We have been involved in a certain amount of learning around differing mental styles and, of course, we have worked with individuals from the entire range of personal differences as we go from one school district to another throughout the US and Canada. One of the differences that plays a significant role in communication and decision-making is whether people have a leaning toward introversion or extroversion. I use these terms in the Jungian sense, meaning that people who prefer introversion like to process their thoughts and ideas in their own head before sharing them…meaning that extroverts need to hear-what-they-say-to-know-what they-think. In other words they process verbally and reach their conclusions by talking about what they think. These differences play out every day in important aspects of work life.
An introvert is less likely to share his or her ideas and opinions if asked for them on the spur of the moment and/or in a large group. An extrovert will find it hard to give you his or her opinion or ideas without an opportunity to discuss the issue first. As an administrator, if I want the ideas of all my staff, I need to take these differing styles into account and structure things so that I will gain the insights of the entire group. I can set things up to support this vital sharing.
If I provide information about the topic, and notice of the discussion, ahead of time and in writing, introverts will begin processing their thoughts ahead of time and will be more comfortable sharing them later. Extroverts may chat about the matter with others before the meeting, but will, in any case be fine with processing the ideas in discussion at the meeting itself. Extroverts may want to chat and chew on the matter for an extended time while introverts may or may not want to listen or participate at this stage.
Extroverts will repeat ideas already put forward and they will interrupt one another without compunction. Introverts may find this frustrating and pointless, even rude and disrespectful. The discussion leader might give people the choice of staying to continue the discussion or leaving, knowing that a decision will not be reached until the next meeting. Participants might at this point be invited to come by and discuss their views one-on-one within the next few days or drop the administrator an e-mail with their thoughts.
When the group reconvenes, the administrator will have heard from everyone who cares about contributing his or her views on the matter. The responses can be outlined summarily and the group can move toward decision-making based upon the rich and comprehensive data at their disposal.
Note: Many groups have really benefited from involving their members in Myers-Briggs Type workshops to heighten the understanding and respect people have for the diversity among their colleagues.