Last time, I wrote about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as an amazing personality assessment that gets the ball rolling on your own self-awareness.
This time, I’d like to dive into the first of the four dichotomies of the MBTI by starting with the Energy Source category. This one is arguably the best known because most people are familiar with the opposite ends of the spectrum, extraverts and introverts. A lot of people think of this as simply quiet versus talkative, yet it is so much more than that.
This category is really about energy flow. Extraverts get their energy from things that are outside of themselves, such as people, things, and activities. Introverts get their energy from being more inwardly focused on their thoughts, ideas, and contemplations.
My boss and I co-facilitate a 9-day leadership class. I’m an E and he is an I. I’m such an E, that I had the nickname Motor Mouth as a child and had a lucrative business of getting paid to be quiet! 25 cents for every 10 minutes I didn’t say anything. Not bad for a 5 year old back in the day.
Anyway, so he and I are in front of a class all day, and we manage just fine. However at the end of the day, he goes home and sits outside, contemplating the scenery and doesn’t want to deal with any more pesky humans. I, on the other hand, get home just pumped up and ready for action! We both do the gig, he just is drained at the end of the day while I have energy to spare. It’s about our source of energy.
Let me give you a visual at how this might play out at work, starting with the introverts.
Picture a hermit living at the top of a hill with a village below. Once a week, the villagers pack a crate with supplies for the hermit. They take it up the hill and leave it outside the hermits abode. After they leave, the hermit pulls the crate inside and carefully pulls out the items, analyzing the contents. Now, picture a meeting with a quiet person sitting in the back of the room. The villagers, AKA other meeting attendees, are slinging supplies around at a fast and furious pace. The hermit gathers all that “stuff” into his crate, to be taken out and analyzed at a later time. See the parallelism?
Introverts are territorial; they’re happy that the new smaller cube size doesn’t allow for a guest chair. They like to have fewer relationships, but the ones they have tend to be deeper. They disclose personal information very cautiously. My boss was three years in to a four-year program before I ever knew he was taking night classes! I mean, seriously, I talked to him every day for three years, and he never shared that info. Introverts are the ones who think of the perfect comeback to a snarky comment – about 20 minutes later.
The whammy that society puts on introverts is asking for that immediate response. “Hey, Joe, you haven’t said anything all meeting. What do YOU think we should do?” Introverts can and will respond, but if you want an answer they are going to stick with, they need that space to unpack the crate and reflect upon the data. Introverts need to ASK for that space. “Well, right now I think we should do XXX, but I’ll get back to you with my definitive answer in the morning.”
Now let’s talk about the other side of the coin, extraverts. The visual here is the person who walks into your office on Monday morning and just … goes. “Hey, how was your weekend? Mine was great! Got my kids all packed up and off to another great year of college! Did you see the Olympics and the Men’s Basketball?!? Whew, that was a close one! And the weather yesterday…wow…Michigan has 10 perfect days a year and that was one of them! About that project…you know…the one with that thing? Yeah, well, the contractor is having a hard time procuring the needed tooling, so I think it’s going to shift to the right…”
It’s as if someone cut off the top of their head and they are just dumping their brain out on the floor in your office.
Extraverts are social beings. They want that extensive network of people to interact with and so have many, many relationships. They practically ooze energy with their gregarious personality and their expressiveness. We had some suicide prevention training at work recently, and all bosses had to talk to their people and give them the “you know you can come talk to me about anything, right?” speech. When my boss said that, I burst out laughing. My response? “Don’t worry! I tell you when I have a hangnail, so I’m not going to hold out on you!” We extraverts freely disclose things.
There are two whammies that society puts on extraverts. The first is stopping the process. “Whoa there! Wait a second! I haven’t got time right now. Can you bottom line it for me?” True extraverts can’t. You are hearing a stream of consciousness from them. They haven’t got to that final thought, expressed verbally, yet. If you truly want to make them tear their hair out, try this: “Better yet, can you put that in an email?” Talking to think and thinking to write are two vastly different brain processes! Best to hitch up your pants and let that stuff spew out on your office floor and move to the next paragraph.
The second whammy is holding them to everything they say. As this verbal diatribe is occurring, you may hear things repeated, contradicted, and seemingly ramble along. You have to let it happen and then you have to ask them. At the end, ask “so what’s actionable in all that?” The answer may be nothing, but let them look at the pile on the floor and pick out the one or two things.
I pulled some interesting articles on the pros and cons of introverts and extraverts for a deeper dive. Very coincidently, my favorite productivity podcast aired an episode this week on extraverts and introverts, so I threw that link in here for good measure! Introvert Strikes Back? The Newfound Cool of Being Introverted