Circles Gives Everyone a Voice
“I would like to change people’s psyches. So many introverts who I interviewed told me about a secret sense of shame they had about who they were and how they prefer to spend their time. I want people to have a comfort level with who they are.”
Susan Cain, writer of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, spoke to Forbes in 2012 about how we live in a society that’s designed for extroverts.
That is, despite the fact that introverts are said to make up roughly half of the world’s population.
The problem is that introverts, by their very nature, often feel like they’re swimming against the current in a sea of extroverts. And most of us, introvert or no, have a habit of making things worse by comparing ourselves to others.
Perceptions Are Changing
Figures like Cain, who have spoken up, despite it being against her nature…
“As honored as I am to be here with all of you right now, this is not my natural milieu.”
NB: If you haven't seen Susan Cain's brilliant Ted Talk, check it out above, or here at Ted.com.
...are contributing to a shift in the way introverts are perceived. Psychological researchers like Dr. Mehl are also showing that introverts might be onto something by favoring deeper conversations over small talk.
You need only look at a list of famous introverts to see that many have been hugely influential; Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Rosa Parkes, Jimi Hendrix, J.K. Rowling, Einstein.. the diverse list goes on.
Introverts Make Great Leaders
So having personality traits of an introvert doesn’t mean a role in leadership isn’t for you. Extroverts have traditionally had an easier time landing those roles, but they may not possess some of the skills that can make introverts such strong leaders:
Research has shown that introverts..
- Learn by listening.
- Are less likely to feel threatened by the ideas of others.
- Think before they speak.
- Are more likely to read the shit out of any given topic.
Aside from an introvert's ability to get lost in a topic that truly interests them, the very fact that someone who is introverted is in a leadership role shows that they value the ability to go outside of their comfort zone and grow. Something they also learn to value and appreciate in others.
As Patrick Moran, Chief Customer Officer at Quip and self-professed introvert, puts it:
“Introversion and leadership are not mutually exclusive — you just need to build some skills along the way, which you should be willing to do anyway.”
Having Everyone’s Voice Heard
All of this isn’t to say that the world should be adapted to work exclusively for introverts. Instead of going from one extreme to another we should be looking for balance. Introvert, extrovert or ambivert, everyone can work on improving those soft skills that lead to better communication.
Running a meeting experience at Circles that’s aimed at getting the best out of everyone (no matter their personality type) has taught us a thing or two:
Have a meaningful discussion
Introverts hate small talk, but no one likes wasting time. Having a purpose is the best way to get everyone involved. We run meetings with an agenda or curriculum depending on the type of circle. These can include thinking time and reading time so that the focus is on the subject at hand.
The Circles online meeting room includes a progress bar that makes sure the meeting is sticking to the agenda. Time is allocated to each point point of discussion so that the progress bar can always be used as a point of reference. This feature means meetings won’t go off topic and won’t be sidetracked by small talk.
No hogging the mic
While it’s important to speak up and voice your thoughts, speaking too much can also be a problem. Our meeting room includes an equal air timer that automatically gives everyone their time to speak. It can be difficult for an introvert to jump in with their thoughts when everyone’s trying to get a word in. With our equal air timer, no one member of the meeting can take over the spotlight.
Have a guided meeting
We’ve seen great results with these tools, but… on their own they aren’t necessarily enough to keep a meeting on course. We also train our in-house guides to facilitate meetings by keeping the conversation flowing and creating a safe space for participants. Kimberly Jensen, a circle participant who works for Sunlife gave us the following feedback on our guide, Anna Lindow:
“[She is] so patient and has a way of putting people in a comfort zone, allowing them to dig deep and really become vulnerable.”
The aim of Circles meetings is to help people grow, learn and solve their most important challenges through deep, vulnerable conversations with their peers.
If you’d like to learn how Circles help introverts and extroverts grow with better communication, leave a comment below or contact us directly on Twitter (@CirclesNotRows).