introversion. (Miss it? You can read it here.) This blog post is going to focus on how you can use your knowledge of extraversion and introversion to work more effectively with others.
People generally tend to interact with others based on the characteristics of their own personality type. This works fine when you’re working with someone who has a similar personality, but it doesn’t work so well when you’re working with someone who is different!
Because extraverts and introverts communicate differently, their interactions can result in misunderstanding and conflict. I see this play out in relationships of all kinds, including, of course, in the workplace.
For example, extraverts tend to think out loud because their thought process is external. Because of this, they like to brainstorm and their first response to a question is probably not their final answer. They want people around them they can work through problems with together. Introverts, on the other hand, process internally and then generally speak their final decision. They want time alone to think before making a decision. They generally don’t prefer to brainstorm through problems with others.
Extraverts and introverts handle anger differently, as well. Extraverts tend to flare up quickly, discuss (or shout about) the problem, and then the conflict is over, with no residual anger. Introverts often say nothing when upset, because they are thinking about the conflict, so their anger tends to build as the problem remains unresolved.
I’m sure you can see where these differences can create challenges for extraverts and introverts when working together! Then good news is that by understanding difference you can minimize miscommunication and conflict.
Here are three tips to work more effectively with people who are different from you:
- Don’t judge. While your way of being is right for you, it isn’t the only way of being, and don’t assume someone else is wrong just because they are different. Extraversion and introversion are both valid ways of being, each having great strengths.
- Be intentional about leveraging the strengths of both extraverts and introverts. For example, when leading a team, provide team members the opportunity to brainstorm in a group and then reflect individually before asking the team to come to a final decision. This allows the extraverts to process out loud while providing the introverts the chance to process internally, creating a win-win for everyone.
- Choose your actions to support the results you want to see happen rather than what makes you feel most comfortable. While sometimes you might find it frustrating to interact with an introvert when you’re an extravert, or vice versa, trying to understand and accommodate the other person’s needs is going to get you better results. Sometimes this can be as simple as asking, “What will work for you right now?”
The great value in understanding personality type is being self-aware of your natural “come from” so you can choose to respond differently when necessary. This goes a long way in fostering better communication with others and minimizing conflict!
Jene Kapela, Ed.D.
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