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The Quiet Elephant In The Room - Introverts As The New Frontier Of Inclusion

Posted by Oliver Kelly on
The Quiet Elephant In The Room - Introverts As The New Frontier Of Inclusion

"Let's get the team together for some drinks", says the boss enthusiastically.

"Welcome to the conference, here's your badge. Make a coffee and mingle", says the registrar.

"Break off into teams and report back to the group in 15 minutes", yells the facilitator.

"Don't forget we've got that thing at the Jones' house on Friday", says your partner in crime.

"Just go and talk to him/her", barks your well meaning friend.

Oh God.. really?..(Deep breath..)

 This piece is not about inclusion as we know it. Gender, nationality, background. These are well covered across our social and traditional media channels in the current climate and I have nothing of additional value to add in that space. The great minds out there seem to have it covered.

However, this is about a huge group of people that walk among us. Every day, everywhere. In fact they make up around half of the general population. This group is not in any way distinguishable from anyone else other than how they interact with other people. Most importantly, they are often left behind, misunderstood and at odds with themselves on a daily basis.

Yes, it's the introverts. The quiet ones. The 'anti-socials'. The guarded personalities. The reticent communicators. The ancillaries.

Let's keep this brief and to the point.

 Introverts' brains release rewards during periods of quiet introspection. The opposite (obviously) of extroverts who receive these rewards from social contact and outward activities. There are terabytes of psychological research behind this.

What happens when an introvert is placed in a communicative or socially demanding scenario? It drains every last drop of fuel right out of them. It actually exhausts them. We at i40 see it regularly in our dealings with clients who are struggling to gain true cohesion in their working groups.

Introduce an introvert and an extrovert and watch it unfold in front of your very eyes. Afterwards, you may notice the introvert retreat somewhere (possibly out of the building!) to recharge their batteries.

There was a great story called The Celestine Prophecy written by James Redfield in 1994. I remember reading it 20 years ago whilst backpacking through Nicaragua. In the book, the main character is enlightened in a way that allows him to see energy physically moving between people as they interact with each other. Well, when it comes to this topic, maybe he was on to something.

So does this mean that these introverts are in fact anti-social? Not at all. They may well enjoy meeting with friends, going out or hunting down new business. As long as they are within boundaries that they know and understand. Once the unknown comes into play, for example meeting a group of new people, they start to plumb into those important energy reserves. They can get it over the line, but it costs them. They won't 'enjoy' it in the way an extrovert would. However they may perform in a way that makes it seem that they did (cue extra energy used). However when this same person goes to their quiet place of comfort, the sky is the limit.

There is a range of levels of introversion including ambiverts who display the characteristics of both intro's and extro's. (In my forthcoming book The SpiceRack Method - Effective communication in a world of individualisation, I politely refer to them as just 'innies' and 'outies'). It is not black and white, but recognising the individual and their needs is critical if you are leading groups of people (including a multi layered perspective in large organisations) or engaging in one-to-one dialogue.

Some of the greatest human minds in documented human history were introverted - quick mention for Albert Einstein here - and some of their most notable contributions were made during those moments of quiet alone time, tapping into the potential that their minds had to offer.

However our society generally equates extroversion with success - winning the big deal, captivating groups in social settings, attracting the desired partner, playing the game. It is perceived as more entertaining and during the doing phase (rather than the final output), it makes for better stories.

So when we talk about inclusion, let's spare a thought for this concept. Don't pity the introverts, they don't need it. But recognise and respect the way that they operate even if it means they don't always swim with the flow. If you can empower them to be heard, you'll realise more value than you could possibly have hoped for.


Mental health.

Risk Management.

Effective team dynamics.

Training and development.

Bottom line.

This is a key consideration.

The ancillaries may actually be your leaders. 

(and just for the record, i'm a self assessed ambivert).

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