Are introverts reluctant to answer tough questions?

Last updated Jul 13, 2021 | Managing Introverts

Are introverts reluctant to answer tough questions?

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Do introverts dislike tough questions, are they reluctant to deal with tough questions and do they make lower quality employees as a result?  These odd questions get asked in various guises by team leaders and even in the press (do you remember the articles about Tennis star Naomi Osaka’s post match interview?).  The simple answer – Introverts are no more reluctant to answer tough questions than anybody else!

When it comes to getting the most from your team, the way you treat them, talk to them and question them (especially in meetings) play a large part for everybody. Many introverts give more structured answers to questions, although this structuring takes a few seconds of thinking first (internal processing); hence the “internal processing gap”. This can lead to many of the issues, despite the simple fact that everybody appreciates some thinking time when being asked questions.

Many of the points in this article are discussed in a video discussion between ex journalist and author of “Great Answers to Tough Questions at Work” Michael Dodd and I, including “shouldn’t stars just answer tough questions anyway, isn’t that what they’re paid for?”

In press interviews

Being asked tough questions by the media is something many business owners and leaders have to deal with sometimes; not just high profile stars. It’s worth us all being planning, preparing, practicing. A clear idea of your main point and answers to expected questions will help. We’ve seen the following in press interviews, but they happen in normal discussions too.

  • Mistaking anxiety and introversion: Getting flustered by the gap and taking thinking time can get interpreted as anxious
  • Overly personal questions – nobody likes them! Are the questions we ask really relevant?
  • Internal processing gaps often get interpreted as “don’t know”, or being filled with a barrage of questions. This just shuts people up, creating more issues.

It’s not just in the press

Questions and answers are a part of everyday business discussions. Better asking and answering of questions improves teamwork, employee engagement, productivity and creativity. Being better at asking questions, running meetings and answering questions will improve team performance.

In the video Michael and I discuss how to answer questions; more importantly how to ask questions so you get an answer. It’s a long video, but there some highlights are listed below.

In team meetings

Many introverts report that in team meetings they don’t feel as if their answer is wanted. The impact of this on the team is that less effective decisions are made, lower engagement and the team as a whole are less effective.

The cause? Introverts tend not to butt in when others constantly talk, although some people are happy to jump in to any slight gap in the conversation. If team members consistently jump into an introverts’ internal processing gap, it’s easy for them to believe their structured answer isn’t wanted, leading to disengagement

As a leader understanding introversion and considering the way the meeting is run can reduce this impact. How do you improve meetings covers this in more detail, but two key points stand out:

  1. manage the conversation so some people don’t hog the limelight:
  2. get the agenda out early. I recently ran a poll and 15% of people don’t even create an agenda, 20% of people create it at the beginning of the meeting. This creates a disadvantage for team members who want to give you back well thought through answers.

For more ideas about running Meetings that make things happen, click here.

In discussions

Some of the apparent reluctance to answer tough questions is created by a belief that any questions you get asked will be answered for you. Jumping into the “internal processing gap” prevents an answer, it doesn’t show a reluctance to answer.

Some highlights from the video if you don’t have time to watch it all

For introverts being interviewed

If you’re asking questions of people

About (press) interviews generally

Or just watch it all




You may also like to read:

Or listen:

Gina Gardiner is well known for her leadership expertise and illuminates the way for enlightened leaders to create a more profitable & meaningful mission. Here’s our discussion on leadership and managing introverts.

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