Introverts Often Hate Meetings. Here’s Why and What To Do.

Oh my, if you ask introverts one of their biggest dislikes, it’s meetings. And yet, if we stop going to meetings, we risk losing the chance to have a say in the things that effect our lives. Plus we have valuable ideas to add. It matters to the groups we’re part of, and to the greater good.

So… then what if we hate meetings?

I’ve discovered over time the problem is that most meetings are poorly led and that makes it a problem for everyone. It’s just that it’s mainly the introverts who notice the problem because meetings work poorly especially for us.

I ended up explaining my thoughts about meetings and how it can be easier for introverts, and for the good of all, in this advice column.

Meeting hell for introverts


Dear Val,

How do I survive the “theater of meetings”? As an introvert, I don’t feel comfortable with the real-time verbal sparring and arguments.

I don’t have the snappy comeback, the rhetorical parlor trick that sways the boss or wins people to my side. My head gets so full of various ideas that I’m just not ready to pull it together in a neat package of words. And by the time I might be ready to share something, the conversation has moved on.

Because of all this, I don’t like meetings, and it shows. People can probably sense my discomfort. So what should I do about meetings when I am so uncomfortable?

–Miffed about Meetings

Dear Miffed,

I’m so glad you wrote about your struggle with meetings because just about every introvert I know has described a similar problem. After networking angst, it’s probably the top concern I hear. So we need to talk about it!

 

I’ll explain and provide for some meeting survival tips for introverts.
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How Do I Cope with Conflict and Speaking Up at Meetings?

Ack, conflict. Tough for most of us. And at work with all that pressure? Or in an activist group where you care so much but then we can’t get along?

I got a great question about conflict for my advice column for introverts, so I’ll share it here as a way to help us face this one:

Dear Val,

I sat through a meeting this week during which a client and my boss had a very strongly worded, aggressive disagreement. The client wasn’t raising his voice, but his words, tone, and body language were very combative, and my boss was trying to defend our position against his.

I have a hard time with this type of conflict: that type of aggressive tone makes me really jittery and produces an adrenaline-fueled “flight” reaction. I spent a lot of the meeting hoping it wasn’t obvious how much I was shaking.

I also avoid interrupting others in a conversation, so fast-paced arguments make it extra hard for me to know what to do. My instinct is to avoid getting involved and to not draw more attention/ire toward myself.

In situations like these, I often feel that if I open my mouth, I might start crying, which I know is read as extremely unprofessional and is something I particularly would want to avoid when I am already being dismissed as young, inexperienced, and insufficiently skilled at my job.

However, sometimes I know there is information that I have or perspectives I can bring that would help with the disagreement if I could only figure out how to insert myself into the conversation.

What strategies can I as an introvert use when I need to jump into a contentious/agitated situation in a professional setting?

~Jittery in Massachusetts

fear

Dear Jittery,

Oh, my—I could practically feel the jitters with you while I was reading your letter. I’d love to help.

Conflict can kick up our self-preservation instincts such as fight, flight, or freeze. It’s particularly tough in a work situation where we can’t easily run away, and we have our professional reputation at stake. This is a big challenge for anyone.

I’m offering some suggestions here. Be gentle with yourself as you consider trying something new. It will be worth the effort as you notice anxiety going down, over time.

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