5 Tips to Handle Conflict When You’re Working With Your Polar Opposite
Extroverts and introverts are profoundly different. Extroverts get charged by being around other people. Introverts find socialization draining and regain their energy with alone time. Extroverts speak in order to think; introverts think in order to speak. These differences can drive some pairs crazy, but for those that are able to work together, their combined strengths can achieve incredible results, ones they could never get to on their own.
Successful opposites acknowledge their differences, using them to challenge each other and blast apart assumptions. They accept that decisions come with conflict and that conflict is normal, natural and necessary—they know that disagreements open up the path to an outcome. Successful opposites get that avoiding conflict, on the other hand, creates tension and prevents them from achieving innovative and creative solutions.
Biologist Francis Crick said it well: “The death knell to real collaboration is politeness.”
Introvert and extrovert opposites, working together, can do extraordinary things by pulling out the best thinking from each other, like blending two brains into one. But they have to be willing to “bring on the battles” for the world to benefit from the results of their genius.
Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, author of The Genius of Opposites, shares these six strategies to work through conflict, to manage disagreements, with your opposite:
1. Remember energy differences.
Accept that your partner’s introverted energy may wane from too much people time or your extroverted colleague might get too hyped up during conflict. During conflict and stress we exaggerate our strengths (like to talk more often and louder as an extrovert or retreat into yourself as an introvert). Resist the tendency to amplify your natural traits. Sometimes a timeout is the best workaround to help you regroup and reconvene, ready to engage with a clear head. Factor in breaks or a few moments of quiet to keep moving toward a resolution.
2. Tell ‘em what you need.
You can set the foundation for clear communication when you bring on the battles. Let your partner know specifically what you want, what you need to avoid emotional flare-ups. If you need to find a private space to work, then tell them. Or if you need to spill out your thoughts, say so. Mindreading doesn’t work here.
3. Manage crisis together.
When an inevitable crisis occurs, put your heads together and figure out a way through. That often means drawing on the partner in the pair who is better suited to meet the problem at hand. Figuring out the logical solution may be your strong suit, while your opposite’s strength might be going to the sourec and diffusing the situation.
4. Bring in a third party.
Sometimes when you reach an impasse, no amount of discussion will work. The best action you can take is to bring in a neutral party, an objective outsider, to break through the tension and help you get unstuck and find a win-win way forward.
5. Walk and talk.
Consider moving your conversation outside the doors of your office. Talking out their ideas helps extroverts, while walking around helps them gain clarity about their positions. Introverts will respond to the relaxed pace. They also will conserve energy by not having to concentrate on making eye contact and other in-your-face listening behaviors. When you let the juices flow by getting up and moving, new ideas spring up and you will see solutions together.
The more high stakes the situation, the more important it is for opposites to bring on the battles as an outcome-focused team.