The real difference between introverts and extroverts isn’t social skills; it’s about how you recharge your batteries.
When most people think about extroverts vs. introverts, they often envision the stark contrast between the charismatic guy wowing the room with a rip-roaring joke and the awkward, quiet guy in wrinkled khakis blending into the fake fern in the corner.
In reality, many highly skilled communicators are introverts who have learned to manage their energy.
Introverts sometimes get a bad rap because people assume being introverted means that you can’t communicate. But that’s not true.
Simply put, extroverts get their energy from other people, while introverts get their energy from being alone.
It’s not about how confident and poised you are during the cocktail party. The true introvert vs. extrovert test is how you feel when it’s over. Introverts leave group gatherings needing to recharge. Extrovert leaves fueled up and ready to hit the next one or, at the very least, debrief the entire evening with their spouse on the ride home.
It’s a sliding scale. We all have our moments where we need to be alone or with others, but most of us tend to fall on one side or the other.
Introverts may not be as naturally inclined to connect with others. But introverts can become quite skilled at social banter and even speaking to large groups.
Contrary to popular belief, extroverts don’t have an exclusive lock on being great communicators. We’ve all been the victim of a raging extrovert blathering on with a disjointed stream of consciousness, leaking irrelevant commentary out all over the place.
An extrovert’s need to get some energy off others can sometimes blind them to how their message is being received. It can also keep them from giving the other person a chance to participate in the conversation. (Full disclosure, I’m a frequent perpetrator of this social crime.)
Introverts face different challenges.
For many introverts, the first hurdle is recognizing that you don’t have to be overtly charismatic to be a good communicator.
When it comes to connecting with others, listening is one of the most important elements, and that’s something introverts are often quite good at. Here are three things introverts do to take the stress out of communicating:
1. Schedule downtime.
If you’re going to an important meeting in the afternoon, make sure you’ve got some alone time in the morning. Be proactive about turning off your phone or shutting your door, whatever it takes to help you bring your best game to the important interactions.
2. Aim for 25 percent output.
You don’t have to do 50 percent of the talking to hold up your end of a conversation. You can listen 75 percent of the time. Use the remaining 25 percent to respond to what the other person is saying or to ask questions, and you’ll create a meaningful connection.
3. Practice in advance.
Don’t wait for a high-pressure situation to practice the art of engagement. Extroverts have been honing their skills for years. If you want to hold your own in a conversation, plan some good questions in advance. It may feel weird asking your dog what he does for a living and what he likes about it. But if you practice on Fido, you’ll be more natural with humans.
Introverts can be great communicators. You just have to be selective about how and where you expend your energy.
McLeod & More, Inc. is an international training and consulting firm specializing in sales, leadership, and customer/employee engagement. McLeod & More President Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, columnist, keynote speaker and business consultant. Her newest book, The Triangle of Truth, has been cited as the blueprint for “how smart people can get better at everything.” Visit www.TriangleofTruth.com for a short video intro. Copyright 2011 Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved.