by Dan Rockwell
Outgoing people have advantages in Western Culture. We’re often perceived as smarter and stronger than quiet people.
One of my fatal leadership blunders was underestimating quiet people.
Big mouths don’t guarantee great leadership.
Quiet doesn’t equal:
- Push over.
Never assume quiet is weak and loud is strong.
Never assume silence is consent, when it comes to quiet people. Quick to speak, often means quick to commit. Slow to speak, often indicates need for more time and information before committing.
Don’t push quiet people too far, too fast. Respect their room.
Talkers want to talk it out.
Quiet people enjoy thinking it out.
Occasionally, quiet indicates arrogant control freak. They won’t share information. They disagree but won’t say. Talkers do this, too. An ancient proverb says the one who withdraws wants his own way. Think two year old.
Leveraging quiet strength:
- Honor their strengths. Never say, “Oh, they’re quiet,” like it’s a disease.
- Respect their ability to commit. When they’re in, they’re really in.
- Give them prep time. Don’t spring things on them.
- Don’t assume silence is disagreement or consent. Just don’t assume.
- Enjoy silence. Give them space by closing your mouth.
- Ask questions, after you’ve given them think-time.
- Invite feedback one-on-one rather than in groups.
- Walk with them after meetings and ask, “What’s going through your mind?” The walking part is important.
- Create quiet environments. Quiet people often enjoy quiet places.
- Let them work alone. Stop demanding group work.
I shouldn’t have underestimated quiet people. My dad was quiet. He was the toughest, strongest, most disciplined man I’ve ever known. Furthermore, I married a quiet woman. She is tenacious, disciplined, smart, and cares deeply.