Meetings and Distributed Introverts

Meetings and Distributed Introverts

Nov 5, 10 • In Experiences, Practices

For an introvert, any meeting can be trying. In this guest article, contributor Chris Strom talks about how distributed meetings are especially taxing for those of an introverted bent, and some of his strategies for coping.

I am a strong introvert.

As with most introverts, I lose energy when I interact with people. Meetings, in particular, drain me. Since they are a staple of a professional career, I have built up something of a tolerance for meetings. Remote meetings, however, continue to confound me.

Everything about remote meetings saps more energy than the in-person equivalent. By itself, any one thing does not amount to much. But, by the end of a meeting, I am completely drained. I have no fight left. I care more about reaching the end than reaching consensus.

In my experience, eye contact is an invaluable confidence booster. When I cannot see people, I begin to expend energy worrying about the reaction. Do they hate it? Are they indifferent? Have I made my point and should stop now (probably)?

(Don’t tell me that webcams solve this. People smiling knowingly at webcams are more likely to be smiling at their cats than at the awesome point I just made)

Worse for me is trying to get a word in edgewise when two or more personalities are having an animated discussion in a conference call. Do I shout to get my point heard (that can’t help)? If someone takes the discussion in another direction, do I work to bring it back to the point that I wanted to make, risking further animated discussions?

To mitigate these kinds of problems, I try to be aware of such thoughts and feelings. I write down questions in my notebook and make a point of ensuring that I cross them off as addressed—either when someone else brings it up or I do. I stick to my point as best I can and stop speaking as sooner rather than later (specifics can be added as needed—details offered freely invite disagreement).

More importantly, as a manager in my day job, I try to be aware of these issues with teams. I set or require a very specific agenda. I start on the 15s (1:15 feels more focused than 1pm). I cut people off when they have been speaking for more than a minute (thanking them, but asking if a quiet participant would like to have a say). I generally go out of my way to encourage the participation of my fellow introverts.

But ultimately, it still feels like remote meetings are more wearisome less effective than their in-person counterparts. Do I just need to get over it? What can I do better to manage my energy level in remote meetings?

Title photo by Lis Bokt

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