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Introverts & Extroverts: Insights From Coffee Shop Station Observations

My daily morning routine includes, when possible, visiting my local coffee shop. In the spirit of anthropologist Jane Goodall, I decided to be intentional about observing my fellow mammalian primates as they navigated the often messy coffee preparation station. My observations, albeit unscientific and represent a very small sample of the population, seem to suggest a pattern.

Some people…
- Are ready to dive in immediately to prepare their coffee. They know what they want and project a certain assertiveness about their actions.
- Seem enthusiastic about the coffee preparation process. Some will strike up a conversation with a fellow coffee preparer.
- Like to multi-task. I’ve seen many of them pour both the sugar and cream at the same time then move on to stir and walk at the same time (can you believe it?).

Other people…
- Seem to think through and contemplate what to include and how to prepare their coffee. Three sugars or five? A little bit of cream or lots of cream?
- Are private in nature. They keep to themselves as they go through this morning ritual. They don’t seem to want to mingle or even share a smile.
- Like to perform one task at a time. Sugar first. Add coffee to melt the sugar. Then add cream. Slowly stir the coffee at the station (despite people waiting for station space).

While I’m not keen on putting people into categories–I believe our behavior can often be situational–I think that if we do find some patterns of behavior it may prove useful if the intent is to leverage these insights to be kind to our fellow human beings.

That said, I found this interesting graphic posted by a Scottish people development company, Insights. Notice the suggestions for leading extroverts and introverts.

The first group of coffee preparers I described seem to fit the extrovert column and the second group the introvert column. Given that we try to accomplish so much of our work in meetings (I wrote a post with suggested strategies to conduct productive meetings), it would seem that organizational leaders should consider these insights in order to achieve #7: Let them shine!

What cuts across all strategies? Kindness. 

As for the coffee shop station, it doesn’t appear that we have found, as a society, a more productive way to prepare our coffee. These stations tend to be messy, chaotic, and inefficient. But perhaps we shouldn’t try to change it. Having all of us “extroverts” and “introverts” confined to a relatively small space (there must be a metaphor somewhere in here) gives us a setting to be ourselves and (hopefully) achieve our desired outcome: a good cup of coffee.

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