Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day 7 - E or I?

I took a class on Diversity last week and one of the things we discussed was diversity with regards to personality traits. We defined the introvert and extrovert characteristics and then divided up as a class into those sides. What surprised me, was the fact that only four of us clearly knew where we fell on that spectrum. The other 15-20 people in the class were unsure of whether they were an introvert or extrovert.

As someone who has read books and taken classes on personality, this topic is one I am familiar with by now. But I am realizing that not everyone is aware of what defines their personality and how becoming aware can impact a variety of situations in life.

So we’ll start with descriptions. What traits characterize an Extrovert and Introvert?

Gets “recharged” being around groups of people
Gets “recharged” during alone time
Gets lonely and bored quickly from being alone
Gets tired easily from being around people
Sometimes speaks before they think
Thinks before they speak. Sometimes spends too much time thinking and misses an opportunity to speak.
Values having a large social network
Values having  a few close friends
Vents problems verbally
Tends to reflect on problems internally
Can be difficult to just sit and listen
Does not have issue sitting without interruption

Extroverts make up approximately 70-75% of the population and introverts make up about 25-30%. There is nothing right or wrong about either personality type, but as you can see above, they are clearly different.  You may be reading these descriptions and thinking that you don’t fit into either category; while there is a spectrum for sure and you may land somewhere in the middle, the majority of people land on one side or the other.

So what does this mean for your life? Well, a lot actually! This seems like a small thing but understanding yourself better is incredibly important.

I have heard a lot of introverts complain about the fact that they are not as social as their extroverted friends. That they “don’t have a life” or that it’s harder to really make their mark on the social scene because they tend to be more quiet or need alone time. Introverts can still have a life without feeling like they have to push through to the point of exhaustion (attending every social event they get invited to, going out of their way to help everyone that asks, never saying “no” etc.). If they do that they won’t be effective for anyone; They just need to step away every so often to get rejuvenated and explain that need to their more extroverted friends.

In the workplace, extroverts may speak up more in meetings making introverts feel like they can’t. It is helpful for coworkers to understand each other and know that introverts are not being quiet because they don’t care but rather they need some reflection time before they give their two cents. As a manager it would be helpful to know this in order to seek out introverted employees and make sure to find out their thoughts on various work issues. Extroverts may speak up without even thinking and say things they don’t mean or that are even out of line. Rather than judging them or writing them off as inappropriate, managers need to understand them and have patience. It’s also helpful for employees to understand their supervisor’s personality type. If an extroverted supervisor is frustrated and speaks out negatively toward an employee, it could be that the comments weren’t well-thought out. Or, if an introverted manager is intentional about setting side time each day to lock themselves in their office and be unavailable, it’s not necessarily because they don’t like their employees or are lazy and antisocial, it could be because they need that rejuvenation time.

Both personalities are important and understanding this small thing can really make an impact for people both socially and professionally. So… are you an extrovert or introvert? What do you want others to understand about your personality?

See you tomorrow!


  1. Am I allowed to be both? I'm definitely an introvert in public places, around people I don't know and in group social situations, but with my family and on paper (like when writing) I'm an extrovert.

  2. Well, you can definitely be in the middle of the spectrum, but I think a good way to figure out which way you lean is to ask yourself, "When I am overwhelmed or exhausted, do I get re-charged and re-energized being around a group of people or alone (or around 1-2 good friends)?" If you would rather go to a party or social event to get back to "feeling like yourself again" you probably lean in the extroverted direction. If you would rather take some time for yourself you may be more of an introvert.