Everyone experiences bumps in the road – and sometimes major potholes – when it comes to working relationships. We struggle to understand why someone acts, works and responds the way they do. Often, the key issue is the extrovert/introvert dilemma. Do you know the difference? Do you know which one you are? A little bit of understanding can make all the difference in office relations.
So what is the difference between extrovert and introvert?
Introversion and extroversion are aspects of personality, first identified by Carl Jung in the early 20th century. These aspects of typical personalities are frequently incorporated into personality testing (a prime example is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). The difference between the two is not complicated:
- Introverts get their batteries charged by times of quiet solitude.
- Extroverts get their batteries charged by social interaction.
Introverts do enjoy being with their family, friends, and coworkers, but eventually it drains them, so they need to spend more time in quiet solitude, one-on-one, or very small groups than they spend interacting with larger groups of people. They work best when allowed to think things through before reaching a decision, and sharing it. They are a great asset to the team when they are allowed to complete their own responsibilities alone or in smaller groups and save the big meetings for issues that need to be discussed as a whole.
On the other hand, Extroverts do enjoy their quiet times of solitude, but too much of it deflates their energy, so they need lots of time with family, friends, and coworkers. They work best when allowed to “think” out loud in groups, bouncing ideas off of people. They’re a great asset to the team when you appreciate and encourage their enthusiasm, letting them dive into their work.
Don’t be misled by the common myth that introvert refers to shy, easily-hurt people, who dislike leaving home and extrovert refers to people who never stop talking and wear a thick skin. In reality, introverts enjoy people and are very adept at conversation, and as much as extroverts thrive in a large gathering, they also can be great listeners who enjoy their evenings at home. Both personalities can be great leaders – they just have different styles. Furthermore, research reveals that neither type is “smarter” or “better” than the other type, but their brains do respond differently to stimuli.
Now that you have a clearer picture, how do you translate this into workplace harmony?
It’s a twofold plan:
Recognize your own weak areas and develop antidotes
- Practice listening: Focus on the speaker, then think before responding.
- Silence doesn’t always mean agreement, learn to ask for opinions.
- Don’t fill every silence with words; learn to allow time for reflection.
- Understand that some people prefer to see it in writing.
- Practice speaking: you may need to reflect first, but don’t expect others to read your mind.
- Verbal expression isn’t always call-to-action statements, learn to decipher when others are simply bounding ideas.
- Give value to your thoughts and opinions – if you just can’t verbally express them in large groups, at least develop the art of nonverbal communication.
- Understand that some people prefer to hear it said.
Appreciate the strengths of your opposites and support them
- Respect their need for privacy
- Privately affirm or teach new skill
- Let them observe new situations
- Provide uninterrupted thinking time
- Offer transition time and notifications
- Respect their independence
- Compliment publicly
- Accept and encourage enthusiasm
- Recognize their need to verbally bounce ideas
- Appreciate their ability to quickly switch between tasks
Despite differences, there is a great deal of overlap in the way that extroverts and introverts behave. Acknowledging normal variants of behavior along the spectrum can help with self- acceptance and understanding of others. Instead of focusing on the problems your differences can cause, use your differences to grow and challenge each other both individually and as a group. Rather than simply assigning roles according to ability, also consider the personality type. Remember, when opposites learn to work together, each can fully use his/her strengths to best support the project, creating genius in the form of a more productive, effective, and congenial team. As long as you recognize your personality type relative to your colleague’s, you should be able to find a happy medium and get along in the workplace.
At Nissen Staffing Continuum, our focus is on you and your success, assisting you with your career plans and placement. We understand both introverts and extroverts, and work as your strategic partner accordingly. We specialize in helping you avoid obstacles and reach your objectives. How may we assist you with your hiring process?