How to Facilitate Introverts and Extroverts in Your Group or Class

Posted by on Jun 12 2013

Whether you teach classes, run mastermind groups, or offer group coaching programs, understanding what makes introverts and extroverts tick will help you run your group better.

We all know there are two personality styles that are polar opposites of each others, right?

I wish it were that simple.

Introversion and extroversion are on a line, a continuum. Sometimes people will be strongly to one side or the other on that continuum, but often people exhibit mixed tendencies, especially in a group setting where there is rapport and trust.

For example, an introvert like me (yes, I consider myself an introvert! :))¬†might be quiet around new people, but very gregarious when with my mastermind groups. I might be quiet when I’m the student and trying to absorb new information, and highly extroverted when I’m the teacher. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum, and often it’s situational.

So let’s define what we mean by these terms:

An introvert gains energy by being alone, and expends energy when in a group setting, like a mastermind group. Being an introvert doesn’t mean a person is shy; it means he needs quiet time alone to process the outcome of the group meetings and recharge his batteries before he wants to get back into the group-mode again.

An extrovert gains energy when she is out in the world, especially brainstorming with a group of people. She’s excited to share ideas and to process her thoughts verbally in the group. Sometimes she gets her best ideas while talking through a problem with other people.

How do you facilitate a group that includes both types?

An introvert needs quiet time, even a minute or two, to collect his thoughts and reactions to a given problem or situation. Giving the entire group a few minutes to write down their ideas on their own, before sharing, can give the introvert the space he needs to process.

On the other hand, the extrovert needs time to talk out loud, to process her thoughts while she’s actively communicating with others. Knowing this, you can allow the extrovert a few minutes to explain her situation: she just might find clarity — or even solve her problem herself — simply by talking openly about it.

Between meetings, give each of these types a way to communicate with the entire group, possibly through an online message forum. The extrovert will appreciate the ongoing connection to the group and the introvert can take his time to process internally, then communicate at his leisure.

How can you tell if a group member is an introvert or an extrovert?

It’s not possible to pigeon-hole someone and label them as “all introvert” or “all extrovert,” but there are tendencies the psychologists have identified that you can (and should) pay attention to:

  • an introvert makes more and sustained eye contact
  • an introvert will appear to think before she speaks
  • an introvert may disappear during breaks, or talk deeply with only one person during breaks
  • an introvert may seem shy around the group in the beginning, until he gets to know everyone better
  • an introvert needs quiet time away from the group to relax and process
  • an extrovert will appear energized by being in the group situation
  • an extrovert jumps right into the conversation and thinks while he speaks
  • an extrovert may prefer to talk with 3 or 4 people during breaks
  • an extrovert will interact with everyone in the group, even in the beginning, because she loves to meet new people
  • an extrovert may enjoy additional social time with the group after the official group meeting ends

As a mastermind group facilitator, teacher, or group coaching mentor, you will foster a tight, powerful group by being aware of these two personality types and giving each what they need.

   

8 comments for now

8 Responses to “How to Facilitate Introverts and Extroverts in Your Group or Class”

  1. Linda UrsinNo Gravatar

    I would say I’m an extrovert :)

    12 Jun 2013 at 11:01 am

  2. PacawNo Gravatar

    Definitely “mostly an introvert” but not always.

    Thank you for these tips and ideas, Karyn. I will be paying more attention in my next class I teach.

    12 Jun 2013 at 11:38 am

  3. NancyNo Gravatar

    Thanks for addressing this topic.

    I am a very high introvert and a shy one at that, making it even more challenging to be in group settings and interact with strangers for the first time. I do not presume to speak for all introverts, but simply share my own thoughts from the perspective of the extreme on the continuum.

    A suggestion I might offer when facilitating group settings is not to ask an introvert to be the FIRST to respond to a question or engage in an experiential activity. By the same token, being the LAST to do can be very stressful, too.

    Even with the best coaching and facilitation, I often find myelf being out-of-step with my group because my greatest ah-ha moments tend to come well after the opportunity to share them has passed — and other people have moved on.

    Through necessity, I’ve learned to be highly self-reliant. Seeking out and asking for assitance and support is not easy for me — the sensitivity with which a faciitator/coach responds when I do so is key as to whether the experience moves me forward or sets me back.

    In my view, the courage it takes for a high introvert to step out into the world is often overlooked in our more extroverted society. More insightful posts like yours, Karyn, may help change that dynamic.

    12 Jun 2013 at 1:38 pm

  4. TheresaNo Gravatar

    Reading this had both my husband and I laughing. He is a typical introvert, and I am a typical extrovert. You really hit the nail on the head with the descriptions :)

    12 Jun 2013 at 5:29 pm

  5. DawnNo Gravatar

    I am an introvert and I agree. It is not an issue of shyness with us at all. Also, in group settings I can only do so much time before I shut down and need to get away….It is not that I am not social but i can only do a certain amount of “group” before I begin to become tired and need a break.

    13 Jun 2013 at 8:10 am

  6. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    I’m the same way, Dawn. I love groups, but I can get burned out if I’m around people for more than 8 or 9 hours. When I’m with people all day (like at a conference), then I need to go to a quiet space for a few hours to regenerate and have some down time. The next morning I feel fine and raring to go again! :)

    14 Jun 2013 at 7:11 am

  7. Karyn GreenstreetNo Gravatar

    That’s a good point, Nancy. When I’m teaching a class or facilitating a group, I find that I ask this question a lot: “Does anyone else have anything to share?” (Or, this one: “I’d love to hear from someone who hasn’t shared yet.”) This gives the introvert several opportunities to share her thoughts and feel like she’s being given the space to do so.

    14 Jun 2013 at 7:13 am

  8. Shayla Boyd-GillNo Gravatar

    You nailed it Karyn. I am the classic introvert. I love facilitating small workshops/groups and having private clients. When I attend big conferences, I am the one that has to step away after a few hours and recharge before joining everyone. I am also guilty of finding a few people to chat with between breaks which can sometimes limit the number of connections that I make. It is a process that I honor in myself and work on each day.

    15 Jun 2013 at 7:59 am



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