Can’t judge a book by its cover

secret compartment book opened to reveal a key

At the weekend, I spend some time with an acquaintance who’d I’d always considered to be an extravert. Jane is larger than life and twice as much fun with a gift for engaging people. As I was talking about Flourishing Introverts both her oldest friend and I commented about how this wouldn’t be relevant for her though. I explained that the fundamental difference between introverts and extraverts was what drained their energy and what recharged their batteries. Jane’s response brought me up short. She said, “People are a pain in the **** and I can’t wait to get back home to be quiet.”

I was reminded in that moment that I can observe someone and notice their behaviour, but I can’t safely make assumptions about what their behaviour means. How often do we make those assumptions without checking them out? We may present all sorts of reasons to justify why we did/do it, and mostly we know that it’s not the right thing to do. We already know just how many myths there are about introverts and introversion and the last thing we need is to inadvertently perpetuate those myths or use them as a reliable source of data.

Now there are going to be times when developing a real understanding matters more than others. When it does matter, here’s what I’d suggest.

· Be present and observant enough to notice their patterns of behaviour whilst keeping an open mind.

· Listen to them, to understand, not just to respond.

· Rather than ascribing your own meaning to these patterns of behaviour and language, explore it with the individual. Ask them questions like what helps them be at their best? And what challenges them? If they could change one thing to make the situation better, what would they change? Those kinds of open question and remember, if they are an introvert, they’re typically going to want time to consider their response. Give them time. · Establish and agree ways that support them being the best version of themselves and commit to your part of making it happen.

These simple steps take us out of running on automatic pilot when it comes to dealing with people so that trust. understanding and engagement are enhanced. No matter who we’re dealing with.

Oh, and when Jane completed the questionnaire, she reported as an Engaging Introvert closely followed by Open & Sociable. Now that explains a lot.

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