Introvert, Extrovert or Something Else Entirely?

Seems like not a day passes when someone doesn’t mention the term introvert or extrovert when referring to themselves or to another person they work with. People are often labeled as introverts if they are quiet, calm or shy when dealing with other people. On the flip side, people who are chatty, friendly and outgoing are frequently labeled as extroverts. Is this the correct way to use these terms? Let’s review the common definition of introvert and extrovert so we can answer this question.

In my understanding, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone.  For introverts, being around other people drains their energy. As an introvert myself, I often avoid or minimize the time spent in social situations because being around people really does drain off my energy over time. Funny enough, I consider myself a friendly person with pretty good social skills.  After being with people for any length of time, I need time alone “in the cave” to recharge my batteries.  I also like to sit alone and think and typically find myself thinking before I speak.

On the flip side, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people. This is the exact opposite of Susan the introvert who gets energized or re-energized by being alone.  My mother is an extrovert and really enjoys being around other people. Unlike me, she would rather talk with and be around other people because she finds this to be energizing as well as interesting. My mother would far rather be out in a social situation versus sit alone and think or read a book. We are definitely at opposite ends of the spectrum.

In many ways, I see myself as an “extroverted introvert”.  I can be as adept at the social situation as my mother, but doing so wears me out over time. When my mother and I attend the same social functions, I come home feeling exhausted while she comes home all jazzed up. I have always had to manage my energy when I am working since the workday drains my energy as the day goes on. By the end of the day, I am really tired but the customer and the folks I work with will never know that. They see the high-energy, driven and focused consultant they hired to solve their problems versus the woman who wants to get back to the hotel, take off her shoes and close her eyes for a bit to reverse the energy drain.

A friend told me once that introverts make up about a third of the population here in the United States while extroverts make up the other two-thirds. Seems like the projects and teams I work with in IT are a little more weighted towards the introverts, have you noticed a similar trend?

Seems like both introverts and extroverts need to work on their professionalism and how they translate your approach to others and to deriving energy within that framework.  I have always thought that it is the people who make the workplace and the work itself interesting, whether those people are labeled as an introvert or as an extrovert. Of course, interesting can be a good thing or a bad thing but that is a subject for a future post.

Susan Weese

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