How to Thrive In an Introverted/​Extroverted Workplace

This guest post was written by Jabril Robinson, a Career Devel­op­ment intern and grad­uate stu­dent in the Col­lege Stu­dent Devel­op­ment and Coun­seling pro­gram here at NU.

Per­son­ality is defined as “the com­bi­na­tion of char­ac­ter­is­tics or qual­i­ties that form an individual’s unique char­acter” (Psy­chology Today). Under­standing one’s per­son­ality type is cru­cial, not only in adapting to a work­place envi­ron­ment, but also selecting a work­place to be a member of in the first place. One of the most common exam­ples of per­son­al­i­ties comes down to extro­ver­sion and intro­ver­sion. Although these may be widely used terms, I’ve noticed in my expe­ri­ence that rel­a­tively few people actu­ally under­stand what encom­passes an intro­vert or an extro­vert, and what essen­tially makes them dif­ferent. If you are one of those indi­vid­uals who find the sub­ject to be per­plexing (or just have a gen­eral interest), please read on!

Q: What is the dif­fer­ence between an Intro­vert and an Extrovert?

A: Intro­vert: Not sur­pris­ingly, intro­verts are re-​​energized by having “alone time”. Even when working with small groups of people, they can be quickly over­whelmed by unfa­miliar sit­u­a­tions or sur­round­ings. Depending on the sit­u­a­tion, a large crowd of people can be an instant red flag to an intro­vert. When it comes to work, intro­verts prefer to con­cen­trate on one task at a time, and observe a sit­u­a­tion (or group of people) in advance, before jumping in.

Careers that pro­mote the strengths of intro­verts include sci­en­tists, writers, and artists. Famous exam­ples of intro­verts include actress Julia Roberts, actor Clint East­wood, host David Let­terman, and author J.K Rowling.

A: Extro­vert: Often referred to as “social but­ter­flies”, extro­verts make a living through social stim­u­la­tion. They focus on ele­ments of the external envi­ron­ment (in con­trast to an introvert’s inner mental realm), such as the people on activ­i­ties around them. Extro­verts thrive in active, fast-​​paced jobs, such as sales, teaching, and pol­i­tics, where skills such as adapt­ability, problem-​​solving, and quick decision-​​making are crit­ical. Extro­verts learn first­hand by doing, and prefer to talk through ideas and solu­tions. Mul­ti­tasking is an extrovert’s bread and butter.

Famous exam­ples of extro­verts include Oprah Win­frey, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, actor Tom Hanks, and former NBA player Michael Jordan.

Q: Are there mis­con­cep­tions regarding Intro­verts or Extroverts?

A: Indeed! For instance, shy­ness is a trait com­monly used to describe intro­verts. Firstly, both intro­verts and extro­verts can be shy. Shy­ness is essen­tially a feeling of uneasi­ness of anx­iety expe­ri­enced in social sit­u­a­tions. Here’s the key dif­fer­ence between shy­ness and intro­ver­sion: while intro­verts prefer less social stim­u­la­tion, shy people often desire social inter­ac­tion, yet avoid it for fear of being rejected or crit­i­cized. Boom! Intro­verts rejoice!

A mis­con­cep­tion involving extro­ver­sion is that all extro­verts are loud, annoying, and talk too much. While this may be true for some indi­vid­uals, not all extro­verts are such. Extro­verts simply prefer to think out loud, whereas an intro­vert may do more internal thinking before speaking–just a style difference.

There are sev­eral other mis­un­der­stand­ings when defining intro­ver­sion and extro­ver­sion, which brings me to my next point.…

To be a suc­cessful employee, it is cru­cial to under­stand not only your­self, but also the per­son­al­i­ties of those around you in the work­place. Issues can arise when intro­verts and extro­verts interact. Intro­verts may see extro­verts as bossy, while an extro­vert may see an intro­vert as shy or with­drawn. Whether an intro­vert or extro­vert, here’s some advice that may help you under­stand what is going on across the fence:

What extro­verts should know about their intro­verted colleagues:

1) If we need alone time, it is not because we don’t like you, rather because we need it–don’t take that as a per­sonal insult.

2) If you want to hear our opinion, please be patient. We aren’t in a rush to speak up–we know we will have our turn eventually.

3) We are not lonely people, but we are choosy about who we asso­ciate our­selves with. If you try to turn us into extro­verts, you will not be one of those people!

What intro­verts should know about their extro­verted colleagues:

1) If we try to get you to loosen up, we aren’t doing so to annoy you. Hon­estly, we mean well.

2) If you are strug­gling with small talk, we can help with that–it is a useful skill, whether you like it or not.

3) We are not all the same–just like intro­verts. There are extro­verts who have a quiet side too–you just have to keep an open mind.

Not sure where you fit on the extroversion/​introversion spec­trum? Set up an hour-​​long appoint­ment with a coun­selor in the Office of Career Devel­op­ment! Uti­lizing per­son­ality assess­ments, we can help you iden­tify your strengths, weak­nesses, and what career paths may best serve your abilities.

Jabril Robinson is a Career Devel­op­ment Intern at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. He has a growing interest in per­son­ality assess­ment, such as Strength­squest, True Colors, and sev­eral others. Cur­rently enrolled in North­eastern University’s Col­lege Stu­dent Devel­op­ment & Coun­seling Pro­gram, Jabril seeks a Master’s degree within stu­dent affairs. Send him an email at j.​robinson@​neu.​edu!

Fea­tured image source: Wild​hair​media​.com