Recently, I presented a program on the Introverted Leader. When I mentioned this to a friend, she said, “Oh wow. A roomful of introverts? That’s going to be a long morning with no one talking!” Of course, that was not the case. In fact, having more than 50 mostly kindred spirits in the room opened up those who might otherwise have sat silently listening to the more talkative people chime in with their opinions. Several in the room acknowledged that the information on introversion was validating and the chance to interact with other introverts was empowering. And those who identified themselves as extroverts were actually pretty silent, perfectly happy to listen to the perspectives of their usually quieter colleagues.

It was another great reminder of the stories we make up about other people, their motivations, abilities, and needs. We think we know how an introvert is supposed to act – shy, quiet, afraid to talk to people – and what traits an extrovert exhibits – talkative, unaware, gregarious. But such generalizations and assumptions get in the way of truly understanding people and recognizing the many strengths and gifts they bring.

The next time you notice yourself getting stuck in your assumptions and beliefs about others, remember to:

  • Keep your mind open to see something new in a colleague. What other traits and strengths do I see?
  • Take time to have coffee or lunch with someone to learn more about them and get past your assumptions about who they are. What more can I learn?
  • Look for what’s wrong about what you believe about someone. What’s the evidence to the contrary?

In what other ways can you challenge your assumptions about the people around you?
Please leave a comment.

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