According to some surveys introverts represent between 33% and 50% of the world’s population.

How can we identify them? First of all we must understand one important fact: shyness and introversion are not synonyms, even though they are similar in some behaviours.

Shyness is the fear of being judged negatively by others, which is often also related to a state of anxiety. A shy person doesn’t necessarily want to be alone, but feels blocked from interacting.

Introverts prefer tranquillity and solitude and are bothered by chaos. They feel overwhelmed when spending too much time with other people, especially if they’re unable to speak up.

In some cases, the two situations can coexist and lead to relational difficulties, for example during business meetings.

5 strategies to support shy and introverted people during meetings

It’s the manager’s task to facilitate the participation of all team members in meetings. Only in this way can the best ideas emerge as a result of everyone’s effort.

Here are some useful actions to encourage the participation of shy and/or introverted people.

1.   Send the agenda in advance

This should actually be a basic rule in every meeting: sharing the agenda in advance makes the meeting more efficient.

2.   Divide into small groups

Many people may feel intimidated in the presence of others: in these cases (if possible) it’ s better to involve them in smaller meetings, creating balanced groups between introverts and extroverts.

3.   Use asynchronous brainstorming techniques

Even the most extroverted people can have problems inserting themselves into a discussion in the presence of colleagues with very strong personalities or large groups. When everyone’s input is needed, certain brainstorming techniques come into play, which allow people to offer their input in turns. We’ve discussed a few methods in detail here.

4.   Make meeting shorter

Meetings that go on for hours are tiring for everyone, but for introverts they carry more psychological weight. Keeping track of the duration of the meeting and giving yourself a time limit from the beginning helps to gradually improve the efficiency of meetings.

5.   Discourage interruptions

Bullying often occurs during meetings, especially in more competitive environments. It’s up to the manager (or a moderator identified by HR) to discourage this kind of behaviour, even with formal reprimands.

One last piece of advice? Work on company culture, inclusiveness and diversity every day: feeling accepted and appreciated is the first step to open up to others.

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