I’m sure that most of you have heard about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the relatively recent book Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. The former is an assessment that determines a person’s psychological type and the way in which one processes information and interacts with others. The latter is an analysis of our popular culture’s favoring of the extrovert and the consequence of under-valuing introverts.
As defined by MBTI, introverts are the type of people who require alone time to process ideas or “recharge their batteries.” Extroverts on the other hand, become energized by social situations and develop their ideas as they communicate with others.
Since facilitation is concerned with group work that brings together various types of personalities, it is crucial for facilitators to be familiar with and think about the conversation surrounding MBTI. It is worth considering how facilitator’s personality tendencies can influence their styles of facilitation, as well as how they can recognize and then effectively interact with a range of personality types in meetings.
Let us talk about the role of the facilitator.
Given the classic description of introversion and extroversion, one would assume that introverts are not particularly suited to the practice of facilitation: after all, frequent meetings bring facilitators into intensive contact with other people, some of whom they have not met before. How well these meetings run depends in large part on a facilitator’s ability to communicate openly and in a confident manner.
At the same time, classic extroverts who are used to talking and sometimes dominating group discussions, and who revel in the exchange of ideas that get their creative juices flowing, might find it difficult to stay neutral.
Yet there is no statistical data that suggests introverts cannot become exceptional facilitators, or that extroverts cannot become effective practitioners of neutrality.
To understand how people with various types of personality traits can become expert facilitators, it is crucial to emphasize that introversion-extroversion is less of a dichotomy than a spectrum. While some people may identify closely with the classic definition of either of the extremes, most of us will exhibit mixed characteristics.
In her blog about the topic, Karyn Greenstreet, an experienced facilitator, also reminds us that introverts are not necessarily (or always) shy, but that they simply require alone time in order to energize: “For example, introverts like me (yes, I consider myself an introvert!) might be quiet around new people, but very gregarious when with my mastermind groups. I might be quiet when I’m the student and trying to absorb new information, and highly extroverted when I’m the teacher. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum, and often it’s situational.” 
Another veteran facilitator, Joan Pastor, describes in her blog how a reserved, young facilitator made her introversion work for her in a meeting. While she committed the “cardinal sin” of facilitation by turning her back to the group when writing on the flipchart, she asked intelligent questions at the right times in a polite, calm voice, and continually nodded as she was recording what the group had to say. Her physical detachment from the group actually made them interact more intensively with each other, whereas her nodding and detailed notes showed them that she was paying close attention to their discussion.
Effective facilitation, therefore, is not necessarily related to stringently following rules or our MBTI assessments. Rather, it has to do with our diligence in honing our skills, as well as with our ability and willingness to think creatively about how we can fit our unique personality traits into the role of a facilitator in various situations.
Coming Soon: How to Facilitate Introverts and Extroverts
 Karyn Greenstreet, “How to Facilitate Introverts and Extroverts in Your Group or Class,” Self-Employed Success, 12 Jun, 2013.  Joan Pastor, “Organization: Effective Facilitation, Interpersonal Radar,” LeaderValues, nd.
Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!