It Takes All Kinds: Where does your energy go?

Thanks to pop(ular) psychology our society has a big misunderstanding of Introversion and Extraversion. We tend to confuse Introversion with shyness and Extraversion with social skills and popularity.

That’s not necessarily the case. I know many socially savvy Introverts and some socially anxious Extraverts. So let’s start over…

There is an internal world full of thoughts, feelings and sensations, and an external world full of stuff and sensations. We all live in both worlds. It’s just that some of us are more tuned-in to our internal world (Introverts) and some are more tuned-in to the external world (Extraverts). Not surprisingly that preference influences where we find much of our energy.


Preference: Internal World

Introverts get much of their energy from and give their energy to their internal world. Part of their internal world is their internal processor through which they run information from the outside world, combining it with their thoughts, feelings and/or values. As a result, they spend more time considering information before responding to their environment. In everyday life this looks like the person in meetings who doesn't speak up until the very end. In the realm of relationships they tend to prefer meaningful connections with a few trusted others. When in the company of those trusted individuals they may let loose and be the life of the party, possibly looking like a stereotypical Extravert. However, at the end of the day they need their alone time to hear themselves think and recharge their batteries.

Fun Fact: A recent study showed that in preparation for an unpleasant or stressful task Introverts tend to seek calm and quiet. They may even clean their room/house before starting in on the task, which can look like procrastination, but is just a way to channel their energy by creating an orderly and calm environment.*

An Introvert, Rory loves Amy and even The Doctor, when he eventually earns it. He does his part in their adventures, but his goal is living a good life helping people in his town as a medical doctor and as a husband to the woman he loves.

An Introvert, Rory loves Amy and even The Doctor, when he eventually earns it. He does his part in their adventures, but his goal is living a good life helping people in his town as a medical doctor and as a husband to the woman he loves.

Preference: External World

Extraverts get much of their energy from and give their energy to the external world. As a result they tend to be sensitive to what is going on in the world around them. They also tend have a more direct connection between the Input and Output in their internal processor. So, in meetings and conversations they tend to take in information and respond to it quickly. I’ve compared conversations between highly extraverted people to ping-pong matches: ideas fly back and forth very quickly.

This can look like neither one is listening and they are just waiting to talk next. However, Extraverts may be demonstrating their interest by contributing the next idea relevant to what the other person said. People with a preference for extraversion get energy from conversations like these and also from interacting in larger, high energy groups. It is part of the reason why they tend to have larger groups of friends and are more at ease in social situations.

Fun Fact: The same study mentioned above found that in preparation for an unpleasant task, Extraverts tend to seek out energetic fun. This can look like procrastination, but it’s a way to charge the energy banks before diving in.

As Extraverts, The Doctor and Amy are constantly seeking out new, interesting experiences out in space and time. They bounce ideas off each other, often completing each others sentences (and neither are bothered by this).

As Extraverts, The Doctor and Amy are constantly seeking out new, interesting experiences out in space and time. They bounce ideas off each other, often completing each others sentences (and neither are bothered by this).


How to reach a person who is focused on the inner world: Give them space and time. If you ask a question, wait three seconds before moving on or adding information. You will be rewarded by a more thoughtful answer. Ask them follow-up questions instead of telling them the next thing. It’s not a ping-pong match. If you want to be one of their close, trusted few have some extended one-on-one time with them doing something important. 

How to reach a person who is focused on the external world: Give them some energy. Because they are sensitive to the external world, the attitude you bring to them will have a big impact on the attitude you get from them. If you want to have a conversation, don’t wait for them to ask questions to further the topic. Instead, add your perspective. If you want to go deeper, ask pointed questions.

It Takes All Kinds: Managing our World

We’ve all seen that office that is “neat as a pin” because there is a “place for everything and everything is in its place.” On the other end of the spectrum we have all seen that office that always looks like a hurricane went through. Clearly it must be a matter of laziness if someone doesn’t put the paper in its alphabetical slot the second they are done with it... right? Possibly. More likely, the different organizational styles are symptoms of how a person naturally prefers to manage the world around them.

Preference: Dynamic

People who prefer a dynamic management system love new situations and the surprises they bring (e.g. troubleshooting). When things are happening they like to go where things take them. As a result, they are less likely to create extensive plans. After all, if you focus on the plan to go left, you won’t even see the potentially better options available if you go right. Also, for people with a dynamic management preference, when they are in the flow of the moment it feels natural to stay there unless something more dynamic (interesting, important, etc.) changes their trajectory. Think Newton's First Law of Motion. This is why they don’t put the paper away, in its alphabetical slot, across the room, the second they are done with it. They are too busy going straight into the next step of the project. Not so lazy after all.


Preference: Structure

People who prefer a structured management system like to have a clear understanding of how the world around them is working. So, they bring their own with them. They carry with them an organizational system or a plan that they can use in every situation, including new situations. Their plans are based on their ideas about how the world should work. It might be based on personal values, prior experiences, facts, or care for the wellbeing of others. They take this idea of how the world should work and determine whether or not the world, the people around them, and they themselves adequately meet their expectations. If it doesn’t meet muster, they will happily come up with a plan to fix the problem. System failure or straying too far from the plan tends to create anxiety.



Things to consider when you would like someone with a dynamic preference to use a more organized process:

  1. Make your case and make it impactful. If you need them to change trajectory, make sure they understand why the thing is important now or in the near future.
  2. Dynamic folks work better with some structure to direct their energy, but you may need to relax on your idea of what structure looks like. For instance, Strategic Piles can work as part of an organizational system as long as the only person who needs to find something is the person doing the piling. If you regularly need to find something that a piler also uses, the most sustainable option is to ask them to regularly set times for filing, cleaning, etc. whatever they’ve been using.
  3. If you would like a more sustainable organization system that actually work for those with a dynamic preference, stay tuned. My next blog series is going to be time management and organization tips that work for those with a dynamic preference!

Things to consider when you would like someone with a structure preference to stay more open and flexible:

  1. Give as much warning as possible.
  2. Give as much information as possible.
  3. If you are dynamic, use your talent for troubleshooting to come up with a new plan based as closely as possible on the original plan that will allow you to include the new factors (or awesome opportunity available to you if you turn right).
  4. If a rapid significant departure of the plan is needed, make sure you create a complete and compelling argument for change.


It Takes All Kinds: What do you know?

"Let's start at the beginning, the very best place to start." When it comes to cognitive processing the information sources that we focus on are going to have a huge impact on how we understand the world. Differences in preference for information can result in very different views of the world. Understanding those differences is key for working effectively with others.

Preference: Detailed Hands-On Data

Some people focus on the data from their immediate surroundings that they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Not surprising, in Myers Briggs terminology it is called a preference for Sensing. Being physically close to the information they prefer means that they are usually pretty good at remembering the details of their surroundings. It also means they have a better sense of practical causes and effects, and the appropriate application of this information. As a result, they tend to trust experience over some vague seeming theory. This close-up view of cause and effect means these folks also tend to be good at developing and following Standard Operating Procedures. 

One practical way of thinking about the preference for sources of information is how we think about directions when we drive. This sensing preference is like having turn-by-turn, street level view instructions. You know to turn left at... then right at... etc. Having taken that road before or getting your directions from someone else who has, you might even have important information about potholes and other problems.


Preference: Big Picture Pattern Data

Some people focus on the larger map of how the world works. They tend to mistrust any data, including their own experiences, until they find where it fits in a pattern, or theory. The immediate connection of data to a patterns allows them to make leaps of logic. (Think of the alphabet. If I say “ABCDE” you will already be thinking F before I say it.) By extending established patterns a step or ten, they can anticipate potential problems down the road and imagine new, innovative ways of solving problems. In Myers Briggs terminology it is called a preference for Intuition, due to those characteristic leaps of logic.

Back to the driving analogy. This intuitive preference is like having a large map of the area you are trying to navigate. Having this big picture provides a sense of how the system of streets and neighborhoods work together. With this knowledge you know to drive north, and that this street will take you within a mile or so of your destination, at which point you need to head east, etc...

Working with All Kinds

The frustration tends to come in when we don't understand these differences. The person with a preference for hands-on experience may often see the leaps of logic as baseless, reckless, impractical, and even dangerous. In contrast, the person with a preference for patterns and theories may often see the focus on past experience and daily practicalities as short-sighted, limiting, slow and even dangerous.

It takes both kinds to to be successful. In this fast paced world, we need new possibilities as much as we need practical considerations. We need to attend to details so we don't fail before we achieve the big picture. Understanding these preferences is the first step towards effectively bringing both mindsets together. The next step is to find ways to work better together on a day-to-day basis.

So, if you have a preference for big picture processes, how do you work with a hands-on, detail person to incorporate their knowledge of the practical with your big picture?

  1. Be aware that leaps of logic come to you like breathing to the point that you may not realize it was a leap. Other people may not make the same leap.
  2. Communicate: stop and connect the dots, and give facts that support your leaps of logic.
  3. Engage: once you have anchored the details/facts of the present situation that you are already aware of to your big idea, ask them to help you fill in the gaps with practical considerations that you missed. 

Also, if you are going to change a Standard Operating Procedure, then state the real world benefits of changing the current procedure and how it’s better than maintaining it. “I just want to try something different” probably won’t be seen as a compelling reason to change something.


If you have a preference for hands-on, detail processes, how do you work with a big picture person to incorporate their zest for anticipating future possibilities with your real-world goals?

  1. Be aware that the past and present factors that seem so obvious to you, don't always catch the eye of others.
  2. Communicate: ask whether they have considered factor X and factor Y, and tell them why and how a detail is important to achieving the larger goal.
  3. Engage: find your common goal and ask them what could be done over the next year, or two, or ten, to maximize success. 

If they want to change a Standard Operating Procedure that you would prefer to keep, let them know the specific drawbacks of doing so. “This is how we’ve always done it” won’t be seen a compelling reason not to change something.

So, now you know that the data that we are aware of can be different without our realizing it. And you have some initial steps for helping people (or yourself) to gain awareness of the data they (you) may have missed. In the next article I'm going to focus on differences in the type of information we prefer to rely on to make the best decisions.

It Takes All Kinds

It can be incredibly frustrating to deal with someone who “just doesn’t get it.” When you’ve explained something five times and they still do it wrong. When there’s a problem and they are focusing on the wrong thing. Maybe they are missing the big picture. Maybe they missed an important detail. Or maybe they just don’t care. 

There is always the possibility that you are dealing with someone with “substandard intelligence.” There is also the possibility that they have some kind of mental disorder...

Most likely, it’s a matter of a conflict between a few basic individual differences. Cognitive types are based on four sets of orientations:

  1. What information we prefer to take in.
  2. What information we rely on most when making decisions.
  3. Where we direct most of our energy.
  4. How we prefer to interact with our environment.

These orientations combine to create cognitive styles and personality styles, and they each have benefits and blind spots. 

There are many benefits of having a systematic understanding basic personality and cognitive style differences, including:

  • Maximizing our own strengths.
  • Helping others to maximize their strengths.
  • Anticipating, overcoming, and/or planning around our own blind spots.
  • Anticipating and planning around the blind spots of others.
  • Effective communication
  • Effective collaboration
  • Building teams in which each member's strengths fit the team's tasks, and compensate for each other's blind spots.

Unfortunately we usually only think about these differences when there is a problem. Someone "drops the ball" due to a blind spot. Someone's has a preference that clashes with ours. Or their strengths don't line up with the environment they are in. So, over the next 3 posts I will highlight each of these basic personality and cognitive style differences.