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Challenge of Introversion: How to Speak Up More in Meetings

“You’re not adding enough value in meetings”. Just in the last year I’ve coached close to a dozen people who all got the same feedback from their manager. All turned out to be introverts on the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). As I asked more questions about each situation, I realized “not adding enough value” was code for “we want to hear you
talk more”.

One of the biggest differences between extroverts and introverts is how we process and share information. Extroverts talk to think. Introverts think before they talk. For many introverts, trying to talk in a team meeting is like trying to jump on a fast moving merry go round set in motion by the extroverts in the room. The extroverts are happily processing their thoughts out loud. The introverts are listening intently, trying to process everything they’re hearing, find their own insight or opinion, then find the right words to express it.

Typically one of two things happens when an introvert finally speaks up in a meeting:

  • They contribute something completely brilliant. Everyone appreciates their contribution and wishes they would speak up more often.
  • No one hears what the introvert has to say, either because it’s not said with enough volume and conviction to be noticed over the happy din of extroverted thinking and/or because the contribution is made so late in the conversation that everyone else has moved on in their thinking.

So how to get into the conversation sooner and get heard? Silence your inner Editor. Be willing to toss out draft ideas and not worry about how they’ll be received. You can always edit out loud by adding clarifying details or a follow on comment like, “Maybe an even better way to say that is…”

One thing a lot of introverts I coach have in common is an Editor in their head who convinces them what they are about to say is somehow not good enough: it’s not on point, it’s not strategic enough, it’s probably not important enough to say, etc. The Editor’s commentary adds mental noise and physical stress to the introvert’s system, making it even more difficult to put coherent thoughts together and find a good moment to leap into the discussion. Send your Editor on a break and join the extrovert party–think out loud.

Want to learn more about yourself? Take the Leadership Communication Style quiz to find out more about your strengths and challenges as an introvert at work.

About Jane: Jane Cavanaugh is an internationally acclaimed business leadership and career coach who has helped more than 6,000 professionals develop their career and leadership skills. Jane is creator of The Passionate Professional: How to Make Your Ordinary Career Extraordinary, a guided career transition program, and a co-author of Breakthrough! Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life. Contact or visit Jane at www.janecavanaugh.com

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