Introverts: Just Like Extroverts, Only Better

Most of you who read this blog haven’t met me in person, but you may have assumed that I’m an extrovert because my chosen career involves people, or the fact that I regularly speak to large groups of people at large conferences and events.

But you would be wrong. I’m actually a card carrying introvert, and think that we as a species are wildly misunderstood.

Recently, one of my favorite bloggers, Sacha Chua, shared a great Slideshare presentation called The Shy Connector. It’s so awesome that I think this should be required reading for anyone who says that they’re an introvert , but can’t possibly bring themselves to network with others.

Personally, I don’t see introversion/extroversion as the difference between being shy or outgoing, as many people do. I like these simple definitions best:

Introverts – Recharge by spending time alone.

Extroverts – Recharge by being around people.

It’s really that simple. So an Introvert can be the life of the party – but then they’ll probably crash and burn afterward in order to reboot – and an Extrovert doesn’t necessarily have to be the center of attention at all times who can never stop talking. Although if the shoe fits…

Sacha’s presentation got me to thinking about some of the other interesting things I’ve read on the subject and I thought I’d share a few of them to encourage my fellow Introverts out there and also to help the Extroverts to better to understand us.

  • Funny and accurate: Caring for Your Introvert – Money Quote: “Now I am here to tell you what you need to know in order to respond sensitively and supportively to your own introverted family members, friends, and colleagues. Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts.”
  • Why Introverts Can Make The Best Leaders – Money Quote: “Introverted leaders are energized by spending time alone. They suffer from people exhaustion and need to retreat to recharge their batteries frequently. These regular timeouts actually fuel their thinking, creativity and decision-making and, when the pressure is on, help them be responsive, not reactive.”
  • How to Network: For Introverts – Money Quote: “Introverts typically don’t like to talk about themselves – we prefer to talk about ideas. Force yourself to discuss some of the things you’ve done. Don’t brag, make sure they are relevant to the conversation. Then the extroverts can talk about you and pass your achievements along.”
  • Job Search Tips for Introverts – Money Quote: “Value your listening skills. When you’re searching for a job and reaching out to others, you’ll do this much more effectively if you’re a good listener.”
  • Top 5 Things Every Extrovert Should Know About Introverts – Money Quote: “Introverts have more brain activity in their frontal lobes and when these areas are activated through solitary activity, introverts become energized through processes such as problem solving, introspection, and complex thinking. Extroverts on the other hand tend to have more activity in the back of their brain, areas that deal with processing sensory information from the external world, so they tend to search for external stimuli in the form of interacting with other people and the outside world to energize them.”

Do you feel like being an introvert has held you back in your career in any way – or has it helped you to get where you are today?

Extroverts – do you understand us? Or do you think that anyone who doesn’t get excited about dressing up to go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the 57th time is just plain weird?

(Because we definitely think that about you when you do.)

President & Chief Talent Strategist

Jennifer McClure is a Keynote Speaker, Talent Strategies Expert and Executive Coach who works with clients and companies in the areas of leadership development, communication and talent strategy. Jennifer McClure offers keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and empower business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organization’s most valuable resource – people.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

20 thoughts on “Introverts: Just Like Extroverts, Only Better

  1. Great post! I was an ESTJ in college. I think that the older I get, the more deliberate and introverted that I am becoming. I don’t have the time or energy and really do not want to meet everyone in the room. My networking goal is always to meet ONE person. One person who I connect with personally, who I can remember his or her name (I’m terrible with names), what he or she does and how I can help.
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Jennifer!

  2. I really appreciate your articles pointing out that introverts can act in an extroverted way. My wife thinks it is funny when I resist going to a social or networking function and then have to “recover” afterwards! Of course, she is an extrovert.
    When I do job coaching, I encourage people to understand whether they are an “I” or an “E” and move toward a role that compliments their strengths. I also direct them to your website to help them understand the differences!

  3. Hopefully many of us are getting the word out about this slide presentation. I know I am because I am passionate about helping introverts escape from the negative myths about us and found the slide show helpful in doing this.
    We have strengths that we can bring to networking – naturally! And that in itself is energy preserving. We network fabulously and during changing times, our way is quite needed.
    Thanks for your post.
    Patricia Weber
    Debunking Negative Introvert Myths!

  4. Thank you for Sacha’s message. Introvert vs. Extrovert is really just another way to identify oneself. For example, Introvert = Reflective = Listener, while Extrovert = Expressive = Outgoing.
    The bottom line: Either is okay; know thyself (and make the best of it).
    Sacha has my vote!

  5. @Bonita – I think it definitely possible to mellow or change your tendencies over time! I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs more than once and always end up ISTJ, but inch closer to the E line each time I take it. MBTI is all about natural tendencies, but I do think our work & home environments shape us as we grow.
    @Tom – Thanks for directing your clients here! I can relate on the family members not understanding. My son is a high, high extrovert and he absolutely does not “get” my introverted self. He’ll say I’m “being Emo” when I go into my cave to recover after a big day of people activities. I think I understand and appreciate Extroverts, but it seems that they have a bit more difficulty in understanding us.
    @Patricia – Thanks for stopping by! As a life-long Introvert, I’ve grown from being somewhat ashamed (what’s wrong with me) to really embracing my tendencies and learning how to use them effectively in my work and relationships. I think it’s actually easier in many ways for Introverts to be effective networkers and connectors than for Extroverts. But of course I’m a bit biased.
    @Joe – I’m ok. You’re ok. Wasn’t it Barney the Dinosaur that said that first? He must have been an Introvert too. 🙂

  6. I usually test as INFP and relate to the introvertedness. However in interviews I tend to over talk. Instead of answering the question briefly I Add more and more detail. What a disaster.

  7. Great post… and I love the Sacha Chua’s blog; thanks for turning me on to it!
    It’s interesting, on my Winslow Assessment I am fairly high in Sociability (extrovert) which is true, I enjoy meeting people, learning about others and “mixing” plus, dare I say it, I am sometimes the life of the party….
    On the other hand, I am by nature an Introvert – I definitely recharge by spending time alone.
    I’m also a right AND left brain person on that little Facebook quiz… purely unscientific I’m sure!

  8. This was great – funny and true! I agree about using how people recharge to define extro vs intro. Being an introvert has made it difficult to get where I am – or seemingly anywhere for that matter – but successful now that I’m here.

  9. @David – I think that many of us (Introverts & Extroverts) tend to overcompensate in situations where we don’t feel comfortable – and most people are uncomfortable in interviews. I’d suggest framing your responses to interview questions in the “CAR” format – Challenge, Action, Result. Maybe if you can think about sticking to that format, it will help in keeping your answers concise.
    @Lindsay – It sounds like you’ve got everything covered and the best of both worlds!
    @Mark – It’s true! Introverts can be very successful at networking and building their own businesses. You’re living proof!

  10. I LOVE this post and yes indeed I’ll cast my vote for Sachas presentation – The Shy Connector could possibly be one of the best presentations ever! I’ve always, happily considered myself an Introverted-Extrovert. That seems a contridiction but I believe that many of us in the recruiting field share similar personalities. With time and practice I find myself becoming fairly balanced in my introvert-extrovert personallity ways.
    Interestingly, there is independant research that reports almost 70% of CEOs are Introverts (compared to approximately 50% of the over 40 population as a whole. Not saying that one way is better then the other – Just saying – Introverts ROCK ! I would really love to continue this comment but sorry I really need to go home and crash and burn now !

  11. Okay, two days late on the response. But I’ve had the tab open in the browser the whole time waiting to get to this because it’s an issue so close to my heart. It defines me.
    Before recently, my career has been deeply steeped in the technology and software development world. If you really want introvert, the rest of the world calls these people the flat-food people. You just slip some flat food, say, pizza, under the door when you want to interact with them.
    Somehow in this world I’m the “marketing guy”. I’ve trained myself along the way to focus my energy when necessary. I can public speak with the best of them. No fear of presenting. I can engage a group and be the life of the party. Most of the time. And then there are the other times. I wrote about one of them in May 2008 and thought I’d share it with my fellow introverts.

  12. This is actually the first intelligent article I’ve seen on this subject. As an introvert, I grew up thinking that when people described me as an introvert, they were criticising me as being inadequate and finding fault with me.
    The differences you described with extroverts are right on the mark. I have never understood how some people, when they are stressed out, want to be around people! I can envision a spouse telling a partner, “I know you’re stressed out, so I invited a group of friends over,” and the other spouse responding in absolute horror, “What are you trying to do, kill me?”
    Socalizing, networking and interacting with lots of people are absolute chores that sap me of my energy and make me depressed. Ironically, I’ve had two careers – broadcaster and PR person – and have excelled in both…as long as I can limit interactions and have enough time and plenty of space to recover.

  13. Hi Cindy
    I’m so glad I came across your post. Most people confuse introversion with shyness. This is the first really insightful post I’ve read on the subject. There are so many negative myths out there. It can get aggravating.
    According to the Myer-Briggs I’m an INFP but I’m not big on labels. I already knew I was introverted before taking the test.
    I like to socialize I just have to recharge my batteries alone later. It took me a long time to ask for my space after an event or take a break if I need to when I attend events.
    Thanks for such a great post.

  14. Very true. I thought, based on your blogs and tweets, you were more extroverted.
    I have been an extrovert most of my life, but I have slowly converted to an introvert. The reason you ask? Sleep and age.
    You see, as we age our bodies need more rest (naps). With more nap time you can do more with others – like being Extroverted.
    I haven’t been able to figure out a way to nap here at work.
    But, I am working on a plan. I hope to blog about this strategy so that way we can all be better extro/introverts.

  15. Really awesome post…I thought I was the only Shy Connector in the Talent Acquisition world. My boss is an extrovert and I think that some of the books you mentioned would make a great present for her =) I didn’t even know there were resources on How to Network for Introverts. Love the presentation too. My favorite line: “It’s not about selling, it’s about helping people” That’s what I have been saying!

  16. Thanks for posting this explanation. As a card carrying extrovert, I always thought people who weren’t as exuberant as I just didn’t like me.
    Now I understand they just need time and space to process each experience.
    For other extroverts out there, I highly recommend participating in Toast Masters. I think of it as AA for Extroverts.

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  18. “So an Introvert can be the life of the party – but then they’ll probably crash and burn afterward in order to reboot – and an Extrovert doesn’t necessarily have to be the center of attention at all times who can never stop talking.”

    You hit the nail on the head! I am extremely introverted (I’m completely content with not talking to anyone for more than a month). I always try to find time alone whenever possible, and really find socializing with others to be very draining. For every hour of socializing, I’d probably need a week to myself alone.
    However, when I AM out with friends, or in some other social situation, I am what you would call the “life of the party.” In fact, I am almost always the most outgoing person in social gatherings; I love to talk! When I tell other people that I’m actually an extreme introvert who finds socializing exhausting, they respond with outright disbelief.

    I just HATE how society has agglomerated introversion with shyness and/or bad social skills. This is very inaccurate and misleading. I’m very introverted, and yet have good social skills and am not shy.
    In contrast, a previous roommate of mine was very shy and quiet around others, yet she was a definite extrovert. She always had to be around other people all the time, even though she herself did not talk much, and didn’t like to be the center of attention.

    So, introversion most certainly does NOT equal “shyness,” and extroversion does NOT equal “outgoing.” That line of logic is bullshit. Stop with the false stereotypes already!

    • Thanks for adding to the conversation Vivian! It sounds like you – like me – have had this discussion with more than one person in the past! 🙂

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