I have been on leave overseas for a few weeks and very busy prior to that getting ready to go on leave, so I am aware that my blogs have been infrequent. However, I have been keeping the Shaping Change Facebook page up to date during my travels and some of the posts that have attracted the most interest have been a series I am calling “Introvert Cat says…” The extravert vs introvert personality characteristics are something everyone relates to and understanding the difference is enlightening (and a bit of fun too!)
So let’s look at the two different personality types. Extravert / Introvert is one of the dichotomies that is common to personality instruments. My preferred instrument is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and I will devote further posts to the other aspects of the MBTI. But back to E vs I.
Contrary to popular belief, Extraverts are not always loud and Introverts are not always quiet. In fact, many Introverts can be the life of the party when with a group of people they are comfortable with. Extraversion and Introversion are about the direction you focus your attention and energy. Extraverts are interested in and focus on the outside world of people and things around them, while Introverts are focused on their internal world of thoughts and impressions. The other important point to make is that these are preferences. Everyone does both, but we prefer one over the other. As an Introvert, I HAVE to extravert – to pay attention to the world around me – or I would get run over every time I tried to cross the road. Our preference can be strong or slight. Strong preferences will relate to one side, whereas slight preferences will often relate to both. Some key differences:
|Interested in people, they want to get to know you||Not all that interested in people, unless they have something in common|
|Has a wide range of friends||Has a small group of intimate friendships|
|Energized by interacting with others||Drained by interacting with others|
|Tells about themselves easily, easy to get to know||Not as comfortable revealing about themselves, more private|
|Usually comfortable introducing themselves to someone they don’t know and having a chat||Will usually wait to be approached. Finds small talk awkward|
|Needs less personal space||Needs more personal space|
|Works well when there is conversation, thinks out loud||Thinks, then speaks. May find it hard to find a space to speak as hates to butt in|
|Likes big parties||Likes small gatherings with close friends|
|Openly enthusiastic||Keeps enthusiasm inside|
From running programs and coaching with MBTI for years, I get to hear all sorts of stories that show how the types are different. One of my favourite conversations is about parties. When asked if they would go to a party where they didn’t know anyone, a lot of E’s say yes, while the I’s look horrified! I’s say that they would bring a friend, so they were sure of having someone to talk to. A strong preferenced E that I know once went to a party, was eating, drinking and having a ball when after a few hours it dawned on him that he hadn’t talked to anyone he knew. A quick look at the invitation showed he was at the wrong house… but he was enjoying himself so much that he stayed. Introverts use tricks to have downtime at parties to recharge, like offering to wash up, help prepare food, look after the kids.
Another great conversation starter I use is the following: “If you were in a white room, no window, no doors, nothing but you and your thoughts, how long could you stay there”? Strong Introverts have said “days, or weeks, as long as I have food and drink” while Extraverts are convinced they would go crazy after a few minutes.
The key thing is to remember that everyone is different. If you are in a group of type alike people, it’s easy. The challenge is dealing with the opposite. There is no right and wrong, best and worst with type – just different. E’s – give the I’s space and time to think. I’s – recognise that E’s are more active and need interaction. It’s an Extraverted world and many I’s struggle in it. I have had people say to me “all my life I thought there was something wrong with me because I like being on my own. Now I realise I am an Introvert, and that’s OK”!
Rosalind Cardinal is the Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, a Hobart based consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.
Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 20 years. Ros’ expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.