Proper Care & Keeping of the Introvert from an Extrovert
By Jennifer Kohnhorst
I’m not an introvert.
I’m an extrovert, and I’m a creative — and in that I believe I’m somewhat of a rarity. I love to write, but to be honest, I prefer talking about writing. My particular mix of temperament and skill-set are probably how I found my way to the career path of creative direction.
The advertising creative is an interesting hybrid.
The type of work we do — writing, designing, being brilliant — requires individual effort, often in long uninterrupted stretches, and the opportunity to explore ideas and concepts to a fully realized solution.
However, the environment in which we work almost never allows for this. Most agencies feature an open office plan, and even if you manage to wrangle yourself a door, you will be interrupted for meetings, asked to jump on small jobs, proof work, weigh in, read e-mail etc.
And even if you put up police tape, wear headphones, and give the stink-eye to any co-worker who dares to interrupt your creative trance, the fact is, you work in a collaborative, team environment.
As the Creative Director, it’s my job to get the best work possible out of my team (made up of mostly introverts).
Fortunately, I’ve surrounded myself with introverts for most of my life. Or actually, let me say, I think they often find their way to me.
I asked my boyfriend, an avowed introvert, what made me an “introvert whisperer”, if you will. He said, “Well, to begin with, you’re a really good listener… HEY, are you even listening to me?” I stopped typing into my phone, “Yes, I’m just typing everything you say.” He sighs. The irony is not lost on him. “You’re a good listener, and you reflect back everything I say, and then you offer advice.”
I listened to him, and now I’m going to offer you some advice.
Here are some other techniques to draw on the secret hidden power of hermits, recluses and creative geniuses.
Stop talking and listen. Listen intently. Once you’ve listened, reflect back to the introvert what you’ve heard them say. Show them you understand, or give them an opportunity to refine their ideas. Then, if appropriate, offer feedback.
If you can’t say something nice, make something up.
Introverts are not crazy about being the center of attention, so critiques and concept reviews can be super stressful, and make them defensive.
The rule in any critique is to offer the constructive bit first, before going for the jugular. This is especially important for introverts, to put them at ease and let them know they are valued.
Then, depending on how bloody you think it might get, it may even pay to wait for a one-to-one meeting for a full critique. Which leads me to my next point…
Honor face time.
“Introvert” is not synonymous with “misanthrope”. (At least not always) It’s not people that make them bristle, it’s lots of people all at once.
Set aside regular times to connect with introverts one-on-one which allows them to hold your attention without competing with others, and the freedom to be themselves.
Give voice to their ideas, and credit their work.
Good creative work should be celebrated. Make space to review successful projects, present their work with enthusiasm, and let the rest of the team know what their colleagues have been up to.
Looking at these techniques, I can’t help but think they’re universally beneficial ways to treat people.
Maybe the real lesson introverts are teaching is Kindergarten simple: treat people with respect, kindness and listen more than you talk.
And keep your hands to yourself. I learned that in Kindergarten and it’s really good advice.
Minneapolis-based Macleod & Co. is the Holistic Marketing Agency ™. We believe that in a hyper-social world, culture drives success, every employee is a customer touch point, and every customer is a broadcast network. We live at the intersection of marketing and organizational effectiveness. And we see marketing as the entire process of bringing a product, service or business from inception to maximum ongoing profitability.