An Open Letter to Extrovert Leaders: How understanding 50% of the population will improve your productivity and innovation


Hello, Extrovert Leaders! How are you? I’d love to meet you in person, but I seldom have the chance.

You see, I give talks on how organizations are overlooking and under-utilizing the people who are generally called introverts, whom I call “quietly brilliant.” (The term introvert is fine, even though in our society the label is too often confused with shy or neurotic.)

When I give my talks, the room is generally crowded – sometimes with standing room only – with introverts. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm but sad that I am repeatedly preaching to the choir. Introverts are grateful to have their positive attributes discussed openly, along with ways leaders can help them engage. But they often say the same thing, “The person who needs to be here isn’t. I wish my extrovert supervisor could hear this.”

So I’m asking you: why do you not come? Is it that you think you don’t need to know how to engage with us because there aren’t that many of us in the workplace? Perhaps you don’t realize introverts are over 50% of the population; this would include your employees, staff, and team members.

By the way, that includes your customers and clients, too.

Wouldn’t you like to: 

•   Turn those cool and seemingly unapproachable colleagues and teammates into warm and dedicated contributors?

•   Run meetings where EVERYONE contributes without pulling teeth?

•   Discover new sources of innovative leadership in your organization that you didn’t suspect existed?

•   Develop warm collaboration within your department and with other departments?

•   Work with resistant, deep-thinking prospects to earn their respect – and eventually their business?

•   Use rewards that really fit individual temperament – and truly motivate people?

And this knowledge and these skills aren’t limited to your professional life.

Maybe you have one of the following challenges:

•   A child who doesn’t seem motivated in the same ways you are, and you are exhausted trying to reach them.

•   Your mate sometimes retreats into a private world where you can’t seem to follow.

All of these and more are reasons to understand the neurological differences between introverts and extroverts, and to be willing to work with those differences to facilitate communication.

Here are a few starting points:

We prefer quality over quantity: “Innie’s” brains respond more strongly to external stimulation of all kinds – conversation, noise, clutter – than do “outies.” So we get overwhelmed and exhausted more easily. As a consequence, we need to retreat to recover from too many conversations and ideas.  We want meaningful conversations, not “small talk.”

We process things deeply: Information that enters the introvert’s brain is processed through more areas of the brain than for the extrovert before the introvert responds. In addition, quiet people are often storehouses – no, warehouses – of detailed information that they can pull together to give a really insightful picture of a situation.

So how do handle these differences? Here are some of the things you can do to connect and communicate:

•    Send advance signals when you want to engage an introvert

A good place to start, if you run meetings, is to have an agenda that you give out in advance (not just on the table as the meeting starts). Or you can casually give verbal advance notice, as in, “We’re meeting later today and I’d like your thoughts on ….”

•    Slow down and allow pauses in conversation 

You may expect conversation to flow quickly and easily. When there is a pause, you may be tempted to fill the silence with prompting, such as, “So what do you think?” or “Should we go ahead with this?

Curb that impulse. After you’ve fired your request, if you’re pretty sure you’re talking to one of these quiet people, take a deep breath, relax your body language, and wait for what you will feel is an interminable amount of time but is actually just as few seconds. The result can be a thoughtful, in-depth response, and can be well worth waiting for.

You can also fire off your request, leave the scene, and come back later, asking, “Do you have any further thoughts on what I said earlier?”

More reasons to motivate you to understand introversion

Introverts may constitute more than 50% of the intellectually gifted. In fact, one study indicates we may be 75% of the gifted. With people such as Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett on our team, it’s no surprise to some of us.

As a lifelong introvert, I realize introverts also need to develop skills to understand the extrovert temperament, reach out, and communicate better. It’s a two-way street on which I am dedicated to making the traffic flow better.

But I need both sides to participate to make this truly happen. Please join in the discussion if and when you have a chance. Learning how to connect and communicate with people who are different from you is a life-enriching experience, both professionally and personally.

Finally, when faced with what seems to be a non-participating employee, consider this question asked by a veteran consultant: “Did you hire them that way, or did you make them that way?”


Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based acclaimed national speaker, author, and executive coach with more than 30 years of experience in speaking and training.

Author of The Confident Introvert,  and a life-long successful introvert, she believes that America is overlooking and even discouraging its intellectual treasure: the 51% of the population who are introverts, and who are highly representative of the gifted.

In addition to helping quiet people thrive in a culture that idealizes extroversion, she gives leaders the tools to manage diverse groups in the same setting, and to develop the talent that is quietly under their noses.

Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com  to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

The Introvert’s Dilemma – Which door?

A friend and I had a conversation recently, in which she remarked that, when confronted with three side-by-side doors, she would always choose one of the side doors.

And I thought about that, because we introverts often slide along the edges of life, skulking. I suspect many of us make these kinds of choices – to be unobtrusive.

It isn’t always wrong; I maintain that the introvert tendency to enter a new group and listen quietly before jumping in and conversing is very intelligent behavior, and saves a lot of the errors that occur because of too quick assumptions about others.

Mingling with a group, listening, and paying attention to others can be very effective means of consolidating a group, and even leading a group.

But this habit of skulking can get out of hand, when we do it all the time, and unconsciously.

At one point in my life, I made an extrovert friend (yes, it is possible, and I learned a lot from her). When we attended a conference in a big hotel, I noted that the center entrance door had a doorman who would open it for guests with a flourish, and I sidestepped over to a less threatening, less public (or so I thought) side door.

She grabbed me firmly by the elbow, and said, “No. Always use the center door.” She then swept in with a regal carriage, her head held high. I gulped, followed her, and learned a lesson.

The lesson is this: make it a conscious choice. Tell yourself you have just as much right to be in the center, and even waited upon, as does anyone else. When you choose not to be in the center of any event, make sure it is a clear choice: I’m listening, observing, reflecting, but not hiding.

Because there will surely come a time when you want you, your expertise, and your talents to be recognized, a time when it really counts, but there will be no one to grab you by the elbow and say, “No. You must take the center door yourself.”

Consider the experience of Kari Rihm* who became a CEO on what she termed was “one of the worst days of her life” – the day after her husband’s funeral.  

After 17 years as a stay-at-home mom, she reportedly had 180 days to learn the business and come up with a business proposal – or sell the business. How could she sell the business, when she didn’t even know what it was worth? So she decided to take charge. “I had to face a boardroom full of people, mostly men, and convince them that I could do this.”

She did so, successfully, later saying, “You have to understand and believe that you have the right to be there.”

You don’t have to, nor should you want to, wait for a major event such as Kari faced to convince yourself you have a right to be there. Start practicing every day – walk through doors consciously, with your head held high, recognizing you are making a choice.

*Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, September 26, 2014  


Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Introvert Anger: The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Ugly


Are you an introvert? Afraid of anger? Your own and other people’s?

You’re not alone. We introverts are famous for becoming clams when we’re hurt or affronted. After all, anger can involve raised voices, threatening language – all that over-stimulation against which we try to protect ourselves.

The Bad

When we feel threatened, we introverts tend to pull into our shells to wait out the storm. Cowering in there, we re-play all of the scenes that distressed us: the frustration of feeling blocked, the seemingly unkind comment, the raised voice that sounded, at least to us, like a shout, the slight sneer we think we detected on the other person’s face…oh, the unfairness of it all.

This pulling-in becomes a habit that we activate at the slightest hint that something distressing will occur. It too quickly becomes a way of life: threat, retreat, re-hash.

It gets very crowded in that clamshell.

You can only do this so many times before the scene turns downright ugly. Not because of the other person, because of the phenomenon of the Exploding Clam.

The Downright Ugly: The Exploding Clam

Even placid clams can get enough. After all, there’s only so much room in that clamshell, right? You, plus all the hurt and anger, piling up.

That’s when the Clam explodes, not over an important issue, but often over something trivial. It’s Just The Last Straw! “Why do you always put away an empty ice cube tray after you’ve used what you want?” “What makes you think I want anchovies on the pizza?”

The problem is that no one sees it coming, including the perpetrator. It just bursts out. Who could predict that finding the ice cube tray empty once again would trigger the start of WWIII?

And the Clam is shaken by having this unfamiliar energy burst forth, and so retreats again into the clamshell, feeling embarrassed and muttering, “Nothing. Everything’s fine.” when pressed for an explanation.

The Good

Successful, confident introverts recognize that it’s not about the ice cube tray, the anchovies on the pizza, or the shoes left (yet again) on the stairs.

It’s generally about a sense of a loss of power. So it’s good to ask yourself, “Why did I give away my power?” “To whom did I give it?” “Why?”

Only then can you convince yourself that it’s really better and easier on everyone, including you, just to address the real issue: “This relationship isn’t quite going the way I would like.” Or, “I’m feeling overwhelmed and needing help.” Or a thousand other issues that make us feel helpless.

Speaking up about what you want and need doesn’t mean you’re aggressive, a bully, or even (gasp) an extrovert. It means you respect yourself and the people around you.

So, what have you got stuffed into your clamshell?


Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

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