"Life is not about pretending to be someone else, or trying to be like someone else. It's about being who you are regardless if it makes you different."
|--Nishan Panwar, writer|
A husband and wife each took on the role of a C-level position in their newly started small business. He, Bob, was a more contemplative and conscientious style communicator and she, Barbara, was more talkative and lively.
The newly appointed Sales and Marketing Manager, Sandra, would always plan differently for meetings with each of them.
For Bob, Sandra did her homework, often supporting facts or statistics with a chart or graph. She purposely spoke more slowly and sought for agreement at every step. They each would often make notes of something they wanted to revisit for further discussion. In particular, this approach was important when Sandra was asking for a salary increase.
For Barbara, Sandra would plan for twice the amount of time for a meeting than was scheduled. Quite often, by the time the conversation turned to the original purpose of the meeting, Sandra would have to jokingly state the main agenda item when Barbara laughingly said "But we are way off track now!"
Fortunately Sandra used her understanding of personality styles from early in her sales career when she was communicating with almost everyone. After all, as human beings we tend to enjoy more successful communications when communicating with people who are more like us. Sandra intended to master her communication with these influential people at that early stage in her career. After all, these two people would determine at least her salary and her position in the small company of 75 people.
In this story I am Sandra. It's important you know this so you understand the ideas, tips, and strategies I share with you come from my own life learning experiences.
Additionally, when I choose to introduce someone else's stories to you, it's because I know they too have successfully managed everyday business situations you want to know about as an introvert in a business environment.
Knowing about the communication preferences between the introvert and extrovert will help you better navigate your daily communications.
We'll cover the following topics in this chapter:
You will understand how the introvert and extrovert may be both different and the same in their communications.
You may surprise yourself finding out that different styles can work together productively.
If you currently think you have to change to be more extroverted to succeed, that will no longer be your thinking.
To give you practical ideas that you or your manager can do to make your environment more conducive to both the introvert and extrovert preferences.
Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapy, is noted for his work regarding two major personality traits. Jung theorized and then decades later after studying his work, Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) questionnaire.
After a person answers the questions, their preference of four personality continuums are determined. The assessment gives a person a broad and full awareness of their preferences. The four preferences of the MBTI® are:
Introversion and extroversion: A person gets their energy either from themselves or from outside themselves
Intuitive and sensing: We process information either based on patterns of information or on sensory details in the present
Thinking and feeling: We make decisions either in a logical, detached, objective manner, or our bias is toward an attached manner with values we hold
Judging and perceiving: A person takes action either from a planned or a more spontaneous approach
The first preference, the introversion and extroversion continuum, reflects what the answers reveal regarding what energizes the assessment taker.
No one is solely more introverted or extroverted.
Someone more extroverted is more interested in attention toward the outer world, to include talking and interacting with others. Someone more introverted prefers the inner world of quiet reflection and ideas, thoughts, and imagination.
Even though each person moves up and down the continuum all day long and in various situations, we each tend to have a preference, one where we are most energized with the activities of the day.
Most current conversations in the research community suggest that more of us are actually ambiverts. This means our personality has a balance of introvert and extrovert preferences. For example, we can enjoy networking but recognize that how we prepare for it might need to be with some quieter activities before such events. Or, we can enjoy, even thrive, as a public speaker, but need to recharge after giving a presentation.
Using the introvert and extrovert model of styles, while not the only model, is the most often referenced work of Carl Jung, whose work dates back to 1921. He is acknowledged as the first person, a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist, whose work typed people into the introvert and extrovert styles. Since this finding, the fascination with the introvert and extrovert spectrum of temperament is being referenced in many studies.
Through research, studies, and observation, we can identify some key differences in the communication styles.
Extrovert and introvert communication preferences are as follows:
As you read this table, you may have a question in mind about whether the introvert preferences either indicate someone is shy or that introvert equates to shy.
The way psychologists and introvert authorities explain the difference between the two styles comes down to this.
Extroverts get energy from everything around them, including activities like talking and interacting with others.
Introverts get energy from the playground of their mind, including being alone in and with their own mind in reflecting and thinking.
Someone more introverted is not necessarily less socially engaged because of shyness. It's more a situation that an introvert does not need much outside stimulation to be engaged. But when a shy person is not socially engaged, it is more because of anxiousness over the socializing.
Bernardo Carducci, psychology professor and director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, uses a party scenario to illustrate the difference between an introvert and a shy person.
Make a note
The introvert isn't afraid to talk to people but might stand in the corner to take a break from the crowd. The shy person stands in the corner because he feels he has no choice. And the shy person can be an introvert or an extrovert.
In my own management training of different theories about people styles, there is one relevant point, which also applies to effective communication. Your greatest power in communicating lies in your awareness of the how and what of differences. Once we are aware of how an extrovert communicates differently to an introvert, then we can either make a conscious choice to modify our style to be more like theirs or accept those differences.
As you consider this communication preference can you understand how the preferences are energy-based and are at the heart of communication differences?
Most people fall somewhere in the middle of a bell curve of introvert and extrovert and this might mean you are an ambivert.
Why would this matter?
As far as communication preferences, it means an ambivert naturally balances talking and listening, and has a more flexible communication style.
In the 1998 MBTI® Manual the reference of a USA National Representative Sample identifies the introvert (I) and extrovert (E) population breakdowns: (E) 49.3% and (I) 50.7%.
According to Adam Grant, Ph. D., organizational psychologist of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, ambiverts are the new sales ideal. Ambiverts have it over extroverts and introverts.
If his assumption was correct, it would be in regards to one of the key business communication skills, which we will investigate in Chapter 9, Power Tools of Influence, Persuasion, and Selling, where it means ambiverts trump extroverts in this area. Maybe you have heard that extroverts excel in sales? Be prepared to be surprised.
And how is this beneficial for the introvert?
In an interview Grant stated, "My findings suggest that less-extroverted people may be missing out on productive careers," he said, "and hiring managers may be missing out on star performers."
Grant's study confirms that innate introvert skills also found in the ambivert, like listening and being less apt to be overexcited, add more value to a successful sales process.
What is the real difference between an introvert and an extrovert? It is simply how a person finds their energy. How we get energy is not a reason for communication problems.
Several years ago my husband and I were interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. In that editorial When Innies Love Outies: How Odd Couples Cope, the author, Elizabeth Bernstein, quotes another author and psychologist Laurie Helgoe, "What looks like communication can actually be a problem." As the quieter introvert seems to be listening, an extrovert can take that as a cue to keep on talking.
This interpretation of listening invites a communication problem of interpreting listening in different ways. Listening for many introverts means "I'm thinking this over, and give me a few moments to reply," but to the other often more extroverted person it may mean "Great. I must fill the silence with more talking."
Often when networking with my husband he will introduce me to someone and then go on his way. Since I am quite comfortable with silence, I listen a lot, and more to understand than to respond. When I do respond I ask questions either for clarification or out of curiosity. Frequently some time after such an event my husband tells me that John, Judy, or whoever he introduced me to complimented me. When I ask about what it is almost always, they said you were a wonderful person to talk with.
This is the other side of the interpretation of effective listening.
Misunderstandings contribute to communication mismatch. A communication mismatch between an introvert and extrovert may mean a lack of understanding of the preferences to think before speaking which many introverts do, versus speaking being thinking out loud, which many extroverts do.
If left unchecked misunderstandings can become a myth. We want to free ourself of any myth that may have an incorrect hold on us. If as an introvert we are going to find our voice in any business situation, then believing a myth will keep us stuck. Be certain to know a myth from the truth. Here are some common myths:
Introverts don't like to talk: Being quieter does not mean as introverts that we are shy or unknowledgeable. It is more usual that we are thinking before we speak. More often than not, we listen to understand and then speak to be understood.
Some people may be prompted to believe this myth upon first meeting someone more introverted because small talk is not something comfortable for many introverts. It is fast moving but not necessarily fulfilling. Most introverts seek the more meaningful conversation and often feel the bridge to get there; small talk, is not worthwhile.
Introverts have difficulty knowing what to say: This might mean being mistaken for a shy person. While shyness is a social anxiety, introverts do, however, speak their mind.
To someone who does not understand the introvert preference, what seems like a quiet demeanor, is usually more of taking time to think something through for its usefulness in the conversation.
Introverts are anti-social: Can we agree that both introverts and extroverts can listen, converse, remember someone's name, and give feedback, all of which show they are being attentive? We develop our personal social side by developing interpersonal skills and techniques in many situations in life.
If your co-worker is declining an invitation to happy hour fun after hours, it is more likely that they need to charge up their personal energy than it is they are anti-social.
Introverts can fix their problems by becoming more like an extrovert: Introvert, extrovert, and ambivert are natural, brain-wired temperaments. Each style has its own strengths. It's more a situation of fixing the communication problems, not the people.
What works best for most people is not to become more like someone else or something else but instead to be the best version of themselves in any situation.
Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, argues "forcing everyone to act like extroverts harms the quality of our work and our lives."
There are strategies we can use in communicating with extroverts, and there are strategies extroverts can consider using when communicating with us. When we put actions in place, there is a stronger foundation as we more effectively use essential business communication skills for success. Here are the foundational beginning points:
Step one is to be aware: We are all aware of differences between men and women, or being left-handed or right-handed. With this awareness we might behave or set up the environment differently. Be aware of the introvert and extrovert differences as were described in the extrovert and introvert communication preferences table just before this section.
Move awareness to clarity: Myths, misunderstandings, or wrong assumptions can lead to job dissatisfaction and take a toll on employee retention. Observable differences are easiest to recognize in the two prevalent personal types. Moving beyond that to understand the how and why of the differences leads to correct information.
Respect our differences: In a step forward to accept ourselves as who we are, we can begin by respecting our differences. Whenever we compare ourselves to others, someone either comes up short or rates better. Comparing in this sense does little to resolve a divide. Even in our differences, we can put ourselves in a position to be able to more easily recognize our own excellence.
Understand there is no all or one: We all move along the continuum of introvert and extrovert behaviours and preferences all day long. Regardless of what our work is, we may find ourselves immersed in research, which we love, or giving a presentation to a board of directors, which some of us love. We each will find we are more energized more often on one side or another of the introvert and extrovert continuum. And some of us are more in the middle, and those people are ambiverts.
Let's say you aspire to a leadership position in your company. You have the time in your current position, and the background of practical experience in your role. Right now there is a supervisory or management position open. Your boss is looking for someone who speaks up in meetings and shares lots of ideas.
Immediately, your thoughts begin to focus on questions of how to be more vocal and speak your ideas out loud.
Is behaving more extroverted your best strategy now?
Each of us needs to decide how much energy we are willing to put into any changes that we believe will help us if we are interested in moving up in a work position. Depending on our comfort for change, then it may be useful to be more extroverted more often, when it is appropriate.
For example, maybe we would like the freedom to basically write our own paycheck and go into sales. Then could we tolerate adding more interacting with customers and other staffers with the quiet kind of product research that also goes into the role?
In the situation of a supervisory role opening up, would we want to be interacting more with people on a daily basis to get the perks of having the perks that go along with the responsibility of management?
The sales route worked well for me as a business track to that often-aspired management role. Even if I knew then what I know now, I would likely take the same route. Knew what? If I knew the prevalent thinking was, and still is; as an introvert I would not be suited for sales.
But you may or may not want to be in sales.
The biggest advantage of being in a sales-related position is to have the ability to write the amount of your own paycheck as this is directly related to your efforts. You help more people buy your products or services and you earn more. However, if money is not a big motivator for you, then rule out a career in sales.
Now back to your desire to have that vice-president-like title and role.
You do not have to act like an extrovert to succeed in business. This is not to say to ignore what might be your weaknesses. It is to suggest you direct your attention to leverage your strengths, which we will examine in Chapter 2, Identify and Count on Your Introvert Strengths.
The honing of our strengths approach outweighs trying to be something or someone we are not, nor care to be. Here is an example of what can happen when we start thinking the best approach is to use our strengths.
When I was in sales I wanted to be a sales manager. It so happened that a new location was being built and my managers were interviewing internally for the position. One of them told me flat out that I was too much of a loner and not enough of a team player to likely have management work successfully. But undeterred, and planning for this objection, I am confident my answer won over the last of the three people making the decision.
"If I may ask you John, what would be the main area in which you would want me responsible as your sales manager?" was my lead in question to further the discussion instead of being turned down.
"Look Patricia, we know you are the number one sales person, your numbers show that. But we would want you to turn many other sales people into star performers. How would you be able to do that?" John asked with a confidence that hinted he thought I might back off.
But I had planned for his objection, just as I was trained to plan for a customer objection during the buying and selling process.
I am convinced what I replied is what won him over to the other two yes votes for me as the new sales manager. What was my answer? It was a follow up to my original question to him.
I took a few seconds to gather my thoughts and looked at him to reply, "If you want more star sales performers, I'm confident I can both model and create a training program for other salespeople in my approach. Then in the training, they could adopt the key parts to their own style."
What I shared with him next were certain behaviors that my customers told me on the exit interview of a sale I knew I was engaging in that helped them decide to buy from me. I continued saying to him, "Based on what many of my customers tell me, they like that I focus on helping them to buy just the right product for their needs. They feel like when we talk I am listening to them, instead of just trying to sell them. So if what you want are more star sales performers, you'll get them with my training ideas and leadership."
We are talking about a more extroverted strategy of asserting ourselves confidently. Indeed we are the only ones who know as much as we do about our strengths. It is not a situation to be hesitant or shy, instead when a promotion is within your reach, shine the light on your strengths.
That was on a Friday and on the following Monday I got the telephone call of congratulations.
Think about how the conversation may have differed if I decided to, even with planning, focus on what he saw as my weakness.
It might have been more of a defensive strategy. I might have asked about training. We might have focused on how the company could support me in learning to be a team player as they viewed it. Over time, anyone can become better at what they are weak in. John and I likely would have agreed on these points. The thing I knew in this situation is that the three managers wanted a new manager on their team to build more superstars, and the sooner the better.
When we focus on using our strengths and innate abilities, we have to produce a broader or bigger benefit. Why? Because this raises our motivation to plan the best course of action so results are better in some way. That is what is called playing to your strengths.
With the promotion, training did help me develop leadership skills. I learned to manage meetings, make presentations that got results, manage conflicts, and build a better team. Indeed my awareness was raised about how taking advantage of my strengths helped me improve my weaknesses.
As you sort out your strengths, you will find you can count on them to get you through almost any business situation.
What if you knew being happier would help you be or at least appear more gregarious and lively and so then likely to increase performance?
Which approach would you take: play to your strengths or reinforce your weaknesses?
Wake Forest University published findings in a 2012 article in the Journal of Personality, which show that when introverts act extroverted, they too feel happier. It is a compelling finding that may invite introverts to move over to the extrovert way of being.
One theory put forth is extroverts are happier because they have a greater sensitivity to dopamine; they need more of it to make them happy. It wires the extrovert brain to act more motivated to get a reward, like giving a presentation and then either hearing applause or being recognized for good work.
But there is no conclusive evidence of why this happens. It's actually more scientific evidence that all is not always what it appears to be.
Furthermore, no one has broadened the study to explore whether this dedicated concentration to go against what nature wired us for is going to use up energy.
When we act in ways that are not natural to us, there can be a battle between what is comfortable and what is not comfortable. When our nature is to be prepared and suddenly we are called on in a meeting to make an impromptu presentation, guess what happens to our energy? We struggle to make it a winning performance and in the end, all the air is out of us like a popped balloon.
Here is one possibility of why acting like we are something we are not normally may work in the short term, but not necessarily in the long term.
If we have too much dopamine in the introvert brain then we can feel over stimulated, and have "stimulus fatigue". Our brains have a longer pathway of blood flow, and more blood traveling to it, making us even more sensitive. More dopamine just exhausts us and depletes our energy. That same longer pathway is activated by acetylcholine, which gives us a happy feeling that extroverts don't get from just thinking and feeling.
While studies may conclude introverts are happier when they act more outgoing, if it is at the expense of daily exertion which could lead to energy exhaustion, then it may work in smaller doses, not all day long.
Alice Domar, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of Be Happy Without Being Perfect, says, "If you think you should feel happy nearly all the time, it's going to make you miserable."
If being more extroverted means striving for constant contentment, then Domar's advice for the introvert might be to strengthen the introvert within.
If focusing, researching, and planning make you happy, then would it be more accurate to conclude, "do what makes you happy, not what someone else says makes them happy."
Extensive research about effective working environments finds that lighting, noise, color, and even air quality affects employee productivity. These factors stimulate the introvert and extrovert differently.
Because our environment is all about energy like the energy from the people in the room, the energy from the way things are arranged, or the energy from either clutter or organization, by far this is one area that affects us from the moment we get to work until the end of the workday.
Leaders and staff would benefit immensely in creating an environment that serves both the more introverted and more extroverted if they know how to set things up to play to each preference.
While extroverts can better tolerate bright light, partially because of not being so affected by sensory stimulation, introverts do better with more subdued and indirect lighting.
Lighting companies know the type of lighting can affect both our mental state and therefore our performance.
By our very nature as introverts, we prefer calmer places. In the lighting world, this can mean more indirect lighting.
Extroverts are not as affected by such sensory factors. Bright lights might even energize them.
Lighting will affect alertness and activity in people differently. The best way to know how you are affected is by trying different kinds and checking their effect on your work.
In a workspace occupied by introverts, music is more of a distraction than a factor that might help concentration and focus.
Numerous studies have examined the effects of music on performance. A current study by Adrian Furnham and Anna Bradley, Department of Psychology, University College London, UK, found that depending on both the task and the temperament of the employee, music while you work can mean either better or worse performance.
If you asked yourself was it introverts or extroverts who performed better with music, even pop music, and you answered extroverts, you are right.
Even background music may cause introverts to lose focus and have worse performance.
In the design of an office the optimal situation is to have both quiet and open spaces that give people the type of space needed for the task at hand.
A recent study by the design firm Gensler found both open-plan layouts and the lower cubicle setup do more to compromise some workers' ability to concentrate and be productive. The findings from surveying 2,035 employees found that it is when employees are given their choice between quiet spaces and collaborative spaces that productivity is optimal.
This actually applies to introverts and extroverts alike in cases where the task is more knowledge-based.
Collaborative office space can be an open-plan office design. Credit is often given to German designers, post-war, for the open plan office design still in many offices today. Replacing traditional factory style line up of desks for what was once thought to a better arrangement, with workers facing the boss like in schools where students were facing the teacher, now there was not necessarily a hierarchy of seating.
Cubicles, possibly the last chance for an introvert to have privacy, are on the way out.
Faux privacy is where privacy by personal office is not possible or impractical in the company space, earplugs or even headphones can serve to dampen the surrounding noise.
Founded in 1994, when in 2012 Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer took the position she quickly got the media's attention: she ended telecommuting for all of their 11,500 employees working in that way.
It turns out research finds that telecommuting is almost an ideal work environment for an extrovert. Suppositions are it is because of their quicker decision-making style in a more volatile environment. They can better manage inevitable interruptions that might happen because of looser rules at home. And regardless of where they work from, they stay connected with people.
Introverts just may thrive in the structure of the office environment and schedule.
Mayer and the human resource people believed in-person interaction is still best for communicating even for these knowledge workers. E-mail would not serve the purpose as well in particular as the company was going to be forging new territory.
Part of the changes also included redoing the office space to create a more collaborative atmosphere.
What kind of work might many of the employees be involved in that requires concentration, focus, even research?
Apparently the jury is still out on the changes Mayer made. As relates to our personality style, there are proponents for both the more introverted and more extroverted being affected the most.
Mayer seems to bring in to this decision to end telecommuting what she learned at Google in terms of where innovation comes from: discovery, collaboration, and fun.
The more you research Mayer's move you find firms like Apple, Facebook, Zappos and more, with data supporting evidence of how more interaction, in part from collaboration, fosters faster decision-making and more innovation.
If extroverts do thrive with people connections, they could benefit from being lassoed back to an office where people and interactions abound.
If introverts excel with a quiet and alone space, and offices have nothing but this stated collaborative environment, there is doubt their productivity could also thrive.
However, privacy can both quickly and inexpensively be created if the environment is an open office plan. Headphones are one option for those who want to block out the buzz around them. One step up from this would be creating a sectioned-off quiet work place when someone needs more focus, concentration, and privacy for the work at hand.
There is not a win-lose in the situation for any personality group as a whole. We have to know our preference for our privacy at work, considering there are various other personal traits and preferences that affect our productivity in any environment. The key is to know there are options if you are an introvert whose clear preference includes more privacy.
The communication preferences between the introvert and extrovert are real but certainly manageable. With the completion of this chapter you either are reminded of, or have found new learning in this chapter about the introvert and extrovert communication divide. You are at the point where you:
Understand the key introvert and extrovert differences in communications
Have deduced that the differences in communication styles identified are all about you or the extrovert satisfying a need to be energized
Understand you might be an ambivert who on balance has energizing needs from either end of the introvert and extrovert bell curve
Have a greater understanding of some prevalent introvert myths and now know the truth of each
Recognize some foundational beliefs you have to adapt to go forward in being able to better communicate with extroverts
Have a real-life understanding of both sides of either taking on your weakness or playing to your strengths so you can decide the best strategy for you
Have practical ideas you or your manager can use to make your environment more conducive to both the introvert and extrovert preferences
As you reflect back on this chapter, about the communication preferences of introverts and extroverts, ask yourself these three key things:
How has your belief or disbelief of commonly stated introvert myths helped you or hurt you in your everyday business communication?
Once you decide on the effects the myths have on you, what will you either continue to do, or do differently, going forward in order to increase your business communication successes?
Whether you work at home or in an office, can you prioritize the four office environment factors that work to your benefit?
Carducci's report on shy versus introverted: http://www.shyness.com/documents/1999/SHYENC599.pdf
Adam Grant's abstract report on ambiverts: http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20130412_Study__Extraverts_not_always_best_for_sales_positions.html
Online assessments for ambiverts, introverts, and extroverts:
Coping Strategies for Introverts Married to Extraverts is an article from the June 28, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal
Image for the Thoughts to contemplate section, courtesy of Stuart Miles can be found at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net