Many — more than half — of my clients are engineers of one stripe or another. Which is to say, they are by and large introverts. Even though I’m an extrovert (or maybe because I am an extrovert), I enjoy working with introverts.
Over the years I’ve developed a number of tips I share with my clients to help them understand how to operate and to communicate more effectively in a world of extroverts.
Tip #1 For Introverts: Know that you’re different from extroverts in fundamental ways.
You and extroverts play by different rules. You often misunderstand each other. If you’re going to work together well, you need to recognize your differences and learn how to capitalize on them.
Being an introvert (or an extrovert, for that matter) is neither good nor bad. It’s just different. If you’re an introvert, you’ve probably always been an introvert and nothing you do will change your basic nature. You are what you are. Get used to it. (Ditto for extroverts.)
What Is an Introvert?
Introverts tend to think before they speak.
When you ask an introvert his opinion, he’ll usually sit (or stand) there and say nothing. He’ll look, for the most part, as if he didn’t hear your question or is ignoring you. But wait long enough, and he may get around to saying what he thinks. When he does so, he’ll voice a well-considered opinion that he’ll stick to pretty firmly, since he’s thought it through so thoroughly.
Introverts are more attuned to their inner lives (their feelings, thoughts, fantasies) than to external stimuli.
They entertain themselves and don’t mind — the often enjoy — being alone. They like socializing with small groups of people they already know. They dislike networking, and they’re overwhelmed by large social gatherings.
Introverts recharge their batteries by withdrawing from others and from activity.
What Is an Extrovert?
Extroverts tend to think out loud.
Ask an extrovert her opinion, and she’ll being speaking. (She may not even wait for you to ask.) She says what she is thinking at the moment, not necessarily her final thought. If she says something completely different in a later conversation, it’s not necessarily because her convictions have changed: it’s just that her thinking has evolved.
Extroverts pay more attention to external stimuli (to people, activities, sights, and sounds) than to their inner life.
They enjoy meeting strangers, interacting and socializing with people – the more, the merrier. They get a charge out of being where the action is.
So my first tip for introverts is simple: Know that you’re different. Not better or worse, just different.