Let’s face facts… Most engineers are introverts. We tend to be quiet, reserved, thoughtful, and recluse.
The old joke — how do you identify an extroverted engineer? She looks at your shoes instead of her own.
Now, not all engineers are introverts, and I understand this distribution. In my career, the extroverted engineer is a rarity on a team. I have known a few extroverted engineers, and they are fantastic! Many of my best engineers have been these introverts. How do I connect with them?
Energy Is The Key…
A common misconception is introversion means shyness or a wallflower. Extroversion is the class clown or outspoken person on the team.
Terry Tipple, Tipple Consulting, taught me an invaluable lesson. Introversion and extroversion are based on energy. Introverts recharge batteries inside, and extroverts are fueled by the people around them every day. I have known very outspoken introverts, and I am one myself. I have also known quiet and reserved extroverts as well who simply like being with people.
How do you make connections with these introverts?
Play On Their Turf.
Because an introvert must exert energy in a social setting, they often need time to recharge before their next encounter. As a result, big meetings with many people may cause an introvert to be quiet and reserved. Sitting in an open office where chatter and conversations continue all day long is draining. Typical extroverted business roles in marketing, sales, and management can drain an engineer’s energy throughout the day.
When you know you are working with an introvert, come to their terms. Meet them individually to allow them to interact on a smaller scale. One-on-one conversations are simpler than these complex, multi-faceted meetings.
Give your introverts time between important discussions. Allow them to reflect, percolate ideas, and develop their thoughts. Attacking an introvert with a barrage of questions without that downtime is ineffective. Provide them the space to recharge a bit.
Defeating The Stigma Of Introversion…
Because someone is quiet and reserved in a social setting does not define that person’s contribution. Often, the silent thinking person can offer great insight. They observe and refine. Their mind processes various pieces of information drawing conclusions from the various thoughts.
Being quiet and reflective can take similar energy as the boisterous person speaking for 30 minutes without a breath. Refraining from reacting to an action can allow for great insight while developing a response. Being the center of attention does not define success.
Step One: I Am Jim, And I Am An Introvert
I was once described as a wallflower, and in many ways, I still am. I keep quiet in some situations, and I often reflect on the big picture before speaking my mind.
Would you be surprised I am a bass player in a successful cover band playing nearly 100 shows a year? Most weekend nights, I rock out to my band’s favorite tunes for dozens and hundreds of people. I put excessive amounts of energy into my performance. I confess: I have to work at this because it is not my default behavior.
I am deeply introverted. When tested, I bury the needle on these attributes. Yet, I can lead a team or perform for hundreds of people. I spend a lot of energy meeting the extroverts at their table. However, the next day I am exhausted. I need time alone to recharge and repair myself. After two weekend concerts with the band, I am a slug.
Extroverts — How Can You Relate?
Since your energy derives through interacting with others, meet us introverts face to face in a smaller setting. One-on-one helps. If you want our input in a social setting, do not call us out in front of a group. Ask us individually.
The big thing... do not judge our silence or reservations as noncompliance or competency. Give us the room to breathe, process, and assimilate. When you recognize our retreat, do not go in for the kill—allow us to back up and regroup. Attack will simply drive us deeper into our safe zone.
In all seriousness, simply give introverts a chance to process information. You may be pleasantly surprised by what we can offer. Our insight can lead to new ways of thinking. Giving us space allows our process to flow.
Can An Introvert Survive?
The answer is yes. We are capable of thriving in an extrovert’s world. Sometimes, we need to act like our counterparts in situations that require us to be more open. Other times, we can use our introspection to see clearer views of the situation. Our alone time to recharge batteries is our superpower.
Introverted engineers unite! We collectively solve many of the world’s problems! We can be powerful forces in business to drive amazing results. We can overcome our “shyness” by providing unique insights. We can make a difference.
I recommend we introverts use our gifts and continue to change the world… even if only from the shadows!