Psychiatrist Carl Jung developed the concept of introversion and extroversion in the early 1900s. One of the core tell-tale signs on introverts is how they recharge after a social interaction.
Introverts tend to retract inward to recharge and have a low desire for social activity, whereas extroverts are typically outgoing, sociable, and enthusiastic individuals who crave, as well as thrive in, social settings.
But how do you find synergy between seemingly opposite personality types?
The good news is that while introverts and extroverts provide significant value to thriving businesses, introverts are oftentimes overlooked due to their reserved nature. However, by understanding introverts and leveraging their unique abilities, you can create a more open, collaborative work environment where introverts and extroverts flourish.
The Power of Introverts
A recent poll revealed 65% of senior executives viewed introversion negatively. However, studies have shown that extroverted managers with introverted employees achieve 16% higher profits than those with extroverted counterparts.
Despite popular belief, there are invaluable benefits to introverts in the workplace. Here are some of the value props introverts bring to professional settings:
- Intellectual and Analytical
In a Harvard study, gray matter—the brain’s outermost layer that processes and releases new information—was thicker in introverts compared to extroverts. Introverts also showed more activity in the frontal lobes, which are responsible for analyzing and processing thoughts.
Another study revealed that in a relaxed state, introverted brains are more active and have increased blood flow.
This benefits your organization as introverts will likely come with more data-based insights and longer-term solutions. Allowing introverts some extra time to process their thoughts and explore new information might offer invaluable insight on projects, organizational processes, and overall company performance.
Introverts are known for their heightened focus and oftentimes can extend their focus longer than extroverts. Albert Einstein, a well-known introvert, commented that he stays with problems longer in response to his teachers’ concerns about being alienated from his classmates and lost in his thoughts.
Because introverts are more interested in solitude, they tend to be more persistent and detailed in mastering a particular skill than extroverts.
Just because someone is reserved or seems lost in their thoughts, doesn’t mean they are slow or disengaged. They’re likely analyzing the problem or topic at hand and exploring all possible solutions and outcomes.
Though introverts and extroverts are equally intelligent, statistics have shown that approximately 70% of gifted people—individuals who exhibit above-average intelligence or excel in a particular skill—are introverts.
Because introverts are analytical, intellectual, and reserved, they are more likely to hone a particular skill set. They are likely experts in various subjects as they invest their time learning, developing, and expanding their knowledge, skills, and abilities.
Because introverts are incredibly introspective and enjoy their time alone pondering their thoughts, they are less likely to be impacted by external influences. In fact, a study on social conformity found that extroverts are more likely to follow popular opinion even if it is morally wrong and give in to peer pressure. Moreover, as the pressure increased, so did the number of conforming responses from extroverts. Conversely, there was no contrast in conforming responses from introverts regardless of pressure levels.
Extroverts aren’t morally wrong by any means—introverts simply tend to stay grounded in fast-paced, high-stress situations. This is great for businesses and teams that need unpopular opinions and more objective angles on projects, tasks, and initiatives. They will likely balance out the enthusiasm to jump right into something and offer a new perspective to consider.
Different Types of Introverts
In 2011, three psychologists—Jennifer Grimes, Jonathan Cheek, and Julie Norem—provided research on introversion and broke it down into four main types.
- Social. Despite the name, social introverts prefer to be alone. Though they aren’t opposed to occasional social outings with family and friends, they are most comfortable and content in complete seclusion or small groups.
- Thinking. Thinking introverts excel in areas where their intellect can grow—studying, researching, reading, and learning. They like to ponder a question before providing a response and often get lost in their thoughts.
- Anxious. These introverts are usually reserved and may appear nervous. They prefer to be alone and avoid people and situations that may induce heightened anxiety.
- Restrained. Opposite the anxious introvert, restrained introverts come off as considerate and receptive. Though they may come off as unemotional, they are pensive and reliable.
And then, the ambivert—the perfect blend of extrovert and introvert. Their greatest strength is the ability to adapt to different people based on the situation. Research shows ambiverts’ social flexibility allows them to push 51% more product per hour than an average salesperson. They are confident and passionate, but oftentimes they actively listen to customers’ pain points and thus, are perceived as less arrogant.
How to Create a Workplace Where All Personalities Can Succeed
Though extroverts possess key characteristics of successful employees, it is important that some of those traits do not overshadow more introverted employees who offer equally invaluable qualities and skills.
For example, extroverts tend to seek the spotlight and do not enjoy quiet settings for long periods. This could alienate introverted coworkers, such as an extroverted employee’s criticism of an introverted employee for not being a team player due to their reserved nature. Or their need for social interaction could distract or even make introverted employees uncomfortable.
Here are a few tips on managing extroverts’ high energy and enthusiasm, as well as encouraging the extrovert to come out of the introvert.
- Open the dialogue for others to join
While extroverts can offer great ideas and insights, introverts may be less inclined to vocalize their thoughts. Offering a “Thank you for your valued comments, but I’d also like to hear from those who haven’t had a chance to share yet,” can respectfully ask extroverts to pause for others to offer comments and suggestions. This also opens an opportunity for others to jump in.
- Set boundaries and expectations
Though there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach for personalities in the workplace, there are ways to set boundaries and expectations when it comes to managing the differences between introverts and extroverts.
The best approach to establishing boundaries is asking employees their preference for providing input. Do they prefer small group settings or one-on-one meetings? Would having them present their ideas in a presentation be more suitable than calling them out during a meeting? You can’t please everyone, but it’s important to at least take individual preferences into consideration.
If you expect them to contribute during such settings despite their preferences, then set clear expectations on what that might look like. For example, send sample questions or topics prior to the meeting to give introverts an opportunity to gather their thoughts.
- Promote learning and development
Another great way to help introverts and extroverts is to promote learning and development. Extroverts might focus more on emotional intelligence, whereas introverts might want to work on communication skills. That’s not to say either has default deficiencies resulting from their personalities, but offering tools, education, and training to support professional development for all employees is a win-win for employees and your organization.
From a leadership position, check out these tips, tricks, and strategies for strengthening the manager-employee relationship. If you’re looking to support your employees, here is your guide to upskilling and reskilling employees.
Sources: CNBC, Forbes, mindbodygreen, Accion Opportunity Fund
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