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How understanding introverts can drive business success

Sarah K. White | Sept. 3, 2015
Introverts are dispelling the notion that they are quiet and shy. (Yes, there is such a thing as an outgoing introvert.) Businesses are realizing they can benefit by drawing on the strengths of introverts and extroverts, but nurturing opposite pairings in the workplace requires patience, understanding and even some training.

In her work to understand introverts, Kahnweiler noticed that the two personalities seemed to have difficulties communicating with one another in the workplace, which led to frustration, whether between clients, colleagues or customers. While she found introverts were widely misunderstood in the modern workplace, she also found that once the two personalities grew to understand one another, they complemented each other.

Kahnweiler says that when looking at the role of introversion in the workplace, especially in leadership, it's important "not to exclude people from hiring opportunities or promotions because they're quieter and you sort of pass over them, because you're not taking the time to really understand what they have to give." To build that bridge and foster understanding, there are five key steps that she suggests introverts and extroverts take to improve communication and create successful partnerships.

The first step is to "accept the alien," or in other words, understand that you can't change someone and once you accept that, it becomes easier to work together without stressing over how different they are compared to yourself. The second step is to "bring on the battle," and accept conflict and understand that it is natural when different personalities come together.

For the third step, she suggests "casting the character," which means understanding the introvert's role and the extrovert's role by nailing down the strengths of each personality type. The fourth step is to "destroy the dislike," which means establishing friendship and working to have amicable relationships in the workplace, no matter how different you are. And finally, the fifth step is to remember "each can't offer everything," which means an introvert can bring traits to the table that an extrovert can't, and vice versa. And that's a good thing.

Own your personality type

These steps not only lead to better communication, but it can create a balance where each party plays off the other's strengths. For instance, there are tasks that might be better suited to introverts, behind the scenes and not client-facing, while an extrovert might perform best in front of clients. Of course, this is a generalization, and there are certainly introverts who love being client facing and extroverts who might prefer to be behind the scenes. The main point is, as an employee, you need to own your personality type in order for others to understand it. Be vocal about being an introvert, or an extrovert, so you can help others better understand you and, in turn, better understand them.

When it comes to implementing change, Kahnweiler notes that HR isn't the only driving force behind helping companies recognize introverted talent. "I've seen it done by a CIO who really recognized how their own introversion has been an asset for them and also a challenge. I think that leaders can really demonstrate, particularly at the highest level of information technology, and also other C-level positions, that they can really model and demonstrate and model and embrace introversion as a positive thing, not something to be ashamed of," she says.


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