Whether in a chatty classroom or at a party, it often seems that extroverts the introverts by far outnumber. Yet appearances can deceive: in all walks of life there are still quiet people-and they are not even a minority. In fact, introversion and extraversion are basic temperaments, distributed evenly across the population. In the book, The Introverted Leader, author Jennifer B. Kahnweiler shares more about how to be an introverted leader.
The terms extrovert and introvert were first introduced by the psychologist C.G. Jung to distinguish between two basic personality types.
Introverts prefer to concentrate on their own thoughts internally, whereas extroverts are active, social and concentrate on their external world. In the way they recharge their mental batteries, the two types also differ: extroverts are energized by social interaction, while introverts recover energy through quiet, solitary contemplation.Finally, their communication styles are different: extroverts are outspoken and decisive, whereas introverts are reserved, prefer listening to talking and ponder all their options before taking action.
So how many introverts are out there? Scientists interviewed different groups of people about introverted personality traits such as needing a lot of quiet time or preferring listening to talking.
The result? About 47-55 % of the US population are introverts.
But what about business and politics – surely there is only place for extroverts there?
Indeed, by stressing the importance of socializing, decisiveness, and gregariousness over introverted qualities like reflectivity, or consciousness, our business culture does seem to favor extroverts. Yet one study reveals that as many as 40 percent of all managers identify themselves as introverts. The most famous of them all was probably President Abraham Lincoln, known for his tendency to frequently withdraw inside himself: he would often be found alone in his library reading law books instead of socializing.
Imagine a crucial meeting where many employees are fighting to share their thoughts on a marketing problem. Each individual is competing for the boss’s limited attention – and if you’re an introvert, this is one area where you could lose out.
Because if you don’t speak up in a meeting, your ideas may never get heard – whilst the loud and the outspoken end up with most of the desirable assignments and project funds. And of course, extroverts are much more likely to raise their voices.
For example, maybe you have a great idea of how to deal with that marketing problem, but you hesitate to enter the fray. In a setting like this, even your best ideas won’t speak for themselves: to keep them from getting lost, you’ll have to speak up and convince your team.
And introverts will miss chances not just in meetings: if you maintain a low profile at work, you can be ignored when your manager looks for the right person to take over.
This is because your manager does not have the time to look for the most appropriate person to take on a prestigious project – so he’ll probably delegate the role to someone who made a good impression recently. For example, if both an extrovert and an introvert perform well but the extrovert often draws more attention to his success, he would be more likely to receive the promotion.Therefore if you want to be entrusted to take charge, you need to make sure you stay on your boss’s radar – and that he doesn’t forget about your accomplishments.
So next time you see your boss, give him a subtle reminder about your performance.
Everyone who’s worked in an office knows that sometimes people prefer to work alone. But introverts need that alone time even more – to a point where it can be to their disadvantage.
It’s important for introverts to regularly work in solitude, but it can take diplomatic skill and effort to defend this preference.
This is because a typical extrovert-friendly business setting with open offices, frequent meetings and continuous teamwork may fail to provide the solitary time needed to recharge your batteries for introverts.But extroverted colleagues might not understand an introvert’s need for solitude – and they might even feel rejected if an introverted colleague doesn’t always welcome their company.
Another trait of introverts drawbacks is their inability to take part in the informal socialization between conferences or meetings. Without the introverts, this time is also used to build ties, share information, and make deals. For example, an introverted account executive chose to spend some time alone on a business trip, instead of golfing with the other executives. At the official meeting, he found out that most of the vital decisions had already been made on the green.
So introverts should just make sure they socialize more, right? Problem is, going too long without spending time alone can hurt an introvert’s performance and morale.
This is because introverts tend to work best when they’re alone, and need solitude to recharge their batteries. If they continually lack alone time, they will end up exhausted and consistently less productive. After some time, they may even suffer from stress-related symptoms like headaches and back problems. In fact, an introvert with no opportunity to work alone throughout the day will be as unhappy as an extrovert passing his days in a solitary office.
If you’re an introvert, make sure you plan your solitary time carefully.
Imagine you’re an introvert: when your boss asks you to deal with a problem, you’ll tend to retreat to your office and take the time you need to concentrate on your assignment. Two weeks later, a staff evaluation comes up, and you’re shocked to find you’ve been criticized for working too slow and acting aloof.
It is common for introverts to be on the receiving end of this sort of misperception. One reason slow thinkers underestimate introverts is their propensity to analyze carefully what they want to say, and to make sure it is the best response they can give. On the other hand, extroverts are likely to add a suggestion as soon as it comes to their minds-and the combination of these two thought types can lead extroverts to believe that introverts are slower thinkers.
For example, imagine two equally bright pupils, an extrovert and an introvert. In class, both come up with great ideas for the science fair. But the extrovert blurts out his suggestion immediately, whilst the introvert double-checks her own idea and answers much later. Result? In comparison, the introvert will appear slow – and to many, less intelligent.
Therefore, introverts may be incorrectly described as cold, aloof or scheming. Introverts are less articulate verbally and frequently reflect on their emotions rather than voicing them. When you’ve experienced a loss, for example, they can become very quiet and they empathize profoundly with your sorrow. Yet outwardly, this may sound like aloofness.
And since extroverts are more likely to express their emotions, when someone doesn’t express their emotions, it makes them think one of two things:
Either the introvert is insensitive – or he isn’t sharing his feelings with his coworkers because he dislikes them. This can lead an extrovert to believe that the introvert is either cold-hearted or has become estranged from the team – which can have dire consequences in an office environment.
If you notice one of your colleagues takes their time to speak, don’t judge them too soon: they might just be introverted.
Check out my related post: Is it good to be extroverted leader?