14 May 2014

Introverts vs. extroverts: IoIC Live 2014 series

After the recent IoIC Live 2014 conference, we had just too many interesting points to take away from the speakers. So we have made series of blogs, one for each speaker, that will be posted on Storyboard over the next few days.

Next up was a culture debate between two introverts, one extrovert and an ‘omnivert’ – ‘introverts vs. extroverts’. Organised by Helen Deverell, from Grant Thornton (self-proclaimed introvert) this panel discussion involved Helen, fellow introvert Robin Hall, extrovert Shiona Adamson (Head of IC and change at Natural England) and ‘omnivert’ Dana Leeson (co-founder of the IC Crowd) discussing the benefits and draw-backs of being introverts and extroverts in the world of comms. Discussions were facilitated by Belinda Gannaway from Nixon Mcinnes.


Culture debate: Introverts vs. extroverts

A main source mentioned during the debate, in particular by Helen, was the book Quiet by Susan Cain. In this book Susan discusses the ‘power of introverts’ in a world that can’t stop talking.

But how does being an introvert, or extrovert, affect you in the communications industry in general?

Do you need to be an extrovert to be an effective communicator?

Unsurprisingly the answer to this from the panel was no. The problem is that people confuse being an extrovert with confidence and being an introvert with shyness. In reality, introverts stay quieter in meetings as they may need more time to take information in and process it – this doesn’t mean they won’t be able to provide an equal level of insight.

We assume that it is necessary for comms to be able to present yourself well, and though this is useful Robin made the valid point that for him it is more important that he be able to get under the skin of an organisation and get out its message. For this you don’t need extroverted skills.

Meetings are often geared towards extroverts. Helen and Robin both mentioned the feelings of ‘the creeping death’, that they get in the lead up to a meeting where, when actually in the meeting, all thoughts turn to making sure you say your name correctly leaving little space for considering what other people are saying.

Gearing meetings towards extroverts shouldn’t be the case, in particular as the most effective teams need a mix of both introverts and extroverts. A key consideration that was brought up by all panel members is the importance of approaching people in the right way. Whether you are working on a team with more introverted or extroverted people you need to understand the ways in which they would wish to be worked with.

Negative perceptions of being an introvert

It certainly seems that being called an introvert has negative connotations, with some asking the question as to whether it is offensive to label someone in this way. Being an introvert at work can be perceived negatively which makes little sense when you have just as much to offer, though in a different way, as extroverts.

The debate drew attention to kids in the seventies who were left handed being forced to write with their right hands, claiming that this was similar to nowadays where children are encouraged in schools to act in a more extrovert way. In the workplace there are similarities with behaviours discussed in performance reviews often tending towards extroverted traits.

Getting the most out of people

As a final overriding point from the debate, the panel agreed that people shouldn’t be labelled. No one is ‘just an introvert’ just as no one is ‘just an extrovert’ and from a recruitment perspective categorising people as one or the other does nothing to indicate whether they would suit a job role.

From an internal comms perspective, we should be allowing employees who are perhaps ‘quieter’ to have a voice as much as those who are more likely to speak.

Introvert and extrovert traits should be acknowledged and accommodated in the workplace – allowing us to look at people as individuals and create environments where they can work to the best of their abilities.

Click here to see the IoIC’s blog – Introverts vs. Extroverts.

Our IoIC Live 2014 series