“Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?” – Walt Whitman
“Nothing can be done with solitude.” – Pablo Picasso
Each of the previous quotes embodies the philosophies of extraversion and introversion, respectively. You have probably heard the terms “extravert” and “introvert” and have perhaps even labeled yourself as one or the other. Each have their merits and their drawbacks.
Nevertheless, in the business world, extroverts rule. Outgoing, talkative people tend to get most of the attention, opportunities, and promotions because they put themselves out there socially in the workplace. Jack Welch, the former chairmen of General Electric, warns that introverted individuals can often be overlooked in the process.
But let’s get some background on this.
Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, first popularized the terms extraversion and introversion. Like their prefix suggest, extraverts seek out external stimuli and draw their energy from social interaction with others. Outgoing by nature, extraverts tend to feel anxious or bored when left alone. They love mingling, meeting new people, and attending social events like office parties. They are movers and shakers. Some famous extraverts are Oprah Winfrey, Alexander the Great, Eddie Murphy, James Bond, and most politicians.
If the thought of rubbing elbows with a roomful of strangers doesn’t tickle your fancy, you may be an introvert. Introverts, compared to extraverts, are less sociable by nature and tend to recharge their emotional batteries by spending time alone. Though introverts often enjoy companionship or small groups of close friends, they usually seek out solitary activities that allow them to expand and develop their rich inner world. Famous introverts include Albert Einstein, Johnny Carson, Isaac Newton, Bruce Wayne, and Mr. Spock.
Most people fall somewhere in between extreme extraversion and introversion. A mostly introverted individual can still have moments of extraverted behavior and enjoy social interaction. Likewise, a mostly extroverted person can still enjoy some alone time and doesn’t necessarily need to party every night. Nevertheless, most of us intuitively know which category we’d put ourselves in.
While both types have admirable qualities and real strengths, the business world is biased toward extraverts. Gregarious, talkative individuals simply stand a better of chance of getting those extra minutes of face time with the boss, for example. Extraverts are often assertive, social, and have superior verbal skills – all of which translate to success in a large corporate work environment. An extravert is the classic “people person” and these natural proclivities are welcomed and encouraged in most workplaces.
If you know you are already an extravert, you are in the majority. Most people are extraverted, which may explain why our world seems to be designed for extraverts. As an extravert, make sure to watch out for these common pitfalls: speaking before thinking, being perceived as too hostile or aggressive, and jumping into activities or tasks without a plan of action.
If you are an introvert, never fear. While you may have to work a little harder at speaking up and making your opinions known, especially if you want to succeed in the business world, you still have a lot going for you. Introverts are often creative thinkers and value depth in conversations and relationships. If an introvert can take the initiative and speak up, these traits can be used to his or her advantage in the workplace. Many introverts are successful in business because they are able to balance their natural introversion with a concerted effort to connect with people and make things happen.
John Bradley Jackson
Entrepreneur, Professor, Author
Deja New Marketing
© Copyright 2011