An Introvert at Work

I am guilty.  Guilty of liking those short quizzes that try to reveal something about you.  Most of the time I just think that they are fun, but I don’t take them too seriously.  For as much as it can be interesting to try and isolate some small aspect of the complicated being that I am, and try to analyze and understand it, I know that I cannot truly understand my nature based on one lone observation.  There are so many interdependent factors that make up who I am that labelling myself can be dangerous and counter-productive.  As much as I read about the mind I have come to embrace the theory that I can think myself into a way of being, so I need to work on a holistic and healthy 3-D view of myself not a flat 2-D one.

That being said, and with full awareness of my own fallibility, I do want to talk about the fact that I see myself as an introvert, one ‘personality trait’ that simply hasn’t changed much over the years and which I doubt ever will.  Should I want to change it?  Probably not, but cultures tend to establish preferences for certain personalities and American’s are notorious for there preference for extroversion and the supposed confidence and domineering swagger that comes along with it.  This is especially true in the business world.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told in business classes that executives are extroverts.  The problem with this assertion being, by what measurement?  Is this a self reporting survey?  If so, than these results could be confounded by the fact that most executives would feel pressure to self-identify as extroverts…but I digress.  Perhaps this would be something to look into at a later date.

So, what does it mean to be an introvert these days?  While I think that shy people are likely introverts with social anxiety, not all introverts are shy.  I certainly have plenty to say, and I am perfectly willing to speak up in class or at a meeting if I have something I’d like to share.  It takes a ton of energy for me to do so though.  I really have to push myself and I find myself exhausted after.  This is also the case with going to social gatherings with people I don’t know well.  It takes a lot of energy to turn my attention outward and engage someone with small talk.  One benefit to this is that I probably spend more time listening than talking when I meet someone new.  In fact, I think that there are lots of benefits to being an introvert.  Most of us are happier with what we have, or just being at home with family.  We may only ever get close to a few people but those relationships are often deep ones.  I also spend a lot of time thinking…just thinking things through and I think this makes me a deep thinker and a better problem solver.  I may examine every aspect I can think of when making a decision, but I really commit to that decision once it is made.

This does not mean that my fellow extroverts don’t have close relationships or don’t think deeply, just as being an introvert doesn’t make me anti-social, but I think that we have differnt personality traits because we do get stronger at certain types of functions within our social groups, whether that is bringing people together and lighting things up or thinking deeply, analyzing and listening.

These tips were written in 1999 by Linda Kreger Silverman, PhD of the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado.

Now you might be wondering at this point, what in the world does this have to do with the work place and project teams?  Well, introverts on your team may work differently.  Check out this article, Introverts: Managing stress in an extroverted workplace by Toni Bower. What I love about what she points out is that introverts are more effective in certain environments than others.  If you stick an introvert in a noisy, tightly packed project room day in and day out they will not be as effective as if they have a quiet space that they can retreat to when they need to think or finish a deliverable.  They should be able to work just fine in a team environment but may not enjoy, or in fact may have more trouble blocking out, the constant conversations that are the reality of most working areas where everyone is crammed in together.

Another point that Toni makes is that introverts like to take some time to think and prepare a response to questions that may come their way.  It is more stressful for most introverts to have to address a complex topic or give an update that is unexpected.  I know that I am not as adept  as some extroverts at just making something up on the fly that sounds good.  I want what I say to be concise and accurate.

I think most of us have some idea whether or not we are extroverts or introverts, but I did found a blog post that is a fun read and has a short quiz that you can take to get your extrovert/introvert extremity rating, so check it out.

My rating, well I am only one question off from the most introverted rating the quiz can give, and I’m not unhappy with the result.

What about you?  Are you an extrovert or introvert?  How does this impact you at work and what to you think of your opposite?


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