All of my life my mother has always asked me this question. It was only after I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) training at OKA that I realized why I was programed to speak with out “thinking”. Actually, I speak to think – I am an extrovert. My sister, Kelly, it the opposite. She thinks to speak. Learning about the differences in how people think to communicate has helped me with my coaching and training throughout the years. It has also helped me in my relationships that are one-to-one.
Kelly, my sister, has been called shy, quiet and a loner. She once tried to go through an entire week of high school without talking to anyone. She succeeded. I could not get through my first hour class in high school not talking, even with strep throat and laryngitis. We have been so different in our communication styles since birth. This is just how we were made. Now, as adults we are more blended. I do think more before I speak and she is more of a talker in her small group of friends (that she has had for ten years).
Introverts need to think about what they are going to say, how they are going to say it and how it will resonate with their audience; they think then talk. Like Kelly, they are not what I call sharers. Kelly would not share anything about herself without being asked by someone close to her. If asked she may need to think about the answer…pause… wait… then maybe offer something. Maybe not offer anything, or say, “I’m not sure”. This was frustrating to me growing up. But, the more she and I talked, the more she trusted me and the more she would open up to me. I just thought that she did not think as quickly as I thought. That she was slower – not as smart. But, I knew that I was wrong. I knew Kelly was very smart and knew the answers. She just would not share her answer until she felt comfortable in her head, in her thoughts.
My first advisor for my dissertation committee was an introvert. I would go into his office full of ideas and plans. As he sat behind his Mac I would talk and talk about my latest theory or ask question after question. I would answer most of them myself because he just sat there. I would get so frustrated because when I really NEEDED an answer I would wait. He would tap some keys on his keyboard, look to the ceiling, and take a deep breath. I would wait. I would get impatient and ask another question. I am sure that I frustrated him. Later, I learned that if I waited long enough he would come up with an excellent answer. I had to switch my advisor because I was not patient enough or educated enough in MBTI to realize that he was an introvert. Finally, I figured out that if I emailed him a question he would email back an awesome response in a day or two (sometimes a week later). I learned how to be more patient and how to work with this introvert.
Extroverts talk to think. I had never heard that saying before I took the MBTI class. It resonated with me. I brainstorm with friends, on the telephone, in person, whenever I can talk to people. When no one is available, I talk to myself. Yes. I do. I always joked that at least I knew I was talking to an intelligent person. Ha! I love to take a concept or thought or idea and ping pong it around with someone. My best friend, Carol, is also an extrovert. She and I can play with an idea for hours. The idea is like a shuttlecock being swooshed from racquet to racquet. We bat the idea around and it morphs into a ping pong ball, then a baseball then… you name it! We can play with an idea until it forms something that we are both satisfied with…the outcome of the conversation.
I am sure that Kelly and my advisor would be so frustrated with me during our conversations. I know I had been frustrated with them. I have been told on many occasions to just “shut up”, that I talk too much, and ask too many questions. Talking to them was like “pulling teeth”; painful and bloody awful. But, after years, I finally learned how to communicate with my introvert friends and colleagues.
Knowing these difference is so important in business, training and coaching. I have learned some techniques to work with both groups at the same time. During meetings, I ask people a question and have them write it down then give 5 minutes of quiet so we can individually work on it. Or I prepare an agenda with roles assigned so everyone knows what is expected of them, and they can be prepared. Then, I do some brainstorming. I find that the extroverts jump in and ping pong the ideas around. When the introverts are asked, they usually read what they have written. I think that is just fine and all can participate that way. During training, I have journaling, individual exercises, or reflection. I also create discussion activities but give time for the introverts to respond. Coaching introverts is more difficult for me but I have learned through practice to wait…wait…wait for the answer. Or send pre-work and be ready to discuss it during our sessions.
Learning the differences between speaking before thinking and speaking to think has helped me with my communication in my work. I hope that this blog post has given you some techniques and insight about the differences in communication styles. Let me know if you have techniques to share for coaching, training or meetings.
#MBTI #extrovert #introvert #communication #training