Communicating Effectively In a Team of Nerds

by Bishal 

Importance of communication in either making or breaking a team cannot be stressed enough. From planning and execution to motivation and collaboration, communication in a team regardless of the scope is like a spinal cord of the body. A team is a group of people with complementary sets of skills. Similar types of people do not make a team. What one lacks, the other fulfills. Because of this very reason communication in a team can be lagging. One cannot expect the other members to be like him/her. Thus, it is important to take time to get to know the other members in a team.

Generally speaking there are two major types of people based on their psychological orientation: Introverts and Extroverts. The categorization is done mainly on the basis of how people gain or drain energy. In the words of psychologist Carl Jung, introversion is “a mode of psychological orientation where the movement of energy is toward the inner world”. Extroversion on the other hand is the opposite i.e, a mode of psychological orientation where the movement of energy is toward the outer world.

Communicating with nerds

The western societies and South Asian cultures merit the extrovert traits. The flamboyant and outspoken people are regarded as role models and seen in the positive light. While the quiet ones are frowned upon as shy or incompetent. In reality however, most successful entrepreneurs and people are introverts. Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Larry Page, Waren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Barak Obama, Mahatma Gandhi,  Albert Einstein all identify as introverts.

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Based on the traits explained above, a technical team of engineers, developers, mathematicians or scientists is more likely a team of introverts. As the article is about a technical team we will focus more on the strengths of introverts. This might just be a voice to the thoughts already present in your head if you are an introvert.

How to identify if you are an introvert?

Well, it is not easy to say if you are an introvert, an extrovert or somewhere between these two. But there are some traits most introverts tend to have. If you have most of these, maybe you are one!

  1. Self-Effacing: Introverts don’t want to be in spotlight. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be in leadership positions. According to Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, description of a Level 5 Leader is as an embodiment of “a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.” Words describing an introvert can be quiet, shy, modest, reserved, shares or deflects credit.
  2. Self-Reliant: “If you want it done, do it yourself” was probably said by an introvert. An introvert always tries to do a task in his/her own, in his/her own way. This explains why most of the programmers prefer coding alone inside their cubicle.
  3. Self-possessed: Dictionary definition of self-possessed is “having or showing control of one’s feelings, behavior, etc.; composed; poised.” Extroverts like to talk thoroughly to solve a problem, an introvert feels lost in their mind when solving problems takes a verbal route. They like to process information internally instead of thinking out loud.
  4. Self-reflective: Extroverts will first say “what do you think” whereas introverts say “what do I think”. Telling an introvert to just take the leap is to ask them to stop breathing. In the world of ‘just do it’, introverts are more likely to say ‘just a little while’. Introverts value planning and do not like surprises on the way. Improvisation per se is not what introverts want, they prefer a deliberate plan of action.

Challenges you will face as an introvert

Introverts have a unique perspective on the world. They prefer to listen, observe, and think before they speak.

  1. Finding the voice: Because of the prevalent social dynamic, being an introvert is something he/she tried to fix. But doing what you talk about does not ring true and hence is going to be less effective. The challenge is to embrace the fact that you are introverted and focus on the strengths.
  2. Networking: It’s what ranks top in the discomfort list. One of the reasons why networking ranks high on the discomfort index is because it usually involves large events with people not in the know: which facilitates short conversations and quick connections; and in general is a huge energy drain to an introvert.
  3. Self-Promotion: Talking about one’s self is a close runner-up with networking on the introvert discomfort list. Introverts usually refer to deflecting the focus onto other people or topics so that they can maintain some level of personal reserve.
  4. Energy Management: Being an introvert is largely about how we gain or drain energy. It’s critical to understand what drains and gives energy and manage the actions based on that.

A guide to better team communication

Managing a team with a mix of people with contrasting personalities can seem challenging. However, communication is the key to finding the balancing act of managing a such team.

How to communicate with introverts?

Some tips to make your communication with introverts more effective:

  1. Don’t put them on the spot or demand immediate answers.
  2. Give them adequate time to process information and come up with any input.
  3. Ask intentionally during group discussions.
  4. Don’t make assumptions or put out comments on how quiet or lost the person is. Chances are they are formulating solutions in their head.
  5. Provide as advanced information as possible. So that the person can think through what is expected.
  6. Refrain from cutting off while they are speaking.

How to communicate with extroverts?

  1. Give them time and space to process out loud, and be patient with the faster energy they project.
  2. Listen carefully and be prepared to interrupt if you need to make a point.
  3. Understand that extroverts speak to think. They may change their mind after some time away from a conversation; be ready for that possibility.
  4. Be aware that they make decisions based on external feedback, so be direct.
  5. Ask them what information they need.

Some tips to communicate better in general

  1. Communication is a skill just like programming.
  2. Listen
  3. Empathize
  4. Remember
  5. Use Non-Verbal
  6. Stick to your strong suites

Communication is one of the pillars of a team, a mix of extroverts and introverts. A team which communicates effectively within itself and makes each member speak their thoughts clearly can become a highly effective team.

This article is based on a talk on ‘Become effective communicator’ given by Karun Raj Joshi on the first chapter of G1 conference. Listen to it here.