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7 Reasons The Introvert Isn’t Talking in Team Meetings

Ever wonder why the introvert on your team isn’t talking?

Occasionally I will hear another leader complain about someone on their team who the leader feels doesn’t contribute as much as others. “She’s too quiet.” “I wish he would speak up more.” “He doesn’t participate as much as some of the others.”

And, sometimes I wonder if the team dynamics allow for them to be heard.

The fact is introverts can be highly creative. They have original ideas. They usually take time to think things through thoroughly, which is a valuable asset to a team. They can lead, take charge, and drive a project to completion.

And, on behalf of my fellow introverts I should say your team needs to hear from them.

If I may be so bold to say chances are, if introverts aren’t sharing, you’re likely missing out and some of the best ideas are not being discovered.

Here are 7 reasons introverts may not be talking:

Everyone else kept talking – Most introverts aren’t going to talk over other people. They’ll wait their turn. If it doesn’t come. They simply won’t share.

You are rushing the answers – You have to give introverts time to process. Introverts take time to find the right words to say. If you press for quick responses, they’ll likely share less. That’s true in brainstorming too, where you’re looking for many responses.

I often receive push back from introverts and leaders about the process of brainstorming and their participation. Brainstorming often involves quick thoughts being shared. But, I don’t think the problem is brainstorming, but rather how we do it. The process is too important not to do it and the collective thoughts are too important to miss anyone. And, fellow introverts, we don’t get an “out” of everything uncomfortable because we are introverts. No one does. We just have to adapt and leaders have to get better at leading everyone, which is the point of this post.

There are too many people, especially extroverts in the room – If there are plenty of “talkers” an introvert will often let others do the talking. Again, they won’t likely interrupt. If introverts are easily outnumbered they are usually silenced. You can sometimes solve this by breaking larger groups into smaller groups.

You have them in an uncomfortable seat – Put an introvert in the awkward front row seat or in the middle of a crowded room and they aren’t going to be as vocal. They won’t likely share if they feel they are being made the center of attention. The set up of the room is a huge part of team dynamics for everyone, but especially introverts. Give them their space, maybe even let them have a corner, but mostly don’t assign seats. Don’t force it – let them choose.

They’ve got nothing to say – And, it could be as simple as that. Perhaps it isn’t their subject. Introverts aren’t as likely to talk about subjects they know less about as an extrovert will. Their words are typically based on thoughts they’ve processed longer, so if it’s a new subject, they may still be processing internally.

The conversation isn’t going anywhere – Introverts aren’t usually fans of small talk or chit chat. If too much time at the beginning of the meeting was about nothing they consider of great importance, then you may have lost their interest. The more you can stick to your agenda the more likely they will be to participate.

You put them on the spot without warning – Introverts are often NOT opposed to making a presentation. (The “not” is capitalized on purpose.) The myth is that introverts are always silent. Not true. And, it’s not that they have nothing to say. They simply want to be prepared before they share what’s on their mind. The more advance notice you give them the better. You might even say, “Tracy, I’m going to ask you to share in just a few minutes about ______” and then come back to them. You’ll get a better answer.

Of course, all of this means you need to understand the team you’re trying to lead. Who are the introverts on your team? And, how introverted are they? What is their ideal setting for being heard? This takes time and practice – and realizing everyone on your team is not the same.

But, everyone on your team has thoughts you need to hear. If not, why are they on the team? Our challenge, as leaders, is to create an environment conducive for hearing from everyone.

By the way, I have a whole chapter on this subject in my book The Mythical Leader.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 31 Comments

  • Hi Rod,
    Great post! As an introvert myself, I can really relate with a lot of this. I tend to be more of an “extroverted introvert” if that makes sense. I especially agree with your point on introverts not saying anything because “they’ve got nothing to say”. In my opinion, many extroverts will share their opinion on things just for the fun of it, but that is not necessarily true with introverts. Thank you for sharing!

  • Anon says:

    This fits the bill for me completely. I had a recent appraisal and feedback which was that I needed to be more vocal in meetings, which I find hard full stop. I hate being put on the spot at a meeting as I go blank. I couldn’t figure out why exactly and this article reads me like a book so it was comfort to know that I’m not alone on having this mini issue.

  • emily says:

    Nice article, well said. i also like your another article on leadership ..

  • Pastor Kris says:

    What I am about to say might upset or rattle some people but I have found myself getting very frustrated at introverts, or those who don’t speak during a meeting. Time is important and if an introvert needs time to “process” information, maybe they shouldn’t be in a Leadership role. I have given them several weeks to come back to the team with ideas and when we meet to discuss these ideas they have nothing. Being a leader you have to make good, sound decisions often quickly. My introverts often don’t make those hard decisions. I have two introverts on my team that I am thinking of replacing with those who can contribute not only in a team setting, but also in their departments. Their departments are lacking due to their inability to be the Leader they need to be… Then the Holy Spirit nudges my heart and I allow them to stay in their positions. Very frustrating to say the least.

    • Ron Edmondson says:

      I think it depends on the introvert. If I was on your team I’d have more ideas and inputs than you might want. I have a million ideas and no problem expressing them. You’d just have to provide the right avenue for me to express them. Put me in charge of something or give me time to talk. I won’t talk over others.

    • Pastor Kris says:

      Thank you for your reply Ron. All the suggestions I have done for the introverts. I would like to revise my statement a little. I keep them on my team as the Holy Spirit has told me too. There must be a reason for them there. I believe God is raising them up to change them into the Leaders they are suppose to be. One is in charge of Men’s ministry and the other was our Worship Leader/Pastor. The Worship Leader didn’t want to lead any longer and I took over. But I still wanted to give them a chance. They are good with helps so that is what they do. Also, they have asked to be the Director of the Singles ministry. They have been in that roll for almost a year now. Believing they will step up and be the leader that God has created them to be. Sorry for my rant. It was an off day for me and I shouldn’t have posted.

  • Jim Pemberton says:

    A couple of ideas to add:

    1) Manage the conversation better. a) Keep away from bunny trails. b) call on people for any ideas they may have.

    2) Prepare your people for the meeting. Publish the agenda beforehand or even sound out the agenda with members individually beforehand *if you have the time* (you can make it brief). This allows you to know the ideas that will be coming and can request the ideas to be presented by the people you heard them from and can actually help the meeting to move along more efficiently. I’m a big fan of short, efficient meetings.

  • LLM says:

    I'm an introvert. The 7 points totally describe me!

  • Badri Salih says:

    Great article! I am an innie, INTJ on the MBTI, and brainstorming works for me. I agree with the author on his point about collective thought. For me it works only when its with people I trust and know they understand the – project/problem what have you – as I do. I get to super focus on the details and analyze things to death when I am problem solving alone, so other people help me get out of my head and look at the big picture when we bounce ideas off each other. Its a very organic process, and it works 🙂

    • ronedmondson says:

      Good word. Thank you. 

    • Jen Moody says:

      I, too am INTJ-and I'd agree with the "people I trust" factor completely! At my place of employment, I've been fortunate to have an extroverted leader who is good at developing and advocating for others-and who is always looking for new ideas. She and the others on the management team have taken note of some specific abilities of mine-and have expressed a desire to have me use them for the team's benefit. Because they want what I have to give, they are willing to give me what I need to use these abilities. Thus, I feel more comfortable brainstorming. Plus, I work with many intros, so I don't have to deal with the "talking over others" part of it! Lucky me!

  • Ron, love the post and the upcoming series of posts. Some of our supervisors (in a ministry context) are all reading Susan Cains book. It's been a big eye opener, to both the introverts and the extroverts who are either leading them or being lead by them. At least the introverts all love the book. 😉 ~ "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking"

  • Laura says:

    Having been married to an introvert for 38 years, I would say if he thinks “it’s too much effort”, he won’t bother!

    • ronedmondson says:

      Interesting. I can see that. Probably some qualifiers there of why there's too much effort and I think good leadership can overcome that. Thanks for sharing.

      • Interesting comment Laura…I have that feeling sometimes, but Im not sure if its "effort" or if its confidence knowing I will be able to do a great job and not just avg. For me, its more of "strengths" conversation as competitiveness is one of my stronger personality traits. The downside of it is, if I dont think I can win, I may not try. (which is not an excuse, but something I need to consciously observe. Thank you for the transparency.

        • ronedmondson says:

          Very good. Thanks! Actually, that “if I don't think I can win” is also a characteristic of most men (and many women) whether they are introverted or not. Most men will not attempt something if they don't think they can do it. Women seem better at dealing with failure it seems at times. We should learn from them 🙂

  • Marcin says:

    I somewhat agree with the brainstorming part a bit – I recently was part of a group at which we had a weekend to go over some information and come back with some ideas when we first met – too often it becomes a case of one person – the introvert – coming with all of the ideas and everyone else coming completely empty handed. From there it neither goes into making the introvert the "leader" because they had the ideas (%$&#), or people just throw out ideas on the spot and marginalize what was prepared ahead of time.

  • bryankr

    Great list! Very comprehensive. I would only add one: Please don't brainstorm! Talk about putting us on the spot! You me tioned it a few times, we need time to prepare, brainstorming is not allowing us any time to process any of the information we have heard up to that point.

    • ronedmondson says:

      I hear you but somewhat disagree. I don't think the problem is brainstorming but how we do it. Too important a process not to and too important of collective thoughts to miss anyone. We don't get an “out” of everything uncomfortable becasue we are introverts. Just have to adapt and leaders have to get better at leading everyone. 

      • bryankr

        I would like to apologize for having waited so long to respond, I don't always get the opportunities I would like. I have to ask, how does one adapt to something like brainstorming? I don't mean to sound condescending, but I don't get it! I also believe that you should reach out and tackle the things that make you uncomfortable. Small talk is another of those annoying things that make me uncomfortable and am incapable of doing! I tried to learn, tried to enlist the help of others in learning! I still cannot do small talk. It seems to me that brainstorming is not something you learn. Or is it?

        • ronedmondson says:

          I think you can learn it. You can certainly adapt to it. Write down the topic. Checkout from the conversation to “introvert”. Then come back to the discussion with brilliance.

  • Well saidWell said, Ron. You spoke for a lot of us!