Introvert or extrovert – which one are you? Learn 3 common misconceptions about the introvert/extrovert scale and how to leverage this personality dimension to help you manage your energy and your relationships with others.
Link to printable shownotes: https://www.talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/#shownotes
DEFINITION of INTROVERTS vs EXTROVERTS
- INTROVERTS are internally focused in terms of their attention and their energy
- EXTROVERTS are externally focused in terms of their attention and their energy
3 MISCONCEPTIONS OF INTROVERTS vs EXTROVERTS
- “ The introvert-extrovert scale is binary.” No it’s not!
- It’s a continuous scale.
- And in fact, most of us are in the middle. We’re ambiverts
- “Introversion = Shyness” Wrong!
- Remember: introverts are internally focused in terms of their attention and their energy
- Shy people are more socially anxious. Introverts are not necessarily socially anxious
- “We should all try to be extroverted” No we shouldn’t!
- Introverts are often better listeners, they may be more authentic, less prone to addiction, and less likely to swear at you.
image Unsplash @ larisaboyta
So What? Why is this INTROVERT-EXTROVERT scale important?
- Understanding our unique personalities and leveraging them in our day-to-day activities and in our communication, both personally and professionally, can become part of our superpowers.
- Managing our energy – Introverts gain energy from solitude and extroverts gain energy from socializing. When we know where we stand on the extrovert/introvert scale, we can manage our energy, understanding what fuels us and what depletes us.
- Our relationships – We can keep this in mind too for the people around us, our coworkers, our family members and our friends.
image Unsplash @ Helena Lopez
Introvert vs Extrovert
- INC magazine – https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/are-you-shy-or-introverted-science-says-this-is-1-primary-difference.html
- Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2015/09/10/6-facts-you-should-know-about-introverts-that-have-significant-leadership-implications/#390621e2182d
- FastCompany – https://www.fastcompany.com/90232763/5-things-youre-getting-wrong-about-extroverts
“QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain
- Big 5 Personality Test
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki & Talk About Talk
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Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
So – are YOU an introvert or an extrovert? This is one of the five rapid fire I ask every guest on the talk about Talk podcast. Norm Bacal is an introvert. Sharon Mah-Gin is an extrovert.
So what? Why does this matter?
Today we’re going to go deep on this dimension of our personality. Why? Well, partly to debunk a few of the common misperceptions there are about introversion and extroversion. But mostly because when we understand ourselves better, we can communicate more effectively.
Greetings and welcome to Talk About Talk. I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!).
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Welcome to Talk About Talk episode number 82! In this episode, we talk all about one dimension of our personality: the introvert-extrovert scale. I’m going to start by defining it for you, then we’ll get into debunking some myths and misconceptions – and these misconceptions drive me crazy. And then I’m going to share with you some advice or insights on introverts and then on extroverts. These insights are meant to help you for yourself, but also to help you understand other people in your life. Maybe a co-worker or a family member. Sound good?
OK – let’s get into this. As always, you don’t need to take notes, because I do that for you. I summarize everything for you at the end of the episode. And you can always access the printable episode shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website. So just keep doing whatever you’re doing – driving or walking or housework, or whatever. By the way, if you’re lying on the couch just listening, that’s cool too!
OK – Let me start here.
- If you took any psychology classes in college, chances are you learned about the Big 5 personality dimensions. One of these Big 5 personality dimensions is extroversion.
- Many of us are familiar with the introvert-extrovert scale from the Myers-Briggs personality test, which is the #1 most common personality test in the world. You know, the one that diagnoses you as an ISFP or an ENTJ, or whatever. That first letter, the I or E is introvert or extrovert.
- By the way, I’ll leave links to both of these personality tests in the shownotes, in case you want to read more or perhaps take the tests for yourself.
- As I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, at the end of every Talk About Talk podcast interview, I ask the interviewee five rapid fire questions. Questions #3 is. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
- The first thing you should know is that I ask this as a binary, black-or-white Q on purpose. I’m trying to be provocative. Introvert or extrovert. Like we’re all one or the other. It’s not binary though. The truth is this is a scale. It’s a continuum. Think of it as a continuous line from introversion to extroversion, and each of us can be anywhere on that scale.
- OK, so then the real Q is: where are you on the introversion-extroversion scale? What do you think?
Image Unsplash @ jackieboylhart
- Before we can answer this question for ourselves, we need some definitions. It’s not quite as simple as you might think. Many people believe that “introverts are shy, and extroverts are outgoing,” But it’s not that simple! And in fact, that can be wrong.
- I encourage you to think in terms of two factors: your attention and your energy. And specifically whether you prefer or feel more comfortable focusing internally or externally when it comes to your attention and to your energy. Got it? internal or external and attention and energy. That’s the simple way of thinking about all this.
But let me elaborate
Let’s focus first on ATTENTION.
- Extroverts like to spend time in the external, outer world (of people and things) while introverts are focused internally on their inner world – of ideas and images. A 2011 study published in the journal Cognitive Neurosciencefound that highly extroverted people crave external, social stimuli.
- In terms of orientation, Extroverts are action-oriented, while introverts are thought-oriented. That makes sense. Action is external. Thoughts are internal.
- In terms of knowledge and influence, Extroverts seek breadth, while introverts seek depth. Again, that makes sense, doesn’t it?
- And In terms of interaction, Extroverts often prefer more frequent interaction, while introverts prefer more substantial interaction.
- So think here, when it comes to attention, think external for extroverts or internal for introverts.
The same goes for ENERGY actually, It’s external for extroverts or internal for introverts.
- According to clinical psychologist Michael Alcee, “Introversion and extroversion are all about energy and how we recharge and refuel,”
- Simply put, extroverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.
- Let me tell you, this is a big one for me.When I get home from a social event or even a meeting, I’m wired. People fuel me up. It takes me hours to calm down. Yep, I’m an extrovert. What about you?
- Here’s the Q to help you diagnose yourself: How do you feel after a few hours alone, focusing on something you like to do or to think about? Are you energized or drained? And compare that to a few hours with people. Are you energized or are you drained? Which one of these scenarios – being alone for a few hours or socializing for a few hours – which would leave you feeling more drained and which one you leave you feeling more energized?
Like I said, it’s not as simple as extroverts are outgoing and introverts are shy . No no no. I hope you got that!
- Instead of asking whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, ask two Qs: Where do you focus your attention? and where do you get your energy?
- Personally, I can tell you my attention’s definitely externally focused, and I get my energy from being around others. In fact, even when I’m working on my own, my mind naturally goes to other people, like when I’m writing podcast scripts or newsletters, the whole time, I’m thinking about other people and how they’ll perceive it. So even in solitude, I’m focusing my attention on others. I’m an off-the charts extrovert.
Again, I encourage YOU to think in terms of internal or external and attention and energy. Got it? Internal or external for both attention and for energy. That’s the simple way of thinking about all this.
OK – that’s it for definitions. Let’s move on to myths and misconceptions. Let me tell you, there are a few here, and they drive me crazy. I’m going to highlight 3 common misconceptions about the introvert extrovert scale.
The first misconception is something I already mentioned. It’s the fact that the introvert-extrovert scale is not binary. Ok ok, I might be fueling this misconception. One of the 5 rapid fire Qs that I ask is simply “introvert or extrovert?” But again, it’s not binary. It’s a continuum. And in fact, MOST of us are somewhere in the middle.
There’s a word for that. For being in the middle of the scale. Do you know what it is? It’s AMBIVERT. The prefix AMBI A-M-B-I means BOTH. And most of us are both. Maybe instead, I should ask, Introvert, Ambivert, or extrovert?” What do you think? Maybe not. But this is good to know, right?
That was Tosca Reno, the phenomenally resilient New York Times Best Selling Author & Founder of Eat Clean™ Diet. Also the guest for episodes 25 and 27, focused on self-talk. She’s an ambivert. And so are most of us.
So that’s the first misconception, now debunked.
The second misconception is related to introversion and SHYNESS.
- The truth is that shyness and introversion are not at all the same thing.
- Let’s back up. We now know the strict definition of an introvert, right? Introverts are internally focused in terms of their attention and their energy.
- Introverts can choose to be social and interact with others; they just know it’ll deplete their energy. Shy people–depending on the level of shyness–can’t make that same choice without a high cost.
- An introverted person can prepare themselves to go to a party or a work conference, knowing it’ll drain them. (Much like how an extrovert can close the door to their office to work through something by themselves, similarly, knowing it’ll drain them.)
- For a shy person, a party isn’t just a drain (as it can be for an introvert); it’s a real struggle. For extremely shy people, socializing makes them anxious.
- So you can think of this difference between introversion and shyness in terms of whether you can chooseto be social (without anxiety).
- To better illustrate this, I think about some of my favourite professors at Harvard Business School, I mean the ones who’re incredible in the classroom, the best teachers. The ones who excel onstage. I was surprised to learn that many of these fantastic teachers are introverts. Like extreme introverts. Not ambiverts. Like when they get home after a day of teaching, they collapse. Completely depleted of all their energy, Clearly they aren’t anxious about interacting with others, but it drains them. Introverts? Yes, Shy? No.
- It’s not the same thing.
The third and last misconception about the introversion-extroversion scale is probably the most important thing that I hope you take away from this episode.
Unfortunately, many people believe the misconception that extroverts are somehow better than introverts. That we should all be seeking extroversion. No No NO!
First of all, I have to say, big hat tip to Susan Cain for this one. Do you know who Susan Cain is? Have you ever heard of a book called “Quiet”? It’s actually “QUIET: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan isn’t a psychologist, rather she has degrees in English and law. But she’s had a huge impact on the world with her book, which has been translated into 36 languages, has appeared on many “Best of” lists, and was named the #1 best book of the year by Fast Company magazine, amongst others. She also has a hugely popular TEDTalk.
Thanks in large part to Susan, and her book we now acknowledge that introverts are typically better listeners. We could just stop there, right? I mean, Like I’ve said many many times, if I had to choose one communication superpower, the thing we might focus on if we had to choose just one thing? It would be listening. And introverts got that. Us extroverts need to shush and listen.
Susan also talks about how introverts’ strength may lie in their authenticity, while extroverts may be more prone to showmanship.
You get the idea here, right? Introverts are undervalued.
Meanwhile, psychologists were focusing on comparing introverts versus extroverts on factors like positive affect. This is understandable. The basic hypothesis is that because extroverts are more externally focused and they seek social interactions, they therefore may report higher levels of happiness and subjective well-being. But it turns out the results in this kind of psych-research is mixed.
And according to psychotherapist Mike Dow, introverts may be more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety(remember my comments about shyness?) Well, introverts may feel some anxiety because they feel overwhelmed with social stimuli.
But he also points out that extroverts’ affinity for finding the next pleasurable sensation makes them more prone to addiction. Oh – that’s not good!
That reminds me of the PROFANITY episode from way back when I interviewed linguistics professor Darin Flynn about profanity. This is a digression, but there’s a related point here about introverts versus extroverts, I promise! I remember when I got Darin on the phone to interview him, he’s in Calgary, and I thanked him profusely. He didn’t know me at all, but he immediately agreed to do the interview. He said “of course! It sounds like fun! I love talking about profanity. And I knew you’d be an extrovert. You’re hosting a podcast. And the topic of profanity? Well, sweariness is correlated with extroversion.” Wait – what? Did you you say “sweariness is correlated with extroversion? Whoa. Slow down. The interview hadn’t even started yet. I hadn’t even pressed record. Well, it turns out that there are certain personality traits that’re correlated with sweariness, or a propensity to use profanity. And one of them is extroversion. Extroverts are more likely to swear. Is that a bad thing? Well, I’m not sure. But it’s probably not a good thing.
Back to the original point here, that introversion is NOT a weakness, and extroversion isn’t all good. Introverts are often better listeners, they may be more authentic, and while they may be more likely to be anxious, introverts are less prone to addiction, and less likely to swear at you. All hail the introvert!
So that’s the 3rd and last misconception about the introvert-extrovert scale. The first misconception is that we’re one of the other. Nope. It’s a continuous scale. And in fact, most of us are in the middle, we’re ambiverts. The second misconception is about introversion and shyness. It turns out they’re NOT the same thing. Introverts are not necessarily socially anxious. It’s more to do with where they focus their attention and energy. And last, extroverts don’t rule. Introverts have many positive attributes that us extroverts should aspire to.
And that leads me to the last point I want to share with you. So it’s not that we’re all seeking a particular personality, right? The real superpower, for all of us, is in knowing ourselves, in understanding where we sit on these various personality dimensions, recognizing our strengths and our weakness (or “opportunities”) and doing something about it. Like – planning our day around what provides us with energy and what depletes us.
I had an interesting conversation recently with my friend Heather Stark, an executive coach who works with senior leaders. One of the things that she does herself and that she coaches her clients to do is to manage their energy every day. Based on whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. So if you have big meetings or social events, knowing whether that will fill you up or deplete you can be like a superpower. Brilliant. Suddenly you’re more productive. And probably happier too.
If I have an important meeting or presentation, I know I’m going to be fired up for hours afterwards . So I’ve started to put things in my calendar for the few hours afterwards that might not need deep thought, but that need some energy. I know I’ll have that energy.
And this also helps us with our relationships and dealing with our coworkers and our family members, of course. So my husband’s an extreme introvert. I know he needs his solitude, to feel fulfilled and energized.
There’s also the listening thing, right? If you’re an extrovert like me, you should probably remind yourself to talk less and listen more. As Jill Nykoliation, the CEO of ad agency Juniper Park TBWA shared with us in episodes 75 + 76, we need to hold space and listen. I love that. Whether you’re seated around the board room table or the dining room table, we extroverts need to hold space and listen.
On the other hand, if you’re an introvert, you can take pride in your ability to listen and effectively internalize things. Please know that we all want to hear what you’re thinking about.
My point here is that we all add value. And we’ve been hearing a lot lately about the positive effects of diversity. Diverse boards and leadership teams perform better. Diversity means not just visible diversity, in terms of race, gender, and so on. But also in terms of personality. We all have something to contribute. And our superpowers lie in knowing and leveraging our unique strengths.
Well, that seems like a great place to end.
Let me briefly – and I mean briefly – summarize. First , the definition of introverts and extroverts. No, it’s not simply about being shy or outgoing. Remember? It’s about being internally or externally focused in terms of our attention and energy.
And the three misconceptions?
- The first misconception is that the introvert-extrovert scale is binary. Nope. It’s a continuous scale. And in fact, most of us are in the middle, we’re ambiverts.
- The second misconception is about introversion and shyness. It turns out they’re NOT the same thing. Introverts are not necessarily socially anxious. It’s more to do with their attention and energy right?
- And last, extroverts don’t rule. Introverts are often better listeners, they may be more authentic, less prone to addiction, and less likely to swear at you. Yep, I’m tempted to swear at you right now, but I’m gonna keep it PG
The last point I hope you internalized from this episode is the real power we can experience, both personally and professionally, when we understand our personalities, our tendencies, and leverage them. We can all manage our energy, understanding what fuels us and what depletes us. And we can keep this in mind too for the people around us, our coworkers, our family members and our friends. Understanding these personality factors and leveraging then in our day-to-day activities and in our communication – can become our superpower.
OK that’s it.
We covered lots here. Again, you can find a printable version of this episode including a summary, the transcript, plus a list of introversion/extroversion references – all in the shownotes. Just go to the talkabouttalk.com website. While you’re there, I really hope you’ll sign up for the Talk About Talk newsletter, if you’re not already! This is your chance to get free communication skills coaching from me every week in a simple to digest email. I promise no spam and no more than one per week. Just go to talk abouttalk.com to sign up or email me directly and I’ll add you to the list. You can email me anytime at [email protected].
And whether you’re an extrovert, and introvert, or, more likely, and Ambivert – Thanks for listening! And talk soon!
THANKS for READING – and Talk soon!
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