The Case of the Introverted Extrovert

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There has been many a night in my lifetime where I dream a dream about not being able to speak or my voice is gone. I try to scream and shout but not a word comes out. Paging Dr. Freud: I think this has something to do with me being concerned about whether my voice is being heard or not.

To further explore this reoccurring theme in my dreams I completed the infamous Myers Briggs Assessment not too long ago; I heard this thing measures personality attributes like introversion and extroversion or something. To my surprise I tested as an Extrovert, just a tad over on the extroversive side but still an extrovert.

This was shocking since my entire life I have constantly been told I am shy, reserved, quiet and…an introvert. I also had been told this served as my Achilles Heel in reaching my full potential at work (ironically I’m in Communications). But then why did my assessment results suggest otherwise?

Upon further research, I discovered that the concept of Introversion and Extroversion are deeply misconstrued within today’s society. What society identifies as extroversive and introversive behavior is something entirely different than what the Myers Brigg’s identifies an individual as. I have found this kind of false application rings true with other behavioral science concepts such as calling people “anti-social” or “OCD.” I’m sure Isabel Briggs Myers is rolling in her grave at the thought of this.

According to MyersBriggs.com one should ask themselves the following questions when thinking about extroversion and introversion:

  1. Where do you put your attention and get your energy?
  2. Do you like to spend time in the outer world of people and things (extroversion) or in your inner world of ideas and images (introversion)?

They also caution to not confuse introversion with shyness or reclusiveness in addition to noting everyone spends some time extroverting and some time introverting. It all boils down to what kinds of things a person feeds off of in order to coexist and interact with others.

Another fun fact about introverts and extroverts, numerous studies have shown that introverts make up roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the U.S. population. Who knew some many walk among us everyday!

Upon being enlightened by this information, being identified as an extrovert began to make more sense to me. I do enjoy interacting with teams and thrive on being surrounded by collective creative energy. I am more of a city boy than a farm boy. And would much rather be out and about than cooked up in my house (sorry, can’t stop making my sentences rhyme).

However, when it comes to being a chatty cathy and being the life of the party, I’d rather observe versus have all eyes on me. I also am another statistic when it comes to agreeing with most Americans that public speaking is scarier than my own demise (Chapman University Survey on American Fears).

However, even if someone does test as an introvert there’s still no reason they can’t be successful in business professional settings. There are numerous benefits to being an introvert in the workplace. According to behavioral and psychology scholar, Dr. Brian Little, some of them are the following:

  1. Caffeine Rush Not Required: Introverts are more receptive to brain stimulation, and too much of it can actually deter from clear and effective thinking.
  2. Learn to listen and listen to learn: When it comes to listening, introverts perform better at this task than extroverts. This carries over into such tasks like better understanding what clients or management wants.
  3. Plays Well with Other: According to Little, introverts work well with extroverts often taking on the role of interviewer and in turn forming an effective way to share information and communicate.
  4. Extrovert Mode On: Introverts have the ability to switch on their extrovert mode for situations that require that social-butterfly behavior. It’s more challenging to reel back than to add-on.

So next time someone wants to label you an introvert (like it’s bad thing), explain to them the true meaning of this behavior indicator and see who the real introvert is. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts on this widely misunderstood topic.

Ryan Rosado is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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19 Comments

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Profile Photo SM Baynard

Thank you Ryan! I was just reflecting on how my own introversion has not deterred me professionally. Having worked in customer service for a number of years, I had to ‘turn on’ my extrovert side. At the end of the day, I could not wait to relax at home.

Great post.

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Profile Photo Ryan Rosado

Glad you could identify with my post! I hope people in the workplace begin to appreciate people with introversive qualities more than they currently do. It takes all kinds, right?

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Profile Photo Eva Fulton

ditto for me too, I didn’t realize until a couple of years that I could flip into extroversion or introversion but I have started practicing it and it works. There are times to do each and it works well for me. Liking quiet time and working alone does not always mean that one is introverted, it just means that they like the quiet time to think without distractions and it brings some balance to the otherwise extroverted chaos life. Great article!

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Profile Photo Ryan Rosado

Yes, very true statement! It’s also always harder for someone who loves to hear their own voice pull back on that than for someone to amp up their talkative side. I’m glad you could relate to this commonly misunderstood behavioral concept.

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Christina

Thanks for writing this article – I could definitely relate! I am on the borderline between introvert and extrovert, and I actually lean just a little bit more on the introverted side. (Also, I agree that public speaking is the worst, however, I try to summon all of my extroverted-ness to do this well!). Do you think that one’s career or stage in life can affect whether they are introverted or extroverted? I find that I am actually becoming more extroverted as I am required to do more trainings and public speaking with programs that I manage…

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Profile Photo Ryan Rosado

Glad you liked my post, Christina 🙂 ! I do think as one progresses through their career they gain more confidence and don’t exhibit as many introvertive qualities as they used to. Glad to hear you’re able to expand your extrovertive abilities though! I have had similar success with being less nervous with public speaking by doing routine presentations at work. Practice makes perfect!

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Jimmy Orum

Hey Ryan, thanks for a great post. I recently found some old MBTI results I’d taken while in college and found it interesting that one result labeled me an extrovert and the second an introvert. I’m also ironically in communications, so I’m very familiar with those moments when it’s time to switch my introvert mode into extrovert mode when needed.

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Lori

As an introvert who often does feel “like it’s a bad thing” but can’t seem to change (and have finally decided I don’t need to!) I thoroughly enjoyed this book:
“Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain.
If you are an introvert, or love one but don’t understand them, give this a read.

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LaShawn Graham

I’ve known for quite some time that I am introverted, but can be extroverted when the task or situation requires it. I don’t like to be the center of attention; however, at work I have had to become less invisible to ensure that others realize my worth!

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Profile Photo Carol Garceau

Introvert here…but what is funny about me is I am a trainer for my state department for the academy which all new Correctional Officers must attend. I have also been a public information officer at a local level when I worked in institutions and have been a community liaison. I can definitely take on a rule which is more comfortable for those who are natural extroverts, but I am an INTJ personality so I am also very concerned about the job being done right which prompts me to help others understand what our policies and procedures mean in actual practice. I love doing the behind the scenes things which streamline our department but if I spend an entire day working on a project alone I crave some interaction with people. I also love training, but I definitely know if I am the lead instructor for the whole day I am a bit drained when I get home and I need to decompress by enjoying some quiet time.

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Profile Photo Ryan Rosado

Thanks for sharing your thoughts; it’s interestiing how our professions and our different MBTI traits compensate for areas where others think we may be lacking. It’s all a balancing act, right?

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Mark Hammer

Well familiar with Brian Little’s work. Even taught in the same department, briefly.
One of the things to understand about the superficial aspects of humans is that the degree of risk-taking, confidence, and “tolerance for stimulation” that they display, is very much a by-product of the degree of familiarity they have with the situation in question. After all, our unease about sitations stems from not knowing what to do in response to X. If you have a seasoned repertoire of strategies and responses, then the threat level is reduced. The more extroverted might likely be more willing to take a risk in an unfamiliar situation, but for a lot of situations, you would be generally unable to tell the intros and extros apart.

This is of course why you can find plenty of folks who could stride fearlessly onto a stage in front of hundreds or thousands, whether in a lecture hall or Broadway, and go way out on a limb, yet be very shy and seeking of quiet and reduced stimulation when off that stage.

Some research has indicated that parental beliefs can impact on children’s emerging social confidence. Where parents indicate a strong belief that temperament, and especially shyness, is pretty much “inborn” and unmodifiable, their children tend to show similar levels of shyness over the period of longitudinal study (from pre-school into later primary grades). Where parental beliefs are that such traits are modifiable, kids who start off at the same measured degree of shyness are seen to be more outgoing than the first group at later ages. Ostensibly, this is because the parents treat the presumed modifiability of social shyness as a reason to (gently) expose the child to new and different situations. If one believes this trait is unlikely to change, there is little reason to “upset the apple cart”. It’s what I always liked to refer to as “ouija board effects”: those influences on development where the parent swears they are being pulled by the child’s characteristics, but is actually pushing more than they realize.

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Hannah

I’m an introverted extrovert, and I can find next to nothing on the topic, cus everyone else seems to be an extroverted introvert. Everything you said was spot-on until you hit your four points which were off for me., but I appreciate your post. I am reserved, but definitely an extrovert.

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