My coach, John Agno , posted this article for the coaches in his network, but I thought I’d share it with leaders who want to understand why “how they process” affects “how they relate” to others.
Many people believe that introverts, by definition, are shy and extroverts are outgoing. This is incorrect. Introverts and extroverts differ in how they process information. Introverts get their energy internally. Extroverts gain energy from being with other people, often the more the merrier.
There are shy extroverts and outgoing introverts. Most of us have a little of both in us, but lean one way or the other.
Introverts often prefer to spend time alone or in small groups of people, and they tend to carefully gather their thoughts before they speak. Extroverts love to talk and typically “think out loud,” processing information by talking.
You don’t need a degree in psychology to see how this could cause serious problems in a relationship. Introverts and extroverts approach the world in fundamentally different ways. Introverts think extroverts talk too fast, too loud and too much. Extroverts often believe introverts are awkward, withholding or cold.
In today’s social-media driven world, it’s getting easier for introverts to speak on their own terms, yet it’s also getting harder to turn the extroverts off.
The population is split pretty much evenly between introverts and extroverts, according to psychologist Laurie Helgoe, assistant clinical professor at the West Virginia School of Medicine and author of “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength.” In a 1998 study conducted by the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (the folks who run the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test), 51% of some 3,000 subjects who were randomly sampled and tested were introverts. In a smaller study in 2001, 57% were introverts. Introverts were pretty evenly split between males and females, too.
In brain-imaging studies, brains of introverts show more activity in response to external stimuli. This could explain why introverts feel the need to regulate the amount of stimulation coming in. In contrast, extravert brains show more activity in areas related to pleasure-seeking. They find social interactions fun and are driven to create them.
When someone speaks to an introvert, her brain responds with a high level of activity. “It is as if several lights start flashing on a control panel,” says Dr. Helgoe. The introvert needs to turn inward. If the other person keeps talking, the introvert can become distracted from her mental process and feel overwhelmed.
When introverts and extroverts converse, “what looks like communication can actually be a problem,” says Dr. Helgoe. The introvert is quiet and appears to be listening; the extrovert takes this as a cue to keep talking. “The introvert may shut out the extrovert, perhaps while silently nodding, or stop trying to contribute,” she says. The extrovert needs to learn to slow down, but the introvert needs to learn to speak up.
Need some help improving your introvert-extrovert relations?
If so, first figure out “who you are” by taking some online personality tests. (Here’s a link to a free MBTI.)
Recognize that introverts and extroverts simply process information differently. Extroverts really do need to be with other people. Introverts need ‘down time.’ Extroverts don’t know what they are thinking until they speak it….whereas…Introverts need time to think through the issue but, generally, will not talk about their conclusion until asked.
If you wish to discuss an important issue with an Introvert, give the person early notice as to what you wish to discuss; so the introvert can think it through before it is time to discuss the issue with you.
Source: Wall Street Journal, June 28, 2011
Laurie Helgoe Ph.D.: Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength