Coaching and Mentoring
Being extroverted is often mistakenly represented as being outgoing or socially confident. While this is true for many extraverts, social confidence is not an accurate descriptor. Extroversion refers to energy flow and the tendency to draw energy from the outer world – the focus of the extravert is therefore on people, the activities around them, and a primary interest in the external world, away from internal thoughts and ideas, which tend to be secondary for them.
Before we look at specific issues related to coaching extraverts, let’s first tackle a few basic questions before moving on to specific coaching strategies. This initial groundwork looks at these questions: what is an extravert? how does an extravert generally relate to the world? and finally, what percentage of the world is introverted versus extraverted?
What is an Extravert?
According to Carl Jung, the psychologist who coined the terms introversion and extraversion in the language, introversion is about drawing energy from the internal world of thoughts and ideas, preferring depth, and pausing for thought. Jung would say that the unconscious preoccupation of introverts is therefore privacy. Extraversion, on the other hand, is about drawing energy from the world of people, things, and activities, and dealing in breadth rather than depth. Jung would say that the unconscious preoccupation of extraverts is therefore access to people.
Extraverts tend to focus on the outer world of people and external events. They direct their energy and attention outward and receive energy from external events, experiences and interactions. They tend to like variety and action and can be impatient with tasks or assignments that are lengthy or need to be completed slowly. They like having people around and develop ideas through discussion.
People who prefer extraversion are typically energized by active involvement in events, and they like to be immersed in a multitude of activities. They are most excited when they are around people, and they often have an energizing effect on those around them. Extraverts often like to move into action and make things happen; extraverts usually feel very at home in the world and like exploring it. With their orientation to the outer world, extraverts often find their understanding of a problem becomes clearer if they can talk out loud in conversation about it and hear what others have to say.
So, in summary, people who prefer extraversion are likely to be seen as:
- “Go-getters” and/or “people-persons” (preferring action to sedentary pursuits)
- Being able to talk readily (especially in meetings)
- Feeling comfortable with and like working in groups to experience life
- Having a wide range of acquaintances and friends from whom they draw energy
- Liking breath of activity, but at the same time can sometimes jump too quickly into activity and not allow enough time for reflection
- Sometimes forgetting to pause to clarify the ideas that give direction or meaning to their activities
To contrast the introvert with the extravert, the following table may help. Notice that both lists start and end with how extraverts and introverts use their energy:
How does an extravert generally relate to the world?
Sociable and even apparently “loud” people may be extraverted but this is not always the case, as extraverts can be shy and quiet for a short period and some introverts can adopt more extraverted and non-quiet or more socially outgoing behaviors for a limited period. We can tune into the language that extraverts tend to use to get a better idea of when individuals may have a greater preference for extraversion. For example, we might hear statements such as:
- “I find it hard to sit in one place/at a desk all day”
- “I love to DO things, not sit around thinking about them all day”.
- “I like being in a group of people” (or even sometimes “in the limelight!”)
- “It’s pretty easy to talk about most things.”
- “People give me energy.”
- “I don’t mind interruptions.”
- “I get bored fairly easily.”
Outside of observing language clues we might also see the following general behaviors:
- Attuned to external environment.
- Prefer communicating by talking.
- Learn best through doing or discussing.
- Have a breadth of interests.
- Tend to speak first and reflect later (and can sometimes speak without thinking).
- Sociable and expressive (can express ideas, even feelings, easily)
- Often take initiative in work and relationships.
- Can require a lot of a person’s time and attention.
- Naturally seek a variety of activities.
- Is usually fairly easy to understand – willing to explain and clarify.
- Is quite accessible and may even welcome interruptions.
- Understands life in general by living it.
What percentage of the world is introverted versus extraverted?
It may appear to be the case that there are many more extraverted people in the workplace than introverted ones (and especially at managerial level). But this is simple because extraverts by their nature are good communicators and self-advocates. In actual fact, the split between extraverts and introverts is about 50:50 and there are almost as many introverts in managerial roles as there are extraverts (it is thought to be around 45:55). More information on this subject can be found at the “Thoughtful self-improvement” site at http://www.thoughtful-self-improvement.com/percentage-of-introverts.html.
Coaching the extravert
Now that we understand more about extraverted preferences, let’s turn our attention to how best to coach an extravert. Perhaps the best place to start is to look at the kinds of frustration and/or goals that extraverts are likely to experience in the workplace. Although this is both an incomplete and non-specific list, below are ten of the most common frustrations. Bear in mind that an extravert may come to appreciate the need for quiet reflection and discussion only slowly over time and when the possibility that a new approach could be helpful has been raised by a third-party (i.e. they may be blind to their needs until someone points them out):
1. A wish to be more quietly considerate and reflective (and avoid blurting) – Extraverts may enjoy talking with other people but they realize that they may often talk or even blurt something out with little or no thought; this may get them into trouble, particularly when more managerial discretion may be called for. A coach can help the extravert develop a greater ability to watch people and consider what is being said more closely before responding.
2. A wish to let others take charge when appropriate and be less domineering – Extraverts like to take the initiative and this often thrusts them into a task or project leadership role that they were not necessarily seeking. A coach may therefore be able to help an extravert to maintain his or her capacity to take initiative and be enthusiastic about a task but hold back and let other more able or qualified individuals take the leadership role when appropriate (and even advocate for and on behalf of these individuals where necessary, especially if they are quiet).
3. A wish to develop better listening and concentration skills – Extraverts are typically selective listeners and suffer from a wandering mind which also continually welcomes external distractions. A coach may therefore need to help them to develop approaches to be more attentive listeners and to develop the ability to concentrate harder and for longer.
4. A wish to find more time to reflect and explore their inner world – Extraverts have an inner world but it may be infrequently visited (preferring instead to continually drink-in external world stimuli). A coach can help an extravert to develop the habit of spending regular time investing in deeper refection to process what they have experienced (getting away from the workplace and people for short periods or even meditating perhaps).
5. A wish to better understand and appreciate introverted-preference people – Many extraverts can become frustrated with introverts because they take longer to think, may be slower to initiate tasks and tend to want to focus on only one subject at a time. This may lead an extravert to ignore an introvert or to dominate them but not without feeling guilty for doing so (as an extravert generally prefers to be collaborative with everyone). Coaching can help here by providing a deeper perspective on the introvert’s preferences and coaching the extravert on what they can do to communicate with them more successfully.
6. A wish to ask fewer and better questions to gain others’ cooperation – Extraverts use questions to seek clarification and keep a debate going (from which they draw further energy) but it can be an endless tirade which can wear quieter/more introverted people down. A coach can help an extravert to ask fewer and better questions which still give them the information they are seeking but being less potentially irritating in so doing.
7. A wish to be a little less impetuous in decision-making – Extraverts like to talk things out and in doing so make quick decisions as a result of the debate. However, some of these can be impetuously made and a coach can therefore work with an extravert to listen a little longer, even when the pressure of a deadline is looming, in order to get a better quality result.
8. A wish to accept slower feedback (or not always immediately) in discussions – Many extraverts speak freely and in the moment and then expect those listening to respond in the same manner and giving immediate feedback to which they can respond again. Here a coach can work with an extravert to accept that introverts will often want more time or may offer only limited or even preliminary feedback so as to add to it later when they have had time to reflect.
9. A wish to carefully construct points or arguments in writing – Many extraverts speak very fluently but their points may emerge as a kind of deluge. A coach can consequently work with an extravert to help better build a better argument verbally and, so as to help introverts who may prefer to see information ahead of time, and/or put information into a well-constructed format, especially in writing when appropriate (ideally ahead of a meeting for example or as a summary after the event).
10. A wish to deal with conflict in more varied and subtle ways – Extraverts may see verbal conflict, whenever it arises, as a necessary part of the normal communication back and forth and then often deal with it only “head on” or in a challenging manner, which may mean it can escalate. A coach can help extraverts to spot resistance or possible conflict at an earlier stage (such as passive-aggressive behavior, for example) and assist them to develop a range of handling tactics which offer more subtle options than just dealing with it head on.
So, how should a coach relate to an extravert?
All of the above often boils down to one major issue — communication. Of course, both extraverts and introverts have helpful and hindering behaviors, as the table below illustrates:
Communicating – Extraversion and Introversion
|Potentially helpful||Potentially hindering|
|Extraversion||Outgoing and sociable; spontaneous and enthusiastic; enjoys talking through ideas with peers and others; demonstrates energy||Overwhelms people; finds listening difficult; wants to get to action too quickly; easily distracted; appears to have a ‘butterfly’ approach|
|Introversion||Reflective style allows people space; listens attentively; concentrates on what is happening below the surface; stays calm||Appears withdrawn or moody; lacks social confidence; seems over-intense; dislikes large meetings; appears lacking in presence|
A coach can help an extravert in at least three of the four boxes in the above table. This is not only with the potentially hindering behavior of the extravert and introvert but also in helping the extraverted individual to use his or her communication strengths to help the team (and not overwhelm it, usually by listening harder or for longer). To do this there are effective strategies for a coach to adopt, as well as approaches to avoid as follows:
|Effective coaching strategies to adopt with Extraverts||Coaching approaches to avoid with Extraverts|
|Make good eye contact, smile and be friendly||Don’t spend too much time sitting silently taking notes or thinking before you begin the session|
|Engage in small talk and social banter for a short period at the outset, as this helps to quickly build the relationship||Avoid giving them documents to read in session|
|Let them talk and set the scene in terms of what they want or what personal goals they might have||Don’t ask the same question twice (or more). When they haven’t answered a question or got off track, simply re-phrase your question|
|Show interest and enthusiasm when they are talking (but let them know when you want to say something in response)||Avoid giving them subtle or indirect signals about how you feel or what you are thinking — tell them directly|
|Paraphrase and summarize as often as necessary to clarify their meaning||Try to discourage thinking that is too off-subject or lateral and talking about minor side-issues|
|Encourage them to take their time and reflect before answering questions||Discourage them from making decisions about what you are suggesting too quickly|
|Let them talk and get animated as much as necessary-they will make connections as they are expounding||Bring each part of the discussion to an agreed action point (specifically and without delay tactics)|
|Let them talk but occasionally redirect them to stay on track when they wander off point and bring them back by asking focused questions||Avoid giving them follow-up tasks which they have to complete alone and allow them to collaborate and talk to other people to learn|
|Plan with them how a little solitude and time for quiet reflection will take place on a regular basis||Don’t give them just one task as work to do between sessions; instead, give them choice about what they can do|
|Let them suggest next steps first and then comment||Allow input but avoid giving them control over where you need to take them next|
And finally, how should an Extravert relate to his or her coach?
If an extravert is dealing with an extraverted coach, then there may be a more comfortable relationship (although it will probably be a competitive one in trying to communicate effectively). Where the coach is an introvert, there may be a tendency for the extravert coachee to talk a lot and even to try to take control. Not only does the introverted coach need to guard against this happening but the extraverted coachee needs to play his or her part in managing the relationship appropriately to get the most from the experience. Here are therefore a few ways in which this can be done:
- Always clear sufficient time in your calendar to have quality time to talk to your coach without interruption.
- Find a quiet place, ideally away from your normal office space and from phone and other possible distractions so that you can try to concentrate.
- Listen attentively to your coach and try to avoid jumping in or finishing his or her sentences.
- Try to avoid letting your mind wander or to think about/rehearse your next answer.
- Think/reflect on each question before you respond; even practice counting 5 seconds minimum before opening your mouth to say anything.
- Craft a question of your coach to clarify anything said very carefully before you put it to him or her.
- Stay on subject as much as you can-avoid “butterfly minding” to one or more topics that are similar or related in your own mind before you have truly finished on the topic at hand.
- After your coaching session, take some quiet time for reflection without talking to anyone. If necessary make some notes for yourself on what you see to be useful.
- Make changes to your behavior or approach carefully and discretely, avoiding the need to inform lots of people what you are getting from the coaching experience. If you feel that it is necessary to talk to others be selective about who you choose.
- Think about the whole coaching journey on a big picture basis to assess its value and communicate adjustments to the relationship you would like to quietly suggest each time you meet.
Extraverts have much to bring to any workplace. In general they are more effective than introverts at promoting ideas, exhibiting general enthusiasm, communicating and bringing people together to work in team-oriented or collaborative ways. They may occasionally be a little insensitive to quieter and more introverted people but they are usually open to being reminded that they need to bring someone into a debate before a decision is made; what they don’t do well with is silent suffering. The more that extraverts become knowledgeable about introverts, the less tension and misunderstanding will exist and workplace productivity can improve dramatically.
To finally summarize, if you don’t know what an introvert is thinking, you haven’t asked; if you don’t know what an extravert is thinking, you haven’t been listening.