In the rapid-fire of the modern-day workplace, teams with diverse perspectives can produce unique solutions to problems while generating fresh and creative ideas. This powerful perspective is often evident when introverts and extroverts work together in harmony appreciating the rich difference in style and energy.
Our culture tends to stereotype introversion and extraversion in a narrow range of social skills, but according to Carl Jung’s personality theory, these psychological types are more nuanced and complex and have to do with our attention and energy. Extraverts are outgoing, talkative, and energetic and introverts are more reserved and solitary. When faced with a challenge in the workplace, extroverts tend to react by thinking out loud while introverts process their thoughts internally first before vocalizing.
Extroverts think fast on their feet, expressing new ideas with an urgent need to move forward. By the same token, an introvert may appear hesitant and tentative, as they prefer a quiet space and quality time to thoughtfully evaluate issues, generate ideas, and consider contrasting perspectives on problems. Because of their different approaches, extroverts can become impatient with introverts when they don’t respond quickly to an extrovert’s comments or ideas, and this impatience may take away the introvert’s strength and cause missed opportunities for problem-solving. Conversely, introverts often find an extrovert’s long-winded, fast lane energy hard to engage with and sometimes exhausting. These negative assumptions based on different styles can cause both sides to miss-read each other, when in fact these differences can create forceful symmetry that sparks innovation and solves business problems.
In the American culture and workplace, you are rewarded for speaking up and applauded for taking action. Extroverts are natural lightening rods for this kind of recognition. Unlike their counterparts, introverts are faced with the cultural pressure of sprinkling in more extroverted skills to succeed in their careers. Regardless of how culture and workplace recognize and reward, the introvert’s less flashy strengths and natural qualities add substantial value to an organization. A Harvard University study found that introverts as compared to extroverts have thicker grey matter in the prefrontal cortex, an area associated with abstract thinking and decision making which are essential skills in business.
Careful and cautious thinkers, they rarely act impulsively and take their time to judiciously assess a difficult situation or crisis. Introverts prefer to take in all pertinent information before speaking, but when they do speak up, they often surprise their co-workers with insightful comments and suggestions.
Their intense ability to focus allows introverts to investigate, analyze, and get to the bottom of complex business problems. Their penchant for concentration is particularly well suited to plug leaks, sand down flaws, and come up with creative and effective solutions.
Introverts tend to overthink problems conjuring up different scenarios and emotions, but this aspect of their nature makes them more sensitive and responsive to the feelings and sensibilities of colleagues and clients. Introverts know what it is like to feel invisible or ignored in large groups, so they often make sure that every one relevant to an issue or situation is an integral part of a work conversation or project.
The Extrovert Advantage
Enjoying the spotlight, extroverts are comfortable taking center stage at meetings or work events. Their energy excels and expands when they meet with people and have a chance to talk up their ideas. This gives them a distinct advantage in the extraverted work culture where they find it second nature to form relationships, express their opinions, and move forward on projects and decisions.
Extraverts have the gift of gab when it comes to engaging and cultivating relationships. Initial conversations turn into longer discussions that can create potential business leads. Expressing their opinions freely, extraverts easily let you know what they are thinking and feeling.
The number one energizer for extroverts is connecting to people; so working in teams and groups is especially appealing. They benefit from bouncing off their ideas with a team and appreciate feedback from as many people as possible. Because they easily engage with new and familiar people, they are skilled at networking often generating a robust contact list on LinkedIn and easily initiating collaborations with colleagues and co-workers.
Unpredictable scenarios and situations that have a high reward quotient often stimulate extroverts. This tendency was observed in an experiment at the University of California-Davis that presented a gambling task and found that extroverts had a stronger neurological response to both surprise and positive results than introverts. Extroverts tend to favor taking risks at work, viewing the challenge as an adventure and opportunity to show their mastery.
Five Ways Introverts and Extraverts Can Work Together
Introverts prefer writing out their thoughts by email or text rather than expressing them in person, while extroverts prefer to come right out at the moment and talk things through. By accepting these differences, introverts and extroverts can periodically shift from their preferred style of communication to accommodate and support each other.
Extroverts can unintentionally talk over introverts in their excitement to promote their ideas. By breaking at points during their presentation to ask for feedback and then carefully listening to the responses, an extrovert’s overt energy will be less likely to freeze out the introverts.
Introverts shine when given the space and time to use their laser focus talents on important tasks such as planning and research. Awareness can help the extrovert to reign back and patiently give the introvert a chance to engage their careful thinking process. On the other hand, introverts can cooperate with extroverts by coming out of their shell and clearly communicating their ideas and updates on projects.
To develop more introverted skills and self-awareness, the highly sociable extrovert can benefit from quiet alone time to more carefully process work goals and strategies. While the reserved introvert can build confidence by preparing questions and key points in advance of a meeting so they are ready to speak up and be heard.
Introverts and extroverts forge highly beneficial partnerships working together on key initiatives and projects. When an extrovert comes up with an idea, talking it over with an introvert can generate deeper understanding and offer important details to consider that will expand the concept even further. Conversely, an introvert with a new idea can be pushed along by an extravert to take the idea from the thinking stage into action.
The diversity of perspectives contributes to making a company more progressive, innovative, and productive. When introverts and extroverts welcome each other’s differences and capitalize on their strengths, they create dynamic teams that help build a business and a culture of acceptance.
Jane Finkle is a career coach, speaker, and author with over 25 years of experience helping clients with career assessment and workplace adjustment. Jane served as Associate Director of Career Services at the University of Pennsylvania where she created and led the Wharton Career Discovery seminar, and served as liaison to recruiters from major corporations. Her newest book is The Introvert’s Complete Career Guide: From Landing a Job to Surviving, Thriving, and Moving on Up. www.janefinkle.com
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