7 Facts Extroverts Should Know about Introverts in Business

Introvert Image As I write this, my recent Harvard Business Review article entitled, “An Introvert’s Guide to Networking” has garnered more than 450 comments, mostly from introverts expressing relief that there are others experiencing the same challenges they face. There is comfort in knowing they are not alone.

They also seek to be understood, as there are many myths that introverts are shy, socially inept, or lack strong communication skills. These myths about introversion are simply false. For introverts, their introversion should be viewed as a gift to be honored rather than a disability to overcome. This starts with a genuine understanding of introversion. Here’s what extroverts should know about their introverted colleagues in business:

1. We get the energy that drives us to succeed differently than you do.

We are energized by our inner world of ideas and insights. When we have time alone or with just one or two other people to mull over our thoughts, reflect on decisions, and play out strategies in our minds, we come away from the experience with more energy than when we went into it. We love this in our work!

You get your energy from being around others; the more people you’re around, the more energy you’re able to generate. For us, large group interaction is draining, and we need to recharge by being alone. We are not shy and it’s not that we don’t like you, it’s simply that we’re out of our comfort zone “energetically” around you and must prioritize time to recharge in order to continue to bring our best self to our work.

2. We think inside our heads.

Because we get our energy from our inner world of ideas, we are comfortable there. When we are asked a question, or when someone shares information with us, our natural inclination is to ruminate for a few moments silently. This is critically important for you to understand, particularly if you’re having a phone conversation with an introvert.

I have a CEO client who is exceptionally extroverted and likes to run ideas by me over the phone. He once commented to me after sharing one of his ideas, “You hate it, I just know it! Every time you get quiet I know you hate it!” Well, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. When I responded, “I actually love it, but I’m an introvert and need to take a few moments to think about it in my head,” our working relationship opened up in a way I’d never expected. We realized that all along my lengthy phone pauses were being misunderstood by him. It was a case of unintended miscommunication between an introvert and extrovert.

3. When we share our ideas, it’s important to listen.

It’s because we spend a lot of time reflecting on ideas, strategies, data and nurturing insights that when we do choose to speak we need you to listen. You already know that we’re not exceptionally talkative, but you often mistake this for shyness. Rather, know that when we do choose to speak, we are fully invested in our ideas and opinions and want them to be valued.

4. If we take time to be alone it doesn’t mean we’re not a team player.

As mentioned earlier, it’s important for us to take time to recharge after being in groups with more than a few people. If, for example, we spend an entire morning in large-group team meetings and choose to have lunch alone in our office, we ask you not to perceive this as a lack of team loyalty or a need for avoidance. We’re simply re-energizing so that we can engage more effectively in the afternoon.

5. We don’t like to be “put on the spot.”

Again, this goes back to our preference to have time to reflect on ideas, strategies and insights. Instead of calling a full team meeting, sharing a new idea, and asking, “Lisa, what do you think?” you’ll be more effective if you set up one-on-one meetings with your introverted colleagues beforehand and give them time to think through your idea. We will appreciate your effort and our contributions during the larger meetings will be more valuable to you. It’s a win-win.

6. Meet with us one-on-one to get our best thoughts.

Just as you should share ideas with us individually and give us time to reflect on them, when you do this on a regular basis in one-on-one meetings you’ll get our best thoughts. We’ll be in our comfort zone, and our conversation will be richer and more beneficial to you because of this.

7. We appreciate leeway to share our thoughts in writing.

It’s no surprise there were so many comments from introverts on my Harvard Business Review article; the written word is a comfort zone for introverts. I made a habit during my corporate career of sharing the ideas that came to me after large-group meetings with my teams, when I had time to truly reflect on issues we’d discussed, in writing. I also kept executives appraised of team progress in writing. By accepting this practice you’ll be encouraging more effective team dynamics because the introverts will know their ideas are getting visibility.

These insights should enable extroverted leaders be more effective and empower introverts to be more successful. If you’re an introvert, what do you wish your boss and colleagues understood about you?


The Introvert's Guide to Success in Business and Leadership

The Introvert's Guide to Success in Business and Leadership

Are you an introvert looking to use your introversion to your advantage in business & leadership or an extrovert interested in leading introverts more effectively? I wrote this eBook for you…

The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” eBook is NOW Available! Now an Amazon Best Seller & Hot New Release, Featured on Huffington Post, and the inspiration behind my Harvard Business Review article!

BUY Now on Amazon for Kindle or Buy it at B&N for Nook! 

Click here to DOWNLOAD in PDF format. Thank you!

Being an introvert is truly an advantage in business and leadership if you know how to leverage it, and if you remain true to yourself.

Photo by victor1558.


  1. Well, I guess I’m part introvert and part extrovert if that’s possible. When I was young, I was so shy and introverted that it was impossible to imagine. I never enjoyed being part of the crowd.

    I changed dramatically when hired at Coopers & Lybrand and even more when I was handed management duties. Now, I am the most extroverted person you could imagine and have done some amazing things networking. In just 2 days, last Sunday and Monday, I made some great local connections.

    But here’s why I am still partly an introvert. I enjoy thinking alone. I need time to think things over.
    I live alone. I often do not like to be put on the spot and don’t do well with people who always have a quick answer.

    In the business environment, I am the greatest and most loyal team player. However, I still never follow the crowd. I view that as a strength. Yet, if you met me in person now, you would say I have a great personality.

    So then the question is: Can a person be both? Or am I misdiagnosing the issue? I’d love to hear some thoughts on the issue.
    Henry Motyka´s last blog post ..Too Big To Fail? Two New And Different Views

    • Thomas Tanghus says:

      I think it is important not to over-diagnose things. I to am an introvert, but I have my rare moments, where everything floats freely, and I really have something to say in public.
      Enjoy that you can have the best of two worlds, and don’t worry about fitting into a certain category – but always remember to take care of yourself mentally :-)

    • Henry,

      I think you’re confusing the introversion with the shyness/sociability changes within yourself. It sounds like you are an introvert at heart who has learned to “play along the scale” and get out of your comfort zone in business situations. It has nothing to do with your personality… And I love hearing that you’re making great connections through networking – it’s critically important for introverts and extroverts alike! All the best and so sorry it took me so long to respond. :)

  2. I am definitely an introvert! And although I don’t seem to be as much of one now as in the past, I’m wondering if that is more learning how to work with my introversion rather than against it. The writing thing is a huge point with me…I would much, MUCH rather write an e-mail or a text than talk, unless I know the person extremely well. And I will say that for me, on the “talking” point above, although I don’t talk much when I don’t know someone very well, once I get to know them I can talk a mile a minute! Thanks for the article!

    • You’re welcome, Pam and yes, it sounds like you’re learning to get out of your comfort zone when needed but also to leverage your preferences and strengths. I’m honored to know the blog post was of help to you!

  3. A timely reminder for all of the extroverts who populate the business world. I have shared a link to this very good advice on http://business-improvement.rhodan.com.au for the benefit of the 480+ followers of this topic. Thank you for putting it out there.

    • I can’t thank you enough for sharing it, Daniel! Thank you for the incredibly kind words and for being part of this Community! All the best and so sorry it took so long for me to respond to you!

  4. Peg Gillard (@gracinginfinity) says:

    As an introvert, I find it exhausting and difficult when I am interrupted. I have spent time working to think through an issue to be able to explain something just right. When my boss repeatedly interrupts me after asking me what I think I lose my flow and train of thought and realize she isn’t listening to me. It feel devaluing. I wrote a blogpost on this very topic a few months ago. It is quite interesting that there is more attention being paid to those of us that really do energize within especially living in such an extroverted society. Introversion/extroversion,it is a delicate dance but life is about balance and introverts play an important part in any organization. Thank you for a clear and pointed article that will surely help both “-verts.”

    • Peg, I absolutely love how you call it a “delicate dance!” So beautifully said… I appreciate the encouraging words and am honored to know it will be of value to you. I hope it definitely helps your boss understand how she can be more supportive and provide the kind of environment you need to excel.

  5. YES!!
    and TY!

  6. Lisa, I love this post! I’m a networking & business referral expert and so often people think I’m a huge extrovert. I am not. I’m acutally on the cusp of introvert/extrovert (an omnivert). What I love about more introverted people is their ability listen, think things over, and be mindful. I do love extroverts, too, as they can take on more of the conversation when I’m feeling quieter. I believe the more we know about ourselves and the more we try to understand others, our relationships (business and social) can be enhanced and improved.

    • Patti, Thank you so much and I genuinely appreciate you pointing out such a wonderful strength of extroverts! And yes, our relationships can be enhanced so beautifully by genuinely trying to understand each other – and understand that we see the world quite differently. All the best to you and thank you for being here!

  7. Thanks for the insight about introverts. There’s an article about the neuroscience of being an introvert or extrovert that you might find interesting here: http://the-scorpion-and-the-frog.blogspot.com/2012/03/social-butterflies-or-wallflowers-two.html

  8. @JaredThaddeus says:

    “Just as you should share ideas with us individually and give us time to reflect on them, when you do this on a regular basis in one-on-one meetings you’ll get our best thoughts. We’ll be in our comfort zone, and our conversation will be richer and more beneficial to you because of this.”

    I think a person to person discussion often works wonders. Waiting for the mind to consider a thought is a wonderful point too. Because a leader figure may already have some worthy thoughts, his followership may not have had the experience to know right off hand. But allowing a person to figure out the answer on his own will lead to ownership, think Socratic method. And who says classical education is not worth while?

  9. Lisa, Fact #8 might be that we introverts find the shift to “open-plan” workplaces difficult. Where I teach, we professors will be moved on our “rightsizing” to a single room full of cubicles. I read in the NYT recently how 70% of work sites are now in this mode, or one that at least eliminates closed doors. However, our supervisors will still have them, so the “corner office” and “window view” perks endure.

  10. Great post!

    As an instructor and presenter, I’ve always figured myself a bit of extrovert. Recently a colleague suggested I might be a bit introverted, and your post underscores that observation…I identified with almost all the introvert qualities you mentioned!

    • Matt, a lot of introverts think because they love to present and to teach that they must be extroverted, but it’s not the case! Introversion is about where you get your energy – for us, it comes from within. When we’re speaking and teaching others we’re energizing from that inner world of ideas that we’re sharing. Glad to know the post resonated with you – all the best!

  11. Thanks for the article Lisa, wonderfully articulated and absolutely true. I think ultimately the most successful organisations are about balance and an environment that fosters both extraversion and introversion for all they have to offer. All of the 7 points should be both understood and implemented as a matter of respect in the most basic sense. And then for all of the benefits that will be felt by all. I am an extravert with enormous admiration for introverts functioning successfully in today’s extraverted world and am often embarrassed by the dominance of extraversion – the main minsuderstanding I find related to energy. Once extraverts get this it becomes a ‘lightbulb’ moment and the rest follows.

    • Thank you, Sharna!I appreciate how this post has resonated with extraverts, especially as it becomes a win-win for everyone on the team. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts, I sincerely appreciate it!

  12. The two classifications of introversion and extroversion are nothing more than pseudo-psychology terms. Under the right crowd an “introverted” person can be an “extrovert” and vice versa, so to label someone an introvert or an extrovert is an ignorant assumption with no merit and just another example of how we try to put labels on everything like 21st century “diseases” that never existed in the early 20th century.

  13. Rohan Raut says:

    I support the deabte. Team members build a perception about the introverts amd then are treated in similar manner.
    I have an issue withe voice modulation therefore i am introvert. I guess u can help me in overcoming.
    Kindly suggest a way out..


Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge