Are you an introvert or extrovert?
Do you often think that the introvert is shy and socially awkward? I suspect that many people classify introverts that way. In reality, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert stems from where the person gets his or her energy.
I'm one of those folks who enjoy messing around with personality tests. I even have fun from time to time with BuzzFeed quizzes and I thought it would be fun to put together a post comparing the results of the various personality and strengths-assessments I've accumulated over the years. I wanted to examine the consistencies and look for contradictions. So, this weekend, I sat down to organize and analyze all my “data.”
Is it a coincidence that just as I was working on my post about personality tests that this post about How to Understand An Introvert appeared on the Huffington Post? I think not.
In any event, the first draft of my personality-tests-comparison-post was turning into War and Peace, so I decided to break the topic up into smaller chunks. This first installment focuses on the introversion vs extroversion distinction.
This graphic illustration by Roman Jones does a great job of summarizing what makes an introvert different. You can buy the poster here.
Ambivert? Or Slightly Introverted?
I've taken the Myers-Briggs MBTI test several times. I typically score just over the mid-point into the Introversion side, but just barely. I might be an ambivert. I've written about my extroverted-introvert tendencies here.
Most recently, in September 2014 when I re-took the MBTI with students in class I'm teaching I scored this way:
I: 53% introverted
N: 60% intuitive
T: 53% Thinker
P: 93% Perceiver
I enjoy public speaking, I enjoy giving presentations, and I enjoy hanging out with other people and talking about ideas. But when it comes to too much external stimuli, like noise and constantly being “on” while meeting new people, I do have a limit and threshold. For that reason, I think I'm slightly introverted.
The more I have to be “on” in a high-energy social context, the more I want to chill-out when I get back home. For example,if I spend a day socializing and interacting at a relatively high-energy conference I prefer a quiet dinner or just an evening in with time to decompress rather than spending several more hours at the after-party.
On the other hand, I also have a need for conversation and social interaction, so I can't stay cooped up at home or in my office for too long.
One of the books on my reading list is Susan Cain's Quiet. It's on my Kindle—but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I've heard Cain give several interviews over the past few years and have watched her TED talk more than once and I think she makes some extraordinarily important points about the value of quiet and solitude for deep thinking and transformational creativity.
She points out that introverts can't maximize their talents if they are forced to operate in a world that's increasingly designed by and for the extroverts.
“The key is to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.”
The Roman Jones' illustration (above) reminded me why I'm not enthusiastic about killing time at work chit-chatting with colleagues and making small talk. It's not that I'm anti-social, but after a certain point, small talk starts to drains my energy. I'm less efficient when start getting tired and a n extroverted coworker's chattiness usually means that I have to work longer to get the same amount of work done.
Similarly, nothing is more annoying to me than to enter a waiting room with a TV blaring out some inane infomercial or mindless sitcom. I loathe the automated department store displays that talk to me when I walk by.
Not Everyone Wants (or Needs) a Pep Rally
Susan Cain begins her TED talk with an anecdote about the R-O-W-D-I-E cheer at summer camp and how the experience left her feeling perplexed by all the emphasis on rah-rah-rah.
Hearing that story reminded me of how I've often felt at leadership training workshops where the moderator or session leader insisted that everyone stand up, dance around and sing songs together as some sort of team-building exercise. Not. For Me.
I like to have at least one day each month to be “off,” so I can simply read a book or work in the yard, without having to do any degree of socializing. Those days recharge my batteries better than anything. Unfortunately, that's one goal that I haven't managed to achieve very often year. In fact, just typing that reminds me of how much I need to make myself take time for a recharge day–soon!
The point isn't that extroversion is good (or bad) or that introversion is good (or bad). The point is that everyone has an energy sweet-spot and a stimulation threshold. We all need some degree of solitude and quiet to contemplate and discover, to tap into our creativity.
If you are a leader, how are you enabling the right environment to allow everyone to become their best self?
If you are an introvert, do you face challenges at work? If you're in extrovert, do you ever take time to be quiet?
I'd love to hear from you–leave a comment below and share your personal experiences with introversion or extroversion, especially how things have changed for you over the past 10 or so years.