The Introvert’s Guide to Running a Meeting

But how could I be an introvert? Susan Cain, co-founder of Quiet Revolution, explored these misconceptions in her 2012 TED talk. But introversion, she explained, is “different from being shy. Nearly 86% of people with introverted qualities agree that they “pay a lot of attention to the meaning of [their] thoughts and actions.” And while that can lead to a more thoughtful approach to things, it also requires extra time. Meetings are no different. Since introverts tend to thrive in situations that permit a higher-quality discussion with a fewer number of people, this approach should help make the meeting more productive and thoughtful. 5) Take your time during the meeting. Because of an introvert’s aforementioned sensitivity to stimulation, it’s often helpful to schedule a meeting and organize your day around it so that low-energy tasks follow it, or a re-charging activity, like having a quiet lunch break. As you plan and run these meetings, do so with your team in mind, and see how these approaches fit into the way they work. What helps you lead a meeting -- especially as an introvert?

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What do you think of when you see the word “introvert”?

“Shy,” “quiet,” and even “antisocial” might be some qualities that come to mind. But we’ve got news for you: How we think of introverts is pretty misconstrued from the actual definition. An introvert, according to Dictionary.com, is “a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings.” Let’s explore that.

Looking at that definition, introverts aren’t necessarily the timid lambs that stereotypes make them out to be. Rather, they’re introspective individuals who can still be outgoing — they just don’t crave being around other people, speaking and presenting, all the time.

That’s why it might be a bit trickier for introverts to run a meeting — not because they’re reticent, but because they take extra time to process their internal thoughts and surroundings, according to Quiet Revolution, an organization dedicated to the science of psychological introversion.

But “tricky” certainly doesn’t translate to “impossible.” So if you’re an introvert who’s been charged with a running a meeting, check out these tips.

But First, a Little More on Introversion

I’ll never forget the day I found out that I might be an introvert. I came across an article that described the characteristics of introverts, and realized that they many of my social patterns — things like enjoying quiet time to myself, or in a social situation, opting for longer conversations with fewer people (rather than small talk with tons of strangers).

But how could I be an introvert? I was a theatre minor. I used to sing with a punk band. Those were not things that introverts do, right?

Wrong. The more research I do on introversion, the more I realize that it’s a vastly misunderstood population. And it’s a big population. According to the Quiet Leadership Institute (an extension of Quiet Revolution), half of the U.S. workforce identifies as introverts.

Susan Cain, co-founder of Quiet Revolution, explored these misconceptions in her 2012 TED talk. I, like many others, had introversion confused with shyness, or maybe even stage fright — neither of which I’ve ever possessed. But introversion, she explained, is “different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation.

That’s what makes us different from extroverts, who “crave large amounts of stimulation,” noted Cain. It’s not that introverts are afraid to lead meetings — or speak in public, sing with a punk band, or go to parties alone. The distinction is how we prepare for or function in those situations.

But when it comes to introverts and extroverts, one isn’t better than the other. Plus, according to Cain, the “best performing teams are a mix [of] introverts and extroverts.

So when it comes to those meetings, here are our tips for how introverts can run them in an effective way.

The Introvert’s Guide to Running a Meeting

1) Know where you stand.

First things first: You might not even be sure where you stand on the introvert/extrovert spectrum. Guess what — Quiet Revolution has a quiz for that.

For the purposes of this post, the assessment is probably most helpful for folks who don’t think — or don’t want to accept — that they’re introverts. But a quiz like this one can help you learn a lot about your behavioral patterns, and perhaps avoid a case of mistaken identity.

Introversion Extroversion Quiz
Introversion Extroversion Quiz

For example, according to the Quiet Leadership Institute, 96% of workforce leaders identify as extroverts. That implies a staggering imbalance among management, but could that number be the result of personal misconceptions similar to my own? Perhaps these leaders identify as such because they enjoy taking charge and overseeing groups. As we covered, introverts can still possess those qualities.

You might even be an ambivert — someone who falls in the middle of the spectrum — which after taking the quiz, I learned is the bucket into which I fall. In…

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