Communication is central to our life—we communicate with others every day, throughout the day. Understanding, appreciating, and accommodating personality differences in communication style can bring major success to our effectiveness as a friend, spouse, employee, supervisor, trainer, leader, and team member. People have different preferences in the way they take in and evaluate information and their orientation to the world around them. As we develop our awareness, understanding, and appreciation of communication differences, we will reap the benefit in our relationship with others.
Extraverts are energized by lively and enthusiastic discussions, with rapid-paced conversation, and often interrupt as they elaborate on and process thoughts. Introverts are energized by quiet conversations with space for reflection and conversation pace is slower, taking time as they build thoughts and ideas internally. Extraverts’ communication approach doesn’t allow time for Introverts to reflect and then give their opinions. Extraverts like to “think out loud” and don’t realize that Introverts feel unable to respond quickly in a conversation, preferring to internalize the information first. Thus, the Extraverts’ reaction sometimes is that the Introvert is not providing input that energizes the Extravert.
When Introverts share information, it has been carefully thought through and evaluated. When an Extravert is in the “thinking out loud” mode they may not give the input the full evaluation it merits. Similarly, Introverts may put too much emphasis on what is said by Extraverts, not realizing they are “hearing themselves think” and need to process information this way. This can cause difficulties for both preferences as Extraverts may miss valuable contributions by Introverts, and Introverts may take what Extraverts say too seriously and make decisions based on the input.
These communication differences can be especially dangerous in conflict situations, as Extraverts want to handle a situation immediately and Introverts require time to think things through before giving their ideas on possible solutions. Because each preference is requiring something the other type does not prefer, tension can increase. Extraverts can become impatient, wanting to move forward and make a decision not giving time to the Introverts’ need to process the information internally and, then, make a decision.
EXTRAVERTS IN COMMUNICATION
Energetic & enthusiastic
Think out loud
Give a lot of information
Speak out freely in groups
Think out loud
Like to discuss lots of topics
Interrupt often during discussion
When Communicating with Extraverts:
Be actively responsive
Be energetic & enthusiastic
Support their need to communicate
INTROVERTS IN COMMUNICATION
Quiet, reflective presence
Respond carefully and thoughtfully
Know a few people well
Listen without interrupting
Listen more than talk
Talk one on one
Need time to reflect before responding
Process information internally
When Communicating with Introverts:
Value their need for privacy
Allow them time to change focus
Ask questions to draw them out
Don’t pressure for an instant response
Pamela Hollister, developer of The PEOPLE Process®, has 35 years professional business experience with emphasis on entrepreneurship, marketing, and business communications. She has conducted Team Skills Trainings for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, and conducted trainings in The PEOPLE Process at OneNevada Federal Credit Union, So. Nevada Community College, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Fortune 500 companies, US Air Force, Department of Energy, and school districts throughout North America.