My friend and colleague Whit Mitchell is a wonderful man. I’m just getting to know him myself but know that if you met him you would immediately like him. He’s one of those kinds of people. He is most definitely the life of the party using his high energy and enthusiasm to make any teambuilding session an enjoyable experience. Whit is an executive coach that works with us as part of our network at Price Associates. We recently had a retreat for our team. Whit, as only he could do, adeptly facilitated the “icebreaker” kinds of activities that got people, some of whom were new to the group, up, moving around and laughing together. Sherri and I had the privilege of giving Whit a ride up the mountain to the retreat. An hour and a half car ride with Whit was an amazing experience. He spent the entire trip asking meaningful questions of Sherri and I about ourselves and our family and being genuinely interested in knowing us and hearing our story. As I said, a great guy and a good friend. I wish he didn’t live so far away, but we will do our best to connect over the miles.
It was day two of the retreat. Each one of us was to take our turn to describe our unique niche in the Price team. As my turn came, the notes I had written previously about being the guy focused on conflict seemed a bit inadequate. Some were concerned, rightly so, that being the “conflict guy” might be a bit of a negative thing to be known for. The team interacted with me and began to draw me out. Before I knew it, I was practically preaching about the need for introverts to be accepted for who they are. As Justin told me later, apparently my body language shifted and my eyes lit up as I connected with what for me is an issue of societal importance and social justice. Whit listened to me intently as did other members of the team. I could feel that he genuinely cared. One other thing about Whit is that he is a high “social” in terms of his inner drive and motivation. He and I are very similarly wired in this way as revealed by one of the assessments we use. He wants to help. He can’t help himself. He leans in toward others and is highly skilled at hearing them, a trait sometimes rare among high extroverts like Whit.
As I continued to emote with great passion about the plight of introverts in an extroverted world, I noticed Whit’s body language and facial expression. As I recall this part of the meeting, Whit, and only him, is what sticks out in my memory. I’m speaking. He’s listening. I begin to describe the plight of the introvert in terms of diversity. In other words, I was explaining that I thought that being an introvert was similar in some ways to the powerlessness felt by women, minorities or other groups that aren’t part of the dominant culture. I saw it. Like a dime dropping into a slot, I saw the two concepts connect for Whit. Introversion had now become part of the diversity discussion for him in a way that seemed new to him. I saw that in his eyes and in every inch of his body. He got it.
One of the interesting things about stereotypes and biases is that they almost always operate outside of our conscious awareness. I think Whit, like many extroverts, had not fully connected the dots at the level that he did that day. All of us, introverted or extroverted, tend to be biased toward our view of the world. The way we are is the norm. It takes great energy, compassion and care to step into someone’s world that is different and “get it.” I’ll never forget that look on Whit’s face that day. My hope is that some of the extroverts that come to this site will have that same experience. You’re a good man, Whit Mitchell. Thanks for getting it.