Compliments of Arthur Andy via Flickr

At work, home, school, and within families, we compliment the talkers – those effervescent social butterflies who entertain and delight us. We enjoy their company and we seek out their acquaintance. They are typically the ones who amass a following at parties.

Then there’s the other group. You know the ones I’m talking about – reluctant wall flowers who don’t know what to say (or when to say it), awkward and tense when called upon to extemporaneously speak. Cain (in her landmark book Quiet) describes the “malady” of introversion as falling somewhere between a “disappointment” and a “pathology.”

Loud, unchained speakers make us feel safe – because we see them as fearless, and willing to tackle things head on. Persons we perceive as “go-getters” who can change on a dime, on whom we bestow praise and leadership roles.

To mine the hidden non-talker gems takes work. Bosses must look past “flash in the pan” to search for contributions within the less chatty. As a survival strategy “Is'” research and practice may be more exhausting and meticulous; they appear more prepared than “talkative” counterparts because they are unable to rely on “off the cuff.” What they lack in hard knuckle presentation is replaced with “quiet persistence,” willingness to listen, and insight that escapes their more “ready fire aim” peers. Myers-Briggs describes “Is” as an exercise in first getting to know the assistant – before the general ever makes an appearance. With extroverts, the general immediately greets you with a grin and a handshake – which puts us at ease.

Meetings in which they are expected to jostle back and forth with continuous talkers (and aggressive colleagues) are Is’ downfall. You will not see their Best Reflected Self™ within bullpen battles – leaving peers with the distinct impression they have nothing to say. “You didn’t say much,” is a common criticism for the closed mouthed targeted by their more uninhibited coworkers:

“If bullying behavior is observed by important others, it is likely to be seen as either out of character for the bully and thus the result of provocation of the victim, or a strategic leadership behavior that is a temporary jolt to the target designed to assist their long-term success” (Treadway et al. 2013, p. 279).

Fish out of water are immobilized. Cain explains that Is are more reactive to novel situations, and may temporarily “freeze” until their nervous systems have time to catch up.

Artists, programmers, writers, and research scientists (“I” hangouts) shine when they can showcase solitary achievement, and when they are given lead time and a chance to prepare. What matters most after all is results, and not who was able to sound-blast their way to the top dog position. But I would imagine that a verbose show of force carries the day for promotions and fast-track assignments – with managers selecting “closers” who can “hardball” opposition. Is’ stylistic difference disadvantages them in firms that revere “take charge/conqueror” types – the reason that supervisors must be vigilant to choose the best person, regardless of flare.



Treadway, D. C., Shaughnessy, B. A., Breland, J. W., Yang, J., and Reeves, M. (2013). ‘Political skill and the job performance of bullies’. Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp.273-289.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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