How to handle introverts

Last updated Jul 27, 2022 | Managing Introverts

How to handle introverts

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Do you get frustrated by the quieter ones in your team who don’t seem to engage, whatever you do? Many leaders ask ‘How to manage introverts‘. Here’s 14 things to help to help you handle introverts, and get more engagement and productivity in your whole team. But, these same things will help with other people too!

Click here or scroll to the bottom of the page for a summary of this article.

Introverts are not delicate like this parcel

Should you manage introverts differently?

Introverts are not like delicate parcels being sent on eBay, they don’t need careful managing, wrapping in protective layers of brown paper and treating with kid gloves; this third of your team are normal people. The best results come from managing each team member as an individual, understanding their needs, wants and ambitions. But as introverts make up a third of most teams, and are generally misunderstood, understanding introversion will help your firm’s profitability.

Should you manage introverts differently?

  • Yes: To get the best out of the introverts in your team, communicate in a way that helps them engage and create a culture which is supportive.
  • No: You shouldn’t be doing anything weird, just managing people so they perform better.

How do introverted employees differ?

Spotting some of the ways that introverts behave will help you manage them more effectively. Introversion is not about quiet or shy. It’s about people process thoughts and how they gain (or lose) energy. Introverts may appear more reserved but are equally creative, passionate, energetic and articulate as extroverts.

You might like to read “what is an introvert“, although this list has some common work place behaviours, they:

  • won’t always be the first speak up; they’ll listen more than they talk. When they speak, they’ll often ask clarification questions, which can help the debate move back on track
  • will possibly be more analytical
  • will possibly more use of logic
  • are more likely to “think to talk“, as opposed to others who may “talk to think”.
  • have a preference for planning ahead
  • are probably better at working independently

Handling introverts

There is nothing in this list which won’t help everybody in your team, although it is especially valuable for handling introverts and getting more from your whole team

  1. Ditch the ego (not that you have one of course). Most introverts don’t like strong egotistical behaviour. As an aside many others don’t like being in teams with overly egotistical behaviour either.
  2. Understand their perspective and how they prefer to work. Value your employees for who they are and what they can offer your firm, rather than how much they talk.
  3. Allow people time to think before responding. This is specially true of introverts, who have probably been “trained” that you’re not interested in their answer when you answer for them (or allow others to). There’s a difference between internal and external processing.
  4. Strive for a culture where everyone feels comfortable speaking up, listening to each other and sharing. That may mean holding back some of the louder voices in the team and helping everybody respect all communication styles.
  5. Encourage people to voice their thoughts. Don’t just dismiss an immediate non-response as a lack of interest. Your team can benefit from their perspective.
  6. Allow them to ask questions, expect and value this. It will help you improve your communication skills and help the rest of the team.
  7. Don’t disturb people in the middle of tasks, unless necessary.
  8. Provide time for people to gather their thoughts and process the information you’ve delivered.
  9. Praise: Be specific in your praise, without being overly flattering. Help people see what the components of a “good job” rather than that they did a good job. The same as you would any member of staff!
  10. Acknowledge strengths and accomplishments. The same as you would any member of staff!
  11. Focus on developing internal confidence. Just praising people, however well it was meant, doesn’t always help.
  12. Allow introverts space to recharge, without interruption, after meetings, or even conversations.
  13. Interaction: Introverts tend to need less interaction with people. They’ll often want to ask their questions, understand their task,  then focus on that task.
  14. Don’t try to change an introvert’s personality to conform to your working style; it won’t work. But then it won’t work with others either!

Introverts and meetings

Meetings are the most common setting where things go wrong. Meetings use culture and communication to achieve a purpose.

In meetings some people talk more, some are quieter. The people who talk more can annoy those who talk less, and the people who talk more often wonder why others aren’t talking as much (answer – normally because they hear too much talking going on already)

Click to improve your meetings with introverts

Articles on how to run effective meetings - Virtual or face to face. Click here.

TLDR: How to handle introverts

The frustration expressed as some leaders struggle to get quieter team members to fully engage, leaves them thinking those people are not fully productive. That's probably wrong and is normally caused by communication styles and the culture in the team; in other words it's down to the leader! Should you manage introverts differently - yes and no! Making the communication and culture more introvert friendly will help you get more from the whole team, not just the introverts; it will also improve creativity and staff turnover - both saving money and making longer term improvements.
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.

Related content you may find useful:
communication | leadership | Managing introverts | Managing staff | Team | team meetings | TLDR
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