Letters to my colleagues

– What introverts would like extraverts to know (and vice-a-versa)

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How can I thrive as
an introvert in my organisation
when everyone else won’t shut up?

Here are two short letters. One from an introvert to an extravert (and vice-a-versa) They are shared here to add a little insight into the experiences each has of the other.

Firstly, some background to these letters.

Introversion is about energy

Since the time of the ancient Greeks, people have tried to come up with ways to describe our personality differences. By differences, we mean our default preferences and tendencies. Physically, an example is being right or left-handed. We can write with either hand, but it feels much more natural, and we do it a lot better, with our preferred hand.

In the same way, our personality preferences can be quite distinct. Probably the oldest of these personality concepts is extraversion and introversion.

Introversion and extraversion relate to where we get our energy from. In other words, it’s about how we recharge our minds and our emotional centre.

Introverts: people who are inwardly focused tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds. Unlike Extraverts, Introverts can quickly exhaust their mental energy reserves, and they will only tolerate such situations so long before they yearn for solitude and quiet. Like they are battery charged, they carry their power with them.

Extraverts: people who are outwardly focused gain energy from other people. They love the noise and colour. Extroverts actually find their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone. They recharge by being socially engaged. It’s like they need to plug into an external source of power.

Inwardly focused:Outwardly focused:
Process best thoughts aloneProcess best thoughts with others
Focus on depthFocus on breadth
Prefer writing to talkingPrefer talking to writing
Think and process, then talkTalk, then think and process
Energised by time aloneEnergised by time with others

In short, those who are outwardly focused have an inner need to seek out lots of external stimulation to keep them going. Whereas those who are inwardly focused need to escape the same stimulation or they will run out of juice.

Here are the letters. Maybe you can identify with one or both of them?

Dear Extraverted colleague,

I like you I really do. But here are some ways you can understand me better when we interact:

I know I often seem quiet. However, I am enjoying myself, it just doesn’t look like fun to you. I don’t dislike people I just find them draining. Really, I only talk when I have something to say.

Please give me time to think things through, before you expect me to respond. And when I do respond it’s better to not interrupt me. In many ways I’d prefer to send you my thoughts by email, rather than have another meeting.

With affection.

Your introverted friend

Dear Introverted colleague,

Thanks for making the time to write to me. Things seem clearer now. In the same way, here are some tips on understanding ways to understand my experience:

I don’t always have a reason when I phone you, I’m just connecting. I like to talk at the end of a busy day. It’s how I process what has happened.

Thanks for letting me think out loud, even when much of my thoughts are still getting worked out as I talk. You are patient with my chatting. I know that you’re supportive. Even while you’re quiet and thinking about things. Please remember, it’s okay for you to tell me that you need a bit of quiet space. I don’t understand it, but I can respect it.


Your extraverted friend

At the Colloquium Group we have developed executive learning circles for introverts. These are small group experiences designed to help introverts survive and thrive as professional leaders.