Introverts and Extroverts Have Their Own Advantages
Extroverts and introverts make outrageous assumptions that public speaking is a walk in the park for extroverts. They’ve got all that confident outgoing energy, verbal gymnastics and think fast on their feet, don’t they?
Not so. Extroverts may be more willing to jump up and talk in front of a group, but they don’t do it any better.
Humans love to label, sort and classify. Are you outgoing and confident? Are you a freedom loving Sagittarian? Which university did you attend? Giving someone a label enables us to quickly quantify who we are in relation to them. I’m guessing it relates to power and allocation of resources. And perhaps that’s a useful way to prioritise in a crisis. But day to day, labels become limiting when stereotypes morph from opinion into “truth”.
I think there is danger, not so much in labelling whether someone is an “introvert” or an “extrovert”. The danger is society insisting that one personality style is better than the other.
Introverts and Extroverts Short Quiz
Who hasn’t read a magazine in a waiting room and filled in time, by completing one of those “Are You an Introvert or Extrovert?” short quizzes? If it’s been a while and you’d like a refresher, here’s a typical example:
- Prefer open plan offices or your own private space?
- Enjoy team brainstorming or prefer to nut things out on your own?
- Like meeting new people at parties or spending time with one close companion?
- Gain energy being around people or do you feel more nourished by quiet reflection?
- Or, do you enjoy both?
Notice how these questions are “either / or”? They imply you are either at one end of the spectrum or the other. You are either an extrovert (the first half of each question) or an introvert (the second half of each question.) To summarise:
- Extroverts gain energy externally,thriving in highstimulation environments. After a long conference day, extroverts are usually keen to kick on for drinks, dinner, parties, anything!
- Introverts gain energy internally, thriving in lowstimulation environments. If an introvert can stand an entire day at a conference, they usually prefer quiet down time in the evening on their own or with a friend.
The Power of “Quiet”
According to Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Won’t Stop Talking”, there isn’t a spectrum, rather a cross-over of individual personality traits influenced by your environment. For instance, you can be a “shy or anxious extrovert” or an “outgoing or socially confident introvert”.
Reading“Quiet”was a revelation. I was surprised to discover I am an introvert who acts as an extrovert when needed. While I enjoy delivering workshops and running retreats (professional environment), I look forward to finishing them so I can snuggle up with a book by myself. (personal environment). If you are intrigued, read Susan Cain’s book or watch her TED Talk.
Introvert Advantages: Thoughtful, Strategic Listeners
Do you know the phrase, “It’s the quiet ones you have to look out for”? I find that’s the frequently the case with quiet, understated introverts who consistently emerge as charismatic speakers. You can hear a pin drop when they speak. Introverts surprise themselves and everyone else, at the power and impact of their carefully chosen words, delivered with natural authenticity.
Introverts, Tap into these Strengths:
- Use your powerful listening skills to signal you hear and understand your group. The best speakers are the best listeners. Everyone deeply wants to feel heard. Use your listening and observational skills to your advantage.
- Introverts are often deep thinkers, creative, persistent, methodical – think of artists, scientists and IT innovators. If your personal style to is to be more thoughtful, detailed and different to mainstream, use it for the occasions when it will be appreciated. Learn to not overthink moments like, “the 30 second self intro.” Be concise and thoughtful.
- Introverts often confess to me they are scared of Q & A and cannot think and speak well on their feet. The solution is easy: slow down, repeat the question to gain thinking time. If you don’t know the answer, have a few phrases on hand such as, “Great question, thank you. I’ll have to get back to you on it.” And make sure you do.
Extrovert Advantages: Energy, Speed & Enthusiasm
Working with extroverts is often a quick and exciting process as they grab whatever I offer with both hands and apply it before I finish speaking! I find extroverts often need to learn restraint and boundaries; knowing when to step in and when to step away. Extroverts benefit from understanding that less is more and too much, is overwhelming.
Extroverts, Tap into these Strengths:
- Slow down (at least between sentences and ideas) so that people have time to digest your ideas. With your bountiful energy, many gems will be lost in the whitewash unless you prioritise. Aim to be short and sweet.
- Positive, upbeat energy is great for unifying and lifting the group but has short term impact. It’s best used for entrances and signifying direction and tempo changes. If you are giving a longer presentation, watch you don’t wear yourself and your listeners out by an unsustainable, fast paced monologue. Disconnected people stop listening.
- Become a better listener and a keen observer of body language. Both will keep you on track to ensure your group are still willing to go along for the ride with you. Remember that everyone is not the same as you and people process information at faster and slower rates. Prepare your presentation to accommodate all types of people.
Why Not Bring Out Everyone’s Best?
People process information differently. Some like it fast; others prefer it slow. Some people like to drag it back to their cave to think about it for a few weeks; others pounce, digest and move on in moments. And everyone absorbs information in differently; hearing, seeing and doing. If you only cater to one style of personality preference, you’ll miss at least 50% of humanity.
I believe Western society currently favours extroversion. A few examples: Group activities, open plan offices and the job interview process, suit people who are willing to promote themselves, speak up quickly, engage in small talk and share ideas and spaces to problem solve. And just to throw a few more generalisations about introverts and extroverts into the mix:
Extroverts thrive on social interaction and may feel bored when alone for too long. They are often seen as talkative, assertive and enthusiastic, enjoying noise and interaction. Extroverts often think, talk and jump on board new ideas quickly. Extroverts generally enjoy group activities, join clubs, like parties and want to be part of a team. They like to collaborate, create networks and actively seek out new friendships.
Introverts on the other hand, thrive on lots of solitary time to nourish and nurture ideas and creativity. They prefer low stimulation environments – private, quiet, calm and natural. Introverts are not necessarily shy, they enjoy their own company or a couple of close friends rather than loud groups. They tend to be more methodical, pay attention to details and can be slower to answer questions… because they are taking time to think about it.
Both Introverts and Extroverts Need to be Heard
Here’s a couple of ideas to bring out the best in introverts and extroverts:
- In an office or communal space, create a mix of open plan and private nooks. Let people gravitate to where they are most comfortable and will do their best work. And to contribute in different formats, such as written or spoken.
- When presenting to groups, especially workshops, ensure you create a mix of individual reflective exercises, small group and large group activities with emphasis on everyone having taking a turn. Invite and offer choice, don’t demand.
We need all types of people and their voices. Those who think and those who do. Those who listen and those who talk. And those who do a bit of everything in between, sometimes referred to as “ambiverts”. Don’t assume the loudest or the quietest voice is the best one – Give everyone a chance to be heard.