There’s a time and place for babblers, I suppose. Who else among us willingly asserts themselves in classroom discussions, groupthink business meetings, memorial services when no one else wants to? And who else can always be counted on to fill the proverbial awkward silence?
That said, introverts (like me) would be grateful if extroverts could elsewhere learn to occasionally cede the floor; to give others the opportunity to share an uninterrupted comment or idea.
TALK IS CHEAP WHEN YOU SAY NOTHING
Civil discourse, whether in social or professional settings, should be about dialoguing not dominating — like a good rally or volley rather than a competition. Instead we’ve become a culture in which verbose, loud and fast talkers are disproportionately recognized. Discussion has become a combat sport — so kneejerk that participation disadvantages more considerate individuals. As children we’re taught it is impolite to interrupt. Nowadays talking over one another is standard practice and the only way to get a word in edgewise.
That extroverts garner more attention can in fact be counterproductive. Research shows there is no correlation between the volume with which individuals spew and their capacity to lead or achieve.
In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain sharpens this point: “If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day. This would mean that an awful lot of bad ideas prevail while good ones get squashed.”
ADVANCING THE CONVERSATION
How do we advance mutually rewarding conversation? It begins with self-reflection and self-awareness, for both extroverts and introverts. For example:
EXTROVERTS need to invite, encourage, allow others to offer unbroken input. Then ask follow-up questions; attempt to understand why others disagree with you. If you listen with intention, without being dismissive, the information might even help you restate your opinion more convincingly … or even dislodge a counterintuitive belief or bias. Most fundamentally, be curious. It conveys respect and humility.
INTROVERTS need to give yourself permission to be a little less polite. And when necessary to suppress a tsunami of drivel, change your posture from passive to passive aggressive; deliberately change the subject to something of mutual interest or even take a more blatant approach and introduce a complete non-sequitur. Most fundamentally, be confident.