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Introverts are not an excuse

Feb 22, 2024

“Thank God for the extroverts.” 

That’s what one participant said to me recently in an offsite I was facilitating. 

It was a light-hearted moment, and I laughed. 

Until I realised... Hang on. Am I relying on “extroverts” to get this party started?

We’ve all been there. You’re trying to get a conversation happening, but there are a handful (or more) of people who aren’t speaking up. And that usually means there’s a handful that are doing all the talking.

As leaders of conversation (as all good leaders are!) we should never let reserved people be our excuse for allowing others to dominate the floor.

Speaking for myself, if I am a participant, I know that my own silence is usually a sign that the process just isn’t working for me. I don’t have enough time to think, or to express thoughts in ways that I’m comfortable with. Or perhaps there’s not enough time left once the loud mouths have spoken! 

Whether that’s because I’m an introvert - which I am - or just my critical thinking style, or perhaps for some reason I am feeling timid in a particular group… whatever the case, any leader serious about facilitating conversation must adapt and design a process that allows everyone to contribute.  

So, here are 3 essential ingredients for getting this right (all of which joyfully start with the letter P!):  

🔥 Preparation: How do you help everyone to come along having thought about the topic in advance, and ready to contribute?

🔥 Processing: How do you create enough space for everyone to process their thoughts and ideas before opening their mouths to speak? That could be as simple as giving people a couple of minutes to write down their responses, or to talk in pairs first.  

🔥 Pooling: How do you run the conversation so that everyone’s perspective gets pooled together, before you allow individuals to grab the microphone. That allows you to then direct the flow of conversation towards themes and interesting threads in the pool, rather than loud voices.

With just those 3 things in mind, you should be really well positioned to avoid becoming “accidentally dependent” on the extroverts in the room. 

Anyhow, what about you? What strategies do you find work well to lead a conversation that everyone contributes to, not just the noisy few? Let me know. 

Until next time,
Simon “3Ps” Dowling


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