Sarah J. Mitchell , Associate Director
We’ve all taken countless personality tests over the years, both in a formal capacity on the job, and in the very informal capacity of a “Which muppet are you?” quiz on Facebook (apparently I’m a Miss Piggy, and I don’t want to talk about it). But I have never actually taken the Myers-Briggs test (you can take that quiz on Facebook as well, though I have to question its validity). However, it hasn’t stopped me from making an assumption about where I fall on the E/I scale. I’m an extrovert, of course! Extroverts are the best, right? Extroversion is a core American value! I’m in the search business and talk for a living, making connections between people all day, so I must be an extrovert, yes? I choose to spend my time outside of work in the theater, and theater people are dramatic and talky and extroverted. Extroverts like parties. I like parties. Extroversion for the win!
Recently, I’ve started to second-guess that assumption, and I think there might be more introvert in me than I maybe want to admit, particularly given my extrovert-friendly profession and my theater passion. Does anyone else feel this way? And how do you adapt your introverted tendencies to make sure you don’t get in your own way, particularly at work? Here are a couple of thoughts and pieces of advice to the introvert, or to the extrovert working with or being managed by an introvert, or to the extrovert struggling to come to terms with his or her inner introvert.
Introverts need alone time. Time to think, reflect, process, and then make a decision. Most of us work in businesses that value fast decision making , quick action and immediate replies to emails. An introvert will need to find ways to get that time alone to think while still staying responsive.
Introverts might seem aloof. They really aren’t. At a party, an introvert might be sitting off to the side and not necessarily engaging at full tilt all the time. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t having fun. It’s just a different way of absorbing the energy of the room without getting exhausted. Same goes for an introvert in a business setting. An introvert might have a harder time working a room at a networking event, or speaking up at a meeting. While I have no problem playing a role on stage in front of a large audience, I actually break into light hives when speaking as myself to a room full of people. And networking events? I find myself needing at least an hour of downtime afterwards to recuperate. There’s that alone time again.
Introverts often hate small talk. It’s just that it takes so much more energy for an introvert to make small talk. I know I’m the person on the plane who sits down, puts in the earbuds, pulls out some work or a book, and practically pulls out a sign that says “Please don’t ask me if I’m coming or leaving home.” It’s just a preference, but it has nothing to do with you, extrovert. I don’t even know you. But if we can get to the big talk, I’m absolutely game.