Blog Post: Coaching Extroverts

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Nearly 100 years ago, Carl Jung developed a handy way to understand human personality.  His theory was later developed in the basis of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, an assessment for clarifying one’s personality preferences along four dichotomies:

  • Energy: does one gain and direct energy outward (Extrovert) or inward (Introvert)?
  • Information: does one gather and trust information at the immediate (Sensor) or broad level (Intuitive)?
  • Decisions: does one make decisions subjectively based on relationships and values (Feeling) or objectively based on data and outcomes (Thinker)?
  • Dealing with the world: does one prefer to organize the world (Judger) or experience it (Perceiver)?

Over the coming months, I want to share some insights for coaching clients based on preferences.  Rather than look at the sixteen types (ESFJ, INTP, etc.), I want to look at each of the eight preferences.  Let’s start with Extroversion.

Here are some basic descriptors of the roughly 60% of the population who prefer extroversion:

  • Their energy is outward, towards people and things
  • They prefer to have plenty of stimulation
  • They often express their emotions
  • They tend to “think out loud”
  • They get their motivation from other people
  • They like variety, action, and achievement
  • They like working with other people, prefer work that has breadth rather than depth
  • Strong or immature extroverts may come across as shallow and pushy

Extroversion creates certain tendencies for coaching clients, including:

  • Since they do their best processing out loud, they need space to talk/think
  • Some of their words will be productive and valuable, but expect some to be less so
  • They will appreciate the relationship and partnership with a coach
  • They will enjoy the “attention” of a coach who really wants to listen
  • They will want to move at a fairly quick pace
  • They will value the actions and achievements associated with coaching

Remember, no two people are the same, even if both prefer extroversion.  However, the common characteristics among extroverts can provide some guidance for coaches who want to serve them well and bring out the best from their extroverted clients.  In my experience, the key to adapting one’s coaching to the personality of the client centers on one principle: let your default approach be to go with the grain of the client’s preferences and then go against the grain with intentionality in order to avoid blind spots or preference ruts.

Let’s unpack that principle a bit with a handful of best practices for coaching extroverts:

  • Let them talk in order to let them think. Listen well to track when they are progressing versus getting distracted or going in verbal circles.  When their talk stops being productive, bring them back to one of the earlier thoughts and let them pick up the productivity there.
  • Listen on their behalf. Extroverts have a tendency to not fully process their thoughts because they are thinking and speaking at the same time.  One of the most powerful practices you can employ is the form of active listening whereby you reflect back to the client a clear summary of what they have shared.  Sometimes the summary will be a boiled down version of what they shared; other times the summary will be a bulleted list of their ideas.
  • Push them toward headlines and handles. The volume of thoughts and words flowing from an extrovert can make it tough for them to hold onto important ideas, so invite the client to articulate key aspects of the issue in one- or two-word versions.  This technique can be employed when naming the issue, naming the pinch point of the issue, identifying options, clarifying new awareness, and designing actions.
  • Use questions as nudges. The more extroverted a client, the less the conversation will take on a questions-then-response rhythm.  The extroverted client is not looking for your questions to get them to think, but to guide their thinking.  Questions that nudge pick up on where the client is already processing and prompt the client to keep processing in the most productive direction.
  • Employ silence. Extroverts can benefit from periods of silent reflection.  While this may not be their preferred form of processing, in certain doses it can prove beneficial.  I find it helpful to give extroverted clients a time limit on silent contemplation.  For example, “I’m going set my watch and for the next 90 seconds I want you to think about what really matters to you in this situation.  No talking, just think about that question.”  This technique can be especially helpful when clients are rambling or frustratedly bouncing around the topic.

These practices have been helpful to me in my own coaching, but you’ll want to adapt them to fit your own style of coaching as well as your own niche of clients.  Think for a few moments about additional practices you’ve found helpful when coaching extroverted clients.  Also, what is something you want to try in an upcoming coaching session with an extroverted client?  Working with extroverted clients can have its challenges, but it is also richly rewarding to support them in turning thoughts and words into intentional action and forward progress.  Enjoy the journey!

 

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