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.*
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.
WORKING WITH ALL KINDS
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.