If you're an introvert, it can be difficult connecting with an extroverted client, colleague, employee, or boss. (PS: if it's any consolation, they may well find it just as difficult to connect with you.) We're all blessedly different. The skill comes in embracing those differences and building bridges between them.
As a certified Personality Dimensions™ practitioner, I help clients define their personality and communication styles to better understand the world of both introverts and extroverts. Through this work, I've become familiar with some of the biggest pet communication peeves that introverts tell me they experience, along with some solutions you will find useful.
COMMUNICATION CHALLENGE: Being constantly interrupted
Use body language to indicate it's your turn to talk. Lean in, raise an open hand, have direct contact.
Interrupt the interrupter. Use language such as, "Jim, I want to hear what you have to say. Just give me a sec to finish updating."
Jump in when they take a break. They have to breathe at some point. Use that pause to butt in.
Call them on it, privately. Depending on the relationship you have with the person, point out the behaviour. Acknowledge that they're likely doing it because they're anxious to share their perspective and assure them you want to hear it. Let them know the impact this interrupting behaviour has on them and you, and suggest that it would work better for both of you to be heard.
NOTE: For more tips and insights about handling interruptions, check out my blog and most comments.
COMMUNICATION CHALLENGE: Being asked to respond off-the-cuff at a meeting
Request an agenda in advance. If not formally created and distributed, ask the chairperson what projects you're working on for which he/she would like updates.
Anticipate the questions. If you know what projects are going to be discussed, prepare your updates in advance.
Respond. Silence isn't an option. This doesn't mean you need all the answers. It means you can say, "I want to verify my figures on that and will get back to this afternoon." Give a time when you will reply and then, make sure you do.
COMMUNICATION CHALLENGE: People thinking you're checked out, don't care, are aloof
Use facial expressions and gestures to indicate interest. If you're happy and you know it, don't clap your hands -- tell your face. Unless you externalize that feeling, others have no way of knowing. Let your face and body language communicate interest and engagement.
Use words to connect. You don't need to agree to say something. Offer neutral verbal comments to indicate that you're actively listening and hear what's being said. Terms such as, "Uh, huh", "I see", "That's interesting," are perfect because they don't say agreement, only that you're listening and understand. It validates the speaker.
Ask questions. And make them open-ended. Questions show interest.
Where to Go from Here
The first step in handling any of these challenges in being aware of your behavior. As frustrating as it may be, we cannot change other people, we can only change how we react to them. The good news is that when we change the steps of the dance, the dance changes.
When you catch yourself in one of these situations and you're not sure how to respond, instead of feeling frustrated at the other person or yourself, commend yourself for recognizing the pattern. Awareness means you're on the road to changing what you do and the results you get.
In any of these solutions, practice them in low-risk situations to gain your confidence and elegance in using them. They will get easier, I promise. And they, most certainly, will help you connect with others -- even if you're an introvert.
In addition to Marion's advice, we suggest heading over to the CSAE Bookstore to have a look at Francie Dalton's book, Versatility: How to Optimize Interactions When 7 Workplace Behaviors Are at Their Worst. This book aims to help your organization work towards more effective, capable working relationships. It tackles the worst case scenarios and works forward from there.