Introverts: The Best Way to Work with Extroverts
Work + Life Balance

Introverts: The Best Way to Work with Extroverts

INTROVERTS PREFER TO WORK IN SOLITUDE. EXTROVERTS THRIVE ON ENERGY FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD. SO WHEN THE TWO ARE THROWN TOGETHER, HOW CAN THEY MAKE WORK WORK

If you’re an introvert, you’ve most likely dealt with the annoying high-energy talker in the office who never seems to take a breath during meetings. And if you’re an extrovert, you’ve most likely wondered why that one colleague always stays so mum—don’t they know how speak? 

At first glance, it can seem hard to work with your polar opposite — but this really only stems from a lack of understanding their temperament. After all, I’m sure that many of you introverts can testify that you can speak and have a lot to say when given the time to think about it, as much as extroverts can testify that their desire to openly discuss ideas will lead to a successful meeting.

Having differences isn’t necessarily a negative aspect in the workplace (or in general). In reality, it makes for fresh and diverse perspectives, which can be extremely beneficial when working on a project together. Because introverts and extroverts are wired differently with their own skill sets and tendencies, their different strengths balance each other out.

It’s likely that where you shine, your extroverted counterpart doesn’t; and where they shine, you come up lacking.

EMBRACING THE OPPOSITES ATTRACT MODEL 

Herein lies the key to working with extroverts: embrace your opposites. Jennifer Kahnweiler’s book, “The Genius of Opposites,” revolves around the idea that the introvert-extrovert relationship must be nurtured as it’s most successful when opposites stop emphasizing their differences and focus on moving toward results together. It’s when you begin to understand how the other works and use it to both of your advantages that real success ensues.

It’s likely that where you shine, your extroverted counterpart doesn’t; and where they shine, you come up lacking. No one can offer everything, so focus on your dominant skillset to identify each person’s role so he or she can bring their best work to the table for a cohesive end result. 

Say you’re working on a group project. Extroverts like teamwork and building people and are fluent communicators great at applying new knowledge quickly. Let them take the reins when it comes to preparing the presentation and jump-starting group meetings. Introverts enjoy planning and problem-solving and are good listeners who think before they speak. Take notes during the meeting not only for the group but to help sort out your thoughts and create a project plan, and volunteer for any tasks that can be done alone. And just think of what novel ideas night emerge from your problem-solving skills and the extroverts’ ability to quickly apply new knowledge. 

Even though collaborating with different personalities can be a little uncomfy, especially for introverts, recognizing each of your strengths is the first step to achieving success on a project or communicating in the workplace. 

THERE WILL BE CLASHES 

But it won’t always be smooth sailing — just because introverts and extroverts can collaborate brilliantly together doesn’t mean clashes aren’t bound to happen. However, as Kahnweiler points out, these disagreements can be necessary to arrive at better outcomes and spur creativity. {click to tweet}

But how should you, introvert, go about handling them, especially when you’re already anti-confrontation?

Accept and prepare for the exuberance from your extroverted colleagues, and at the same time, give them the necessary tools to accept and prepare for your needs for privacy and observing situations first. Communicate your boundaries — let them know when you need space and that you prefer to have advance notice on updates or assignments so you can better process information. Tell your manager that you feel more comfortable when taught new skills privately.

And on the flip side, respect your extroverted colleagues’ need for independence and to “jump in.” As painful as it may be for you, allow them to talk things out. Nod your head as they speak to indicate you’re hearing what they’re saying as you use their talking time to process and formulate a response. Don’t be afraid to let them know if you need a few minutes to respond; if you make your boundaries clear, they should respect them.

One of Kahnweiler’s key steps is to disregard the dislike, respect each other, and act like friends — this can only be done by communicating openly. You never know — you may end up learning from one another and grow in the process.

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How have you worked with an extroverted colleague in the office? Share your experience with us!