Don’t tell an introvert how to feel, or ask them to show you.

Last updated Mar 29, 2021 | Running effective meetings

Don’t tell an introvert how to feel, or ask them to show you.

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For a long time I thought it was only me; but I HATE being told how to feel. How about you? Interviewing introverts has made me realise that most introverts don’t like being told how to feel or to display those feelings. This does, of course, also apply to some extroverts, but being told to show your feelings is more likely to annoy introverts.

The recent workshop

Just imagine, it’s the beginning of a workshop and the person in charge, in very excited tones starts tell you how good the next three days will be, how energising they’ll be and how you will feel energised and excited.

How would you feel?

At this point the person in charge has spent very little time telling us about content, just how we should be feeling.

On looking round the room he must have seen some glum faces as his next move was to tell us that he’ll help us feel like that by guiding us through some jumping jacks and other energising exercises. What words would have been in your head? I won’t repeat what was in my head!

The next thing was to be asked to reveal one thing about ourselves to the rest of the team. OK not many people like this one, but it does help teams bond. He’d made it very easy for me to say “I’m an introvert and hate being told how to feel and to show how I feel” – I suspect that showed exactly how I felt though 🙂

A tip for facilitators

If you want to energise a room, assuming it’s a mixture of different types of people, don’t tell them how to feel and especially don’t tell them to show it! If you want to inspire the audience do it by showing how you’ll run the workshop and how it will meet their needs, without them having to do things they don’t want to do.

A tip for speakers

In a similar vein, watch the reaction of people around you when a speaker tells everybody to raise their hands, stand up and jig, or similar physical activities. There will be some in the room very happy to join in, some who don’t want to but join in, some who join in grudgingly (you’ve lost the introverts in that group for the rest of your keynote) and some who refuse. Of course some who refuse are extroverts, but introverts are far more likely to not want to join in.

If you want to get introverts to express themselves, they need to feel strongly (good or bad) and feel comfortable in the room. As a speaker allow your content to do the work, don’t tell the audience to.

When managing introverts

As the manager of a team, the same applies. Don’t spend your time trying to make introverts show feelings and express themselves; spend your energy making them feel safe to do so. Then, when they do, support them and you’ll have converted them to your cause.

How do you feel about being told how to feel and to show how you feel?

Running Meetings that make things happen

by Jon Baker

As cited in the Economist

For more details click here

You may also like to read:

Or listen to: 

An interview with Helene Jewell of the International Association of Facilitators on how to improve your meetings.

Related content you may find useful:
Facilitators | Managing introverts | Speakers
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