I have a confession. I’ve inadvertently used my extroversion to steamroll others. I’ve used the “E” in my ENFP to accidentally take over meetings. My “Woo” has, unbeknownst to me, frustrated some of my most valued colleagues and friends. In short, what I once viewed as an unquestionable, authentic characteristic of myself has most likely created a situation where others could be silenced. It has taken me some time to come to grips with this. Now let me be clear – extroversion is by no stretch of the imagination a bad thing. But managing extroversion (like any other personality characteristic) is imperative if we’re going to create environments for all students and staff to feel heard.
Recently, the #sachat regarding passion really made me think. Why is it that we assume someone who is extroverted is inherently passionate about what they do? We are, admittedly, a field of human interaction. As a result, I think we tend to overvalue the perception of a seemingly engaged interaction and label it as meaningful. Being extroverted, I’ve had to learn that what may seem to me to be a meaningful interaction may be overwhelming to someone else (a fellow staff member, a student, a campus partner, etc).
That being said, there are a few things that extroverts need to consider when interacting with others to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be heard.
- When working or meeting in a group, pay close attention to the non-verbals of others. Non-verbals can say a lot about how you are, or are not, engaging those around you and more importantly when they’ve heard enough. It’s easy for me to insert myself into a conversation though I need to accept others are at times waiting for their opportunity to be heard. Watching how others shift in their chairs, doodle, check cell phones, or constantly adjust, will give you a decent read on your ability to engage.
- Be comfortable with silence. Allow others to formulate their thoughts and feelings. Often times extroversion is tied to external processing (or external processing is viewed as extroversion). It’s okay to ask if someone, or a group, needs to schedule another meeting at a later date so they have time to process (actually, I’d argue that’s great leadership). Sending questions and/or considerations through email prior to the meeting also allows for space to be created for internal processors.
- Ask genuine, open ended questions and wait for responses. Focus on asking, not responding.
As a nod to my introverted friends, I thought it pragmatic to include a few thoughts on successfully dealing with us extroverts. We all ultimately need to find some middle ground and push the boundaries of our collective comfort zones.
- Ask for agenda items and questions ahead of time. Walking into a meeting ready to share will help create some balance and allow you to formulate your thoughts.
- Be honest when you need time to process or don’t feel comfortable engaging. It’s hard to know if someone doesn’t say something. And really, how can we hold anyone accountable for not respecting our feelings if we haven’t expressed an issue exists?
- Ask for clarification. How and when you ask may depend upon your comfort level, so find the best method for you. But always, always ask for clarification if you need it. You’re less likely to be taken seriously if a process moves forward and you express dissatisfaction after the fact.
Finally, a discussion of extroversion as it relates to hiring and staff selection. Student affairs seems to be constantly seduced by outgoing, extroverted candidates. This leads to the idea that someone who is outgoing is great, and that someone who is soft-spoken, will need “help” selling themselves. We need to focus on the content of answers and the reliability of experience – not how someone makes us feel. If we’re looking for extroversion as a natural compliment to relationship development, then we need to be asking questions that help us understand WHO we want to develop relationships with and HOW we want a staff member to go about it.
We all have inherent value in our approaches and strengths, but ultimately, they’re worthless if we don’t work together to make something bigger and better for our students and our field at large. And isn’t that what we’re here for?