This is the first in a series of four articles that will give a quick run-down of the distinctions between the Myers-Briggs type dimensions. Today we’ll be looking at the difference between introverts and extraverts. As you may have guessed by some comments I’ve made previously on this blog, I’m fairly heavily in the “introvert” camp on this dimension.
At the risk of generalizing too much, extraverts like to act, and introverts like to think. Extraverts will often act, and then consider the results of that action in order to determine what they should do next. Introverts, on the other hand, will think first, and then act.
As I mentioned before, extraverts are not necessarily extroverted. However, in practice, I’ve found that they usually are. Extraverts seem to enjoy meeting new people and having a breadth of new experiences. Introverts, on the other had, due to their tendency to think through everything, aren’t nearly as outgoing. They may be just as friendly, but they don’t often come off that way.
Either one of these traits can be good or bad, depending on how the trait is expressed. For instance, an extravert and their “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach can get into trouble if they act too hastily in a given circumstance. However, because they are willing to act without considering every last option to the nth degree, they can often jump on opportunities that introverts may miss due to their unwillingness to act without substantial amounts of time invested in consideration. From my seat as an introvert, I see the extravert strategy as best exemplified by the statement “Go Big or Go Home”. You may achieve great successes this way, but you also open yourself up to failures, as well.
As I mentioned in the prior article in this series, regardless of what your personal preference is, it’s helpful to be able to “speak the language” or the other type. Not only can you understand other people better that way, you may get some practice in co-opting some of the good characteristics of the other type.
So, if you’re an extravert:
Slow down. Take time to make a conscious decision once in a while. Don’t always wait to see the results of your actions; make an effort to think about what may happen in the first place. You’re really not going to miss much if you take a little bit of time.
If you’re an introvert:
Come out of your shell. I personally have this problem. I experience anxiety when meeting new people. So, I tend to let them make the first move, or remove myself from the situation before that ever comes up. If I’m really honest about it, it makes me seem aloof and cold (at best) I have to make a consicious effort to be more outgoing than I normally would be. It will not kill you to stick out your hand and initiate a conversation with someone you don’t know. If you don’t know how to do that, take a look at my previous post on people skills, or just go read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.
For everyone, there is one over-arching theme to understand the other style (and this applies to all four of the dichotomies, not just I vs E): don’t operate from an assumption that the way you do things is best. Introverts, don’t assume that an extravert is automatically superficial simply because he or she enjoys meeting a bunch of new people. Likewise, extraverts, don’t think we introverts are jerks who think we’re better than everyone else. We’re just trying to decide what to say before we say it.
What other ways can you think of making yourself better able to understand the other group? Let us know in the comments…