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Introversion and extroversion in the workplace

Understanding your personality can improve workplace interactions

Have you ever wondered why we can talk easily with some people and not with others?

In this article, we’ll look at one measure that can be very helpful: understanding your preference for extroversion or introversion and how this impacts your discussions and interactions with others.

Many people have used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) tool at some point. The following brief survey is not a substitute for the full MBTI, but it will help you get some clarity about personalities in the workplace.

So let’s see if you tend to prefer extroversion or introversion. As you complete the survey, it’s helpful to keep in mind that neither type is better or worse – each brings strengths and weaknesses to any given situation.

Please rank each of the statements below, using a scale of 1-5:

  1. Does not sound like me at all
  2. Not me
  3. Neutral
  4. Sounds like me
  5. Yes, this is definitely me

Extroversion:

  • I tend to focus on the outer world of people and things
  • Others might say that I “think out loud”
  • I am likely to introduce myself to others
  • I may know a wide circle of people
  • Too much solitary work is stressful for me
  • I am energized by being with people
  • I don’t mind frequent interruptions (phone calls, visits)
  • I may share thoughts and feelings without reservation

My total score on Extroversion: _____

Introversion:

  • I tend to focus on the inner world of ideas and impressions
  • I think and reflect before giving my opinion
  • I am more likely to be introduced to others than to introduce myself
  • I tend to have a small circle of friends with whom I interact deeply
  • Long periods of solitary work are OK for me
  • Frequent interruptions can be distracting for me (phone calls, visits)
  • I can re-energize by taking time alone
  • I can be private with my feelings

My total score on Introversion: _____

Which set of statements gives you the higher score?

So what do you do with this information?

Let’s imagine a conversation in a meeting with an Extrovert (E) and an Introvert (I). People who prefer extroversion generally don’t really know what they are thinking until they can talk it through. As they talk, things become clearer to them; consequently, they often change direction as they talk.

People preferring introversion don’t really know what they want/need to say until they can think it through. When an immediate discussion is necessary, that discussion often interferes with their process, can even leave them feeling confused, or as though they didn’t say what they needed to say.

So what can happen?

Es and Is can agree ahead of time on what they are going to talk about, but when the time comes for discussion, people who prefer extroversion are likely to want to talk about the new issues that come up in the course of the conversation. People preferring introversion may feel resentful because they have not had the time to think about the newly introduced topics and may feel that the conversation is a waste of time.

The person preferring extroversion may feel irritated because their introverted colleagues are not giving anything back. They are not responding in the moment to the extrovert’s ideas.

As the conversation goes on, the opportunity for misunderstanding and conflict is now in place, and it can become worse as each type pursues his or her own needs and preferences in the conversation. The extrovert wants to talk about the new topics right now, and the introvert wants to consider the new information and flow. The extrovert may even interpret this as avoidance by the introvert.

What can you do about this type of conflict?

In the workplace and in other settings, the solution starts with being aware of your own style and how you relate to a situation. As an extrovert, you can work on sticking to the agreed upon topic. If you have a new idea that springs up, mention that you have a new idea and would like to bring it into the conversation.

For the introverts, you can work on being more aware of how your preferences can be misinterpreted, and you can ask for more time to reflect if you need it.

Both personality types need to set the ground rules in advance, before the emotional disarray gets a chance to upset the conversation.

And as I said earlier, neither preference is bad nor good – the world needs both. However, through understanding, we can improve conversations and discussions between the extrovert and the introvert.

(Source: Nancy Barger, Consulting Psychologists Press, 2008)


leadership-development-coach-dodsAbout Jess Dods: Jess Dods is a Career Transition and Leadership Development coach located in Massachusetts. He brings extensive career transition and Leadership Development experience in coaching and consulting along with experience in domestic and international business to help  clients define and achieve their career goals. Contact him today for a no obligation free consultation.

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