Introverts and extraverts are two distinct personality types. The Introvert derives energy and sustenance from solitude and quiet, and finds social interaction exhausting and draining. They can socialize, but have to recharge afterwards. Extraverts derive energy from social interaction, company and noise, and generally a lot of action and sensory stimulation. They find social activity energizing and stimulating, and find solitude boring and lonely. Of course I am generalizing. There are individual differences in personality types, and of course there are Ambiverts, who have both introvert and extravert qualities.

Intros and extras can complement one another in relationships, including professional and workplace relationships. Both personality types have something to bring to the table, and can work together to promote balance in the workplace, by bringing in very different points of view and behaviors.

General guidelines:

Understand each other. Get past the stereotypes and understand who extraverts are if you are an introvert, and vice versa, and how their personality differences will be expressed in the workplace. If you are a manager, consider an in-service training, or workshop on the Introvert/Extravert personality typology for your workplace.

Introverts: Will tend to be reserved, quiet, and may appear cold, aloof or standoffish, or even secretive. Those are personality traits, or individual components of the personality which may or not be part of the introvert personality type. Within a personality type, people are still individuals with differences. Much of the time, introverts are busy watching and thinking, and may appear distant. Don’t assume they are being cold or aloof. Introverts may hold in anger, and not express emotions in general. They may give offense by turning down invitations to after work events. They will shun attention. Introverts may be very bright, but their lack of expression can cause them to be perceived as dull.

Extraverts: Extraverts will tend to be outgoing, will talk and laugh louder, and may have shorter fuses and express anger more. They will tend to draw attention to themselves and their accomplishments. They tend to appear very confident, and may be perceived as very bright. They are definitely vibrant and energetic, but are sometimes more form than substance. “      ,

Figure out who’s who.

Introverts and extraverts may self- identify, or they may have taken the Myers’ Briggs Personality test (The Myers & Briggs Foundation, 2015) or a similar personality inventory. This test can be administered by a qualified professional, or taken on line. It can reveal your personality type in four polar dimensions, including introversion and extraversion:

  • Extraversion or Introversion (E or I) Energy from and preference for company or solitude?
  • Sensing or Intuition (S or N) Do you focus on incoming sensory information, or do you look for underlying patterns and possibilities?
  • Thinking or Feeling (T or F) Are you primarily in your head or your heart?
  • Judging or Perceiving (J or P) Do you primarily make surface judgements or do you look deeper?

An example of a Myers-Briggs personality type would be the INTJ. This type is also known as the architect. (Neris Analytics Limited, 2015). Each personality type has varying gifts and abilities which are best matched to certain career fields.

If you are an Introvert working with extraverts:

  • Maintain good boundaries and be Extraverts can be intrusive and aggressive. They have dynamic and strong personalities. Don’t let them run you over.
  • Remember that introversion is not abnormal; it is a personality type. Don’t be embarrassed to say you are going to go home and read when everyone else is going to happy hour. Or consider this: unless it is the person signing your paycheck, to what degree are you accountable to those you work with regarding your personal life? Do you owe an explanation or have to account for or justify your time outside of work? See point number one. .
  • Share ideas. Use your strengths. When you have an idea, don’t keep it to yourself. Hopefully, you work for an organization that truly values creative thinkers. If not, is it time to move on?
  • Don’t be rude or aloof, and fulfill one of the stereotypes of an introvert. Use your manners, and be patient. You can maintain privacy and boundaries without being nasty to people. I have to remind myself of this one often.
  • Focus on people one at a time so it is not overwhelming. Get together with a colleague for a discussion, or informal dinner meeting.
  • Be flexible and go to happy hour for one drink. Put in an appearance at the office party or picnic. Make a point to meet new people and recognize that an advantage extraverts have is they are skilled at networking and making attachments with a variety of people. Do what introverts do best and watch how they do it and learn.

If you are an extravert working with introverts:

  1. Give the introverts some space. We need it in order to think, process, and do the best work.
  2. Remember that not everyone likes team building activities, parties, or being in the spotlight. Don’t project your preferences and frame for normalcy on to others- It may not fit.
  3. Check in with them after meetings to get some of their thoughts they may not have expressed.
  4. Don’t be offended by their distance. It is just the way we are wired. We need space, privacy, and only interact with carefully selected others.
  5. If you want the company of an introvert after work, invite them for something involving just the two of you, or a very small group.
  6. If an introvert does go to an after work get together, or company picnic or party, expect it to be a brief appearance.

 

My points above are about contrasting opposites, and how they can meet in the middle. Introverts and extraverts can bring qualities into the workplace which are complimentary, and can enhance the productivity of the other.

 

Written by David A. Porter, MA, LADC
Private Practice clinician
Adjunct Faculty in Psychology and Criminology
Freelance Behavioral Science writer