Category Archives: extrovert

Communication Gaps Between Introverts and Extroverts


I had two situations recently where key differences around communication between introverts and extroverts showed up for me.

Scenario #1:

When was the last time you came back to your office and listened to 100 voicemails? More likely you responded to the many emails in your inbox.

I reached my saturation point a few weeks ago after I realized that I hadn’t had one live conversation all day. That is an energy drain for an extrovert. The real tipping point came during a back and forth email dialogue with an introverted work colleague.

As our email tennis match proceeded, I could see the misunderstandings multiply. I wrote him to ask for a five-minute phone call to clear up the issue. He wrote back, asking me if we could “settle it on email”. “No way,” I thought. “It would take more time to write each other again than to talk.”

With some apprehension, I decided to pick up the phone and dial his number. We had a brief conversation in which he explained his position and we discussed several viable options. The matter was resolved in less than four minutes.

I know, as an introvert, he prefers to communicate via email. I agree — most of our communication can be handled that way. But there are times that we need to do the extrovert thing and talk it out. We can ask each other questions, dig a little deeper, and listen to our respective voices.

Scenario #2:

One of the lessons I have learned from introverts is the value of preparation. So when my colleague, Caroline, asked to talk to me about her new website, I wrote back and requested that she send me a few questions to consider. I wanted to have the time to adequately prepare so that I could give her valuable feedback. Was she looking for help with the design, the content, or the branding? There were many aspects of her website I could consider. She didn’t take too well to my questions at first but then realized that our style differences were probably the reason for her concern.

I found it interesting that she thought I was an introvert. I suppose I have been flexing into introvert behaviors for so long that people don’t realize that I am much more extroverted.

Here is what Caroline wrote:

“When you asked what questions I have for the conversation, it didn’t even occur to me that you, as an introvert, prefer and become more comfortable thinking ahead of time. My instinctive reaction was that you were challenging the relevance or desirability of spending this time with me. This was probably reflective of the fact that I am doing a lot of selling these days in which I’m asking strangers to meet with me. It was only after writing the questions down that it occurred to me that the I/E difference might be at play.”

I assured her that I just wanted to be prepared. She thought about what she wanted from me and I had a chance to reflect upon her questions. We had a productive dialogue as a result.

It is natural to have differences in communication between extroverts and introverts. Here are some tips which should help you to smooth out some introvert-extrovert disconnects.

“I’m Told My Listening is Intoxicating! “

I am so pleased that Pearl Alexander decided to speak from her heart and write this wonderful piece about her experience as an introverted HR leader. Called “Leveraging Diversity of Temperament,”  Pearl fully embraces who she is and calls for extroverts to let her speak. Continue reading

Take It In or Talk It Out?

I recently attended the show Harmony, a musical playing at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta. I went  to this engaging show about a singing group in pre-WW II Germany alone and had a great date with myself. With no partner occupying the next seat, I had the chance to commune with my thoughts and feelings and check in with my experiences during the production. I felt totally in the moment and fully present with the unfolding love stories, Nazi encroachment and dicey group dynamics.  As I left the theater and transitioned to the outside world I actually found the audience chatter distracting.

I recommend the show to my friend Sean and he LOVED the play. In fact, he texted me about it during intermission and right after he left the theater to compare notes. Sean said that his introverted partner doesn’t like to talk out his reactions and that is frustrating for him. Why?  Because Sean is an extrovert and he needs to express himself and “text it out” to make sense of the experience.

I am sure I would enjoy going to a play with Sean.  It can be wonderfully enriching to connect with others  who can bring new light to the experience. However, there are times that absolutely nothing beats being alone.



Busting up the mythology

I am pleased that the door to introversion has swung wide open. Yet despite the rise of the introverts many misconceptions linger.  Some writers like  Margarita Tartakovsky, an eager Associate Editor are intent on clearing up some misconceptions about I’s and E’ and I was happy to oblige.

This week she wrote a nice piece called 7 Persistent Myths about Introverts and Extroverts and in between discussing hot tea remedies for a sore throat (which I had but not from discussing this topic) and Florida State (we both went there) we took on exploding some myths. For instance:

Continue reading

Do Introverts Need to Act Like Extroverts to Be Happy?

The Wall Street Journal article How an Introvert Can Be Happier: Act Like an Extrovert  hit the digital airwaves this Tuesday and two days later there are over a 110 comments and lots of buzz.

I do appreciate a controversial piece on introverts.  While some of the points about Dopamine and integrating more outgoing behaviors make sense I take issue with the basic premise that introverts need to act more “Type A” to be happy. Haven’t we asked them to do that enough? It is often the extrovert’s projection of what happiness means that lays a trip on introverts.

After interviews with hundreds of introverts I have found they make highly effective influencers when, instead of trying to act like extroverts they use their natural strengths to make a difference. These six strengths include taking quiet time, preparation, engaged listening, focused conversations, writing and a thoughtful use of social media. When they leverage these powers in the workplace they are not only more effective but also more satisfied.

One more note: several of the studies cited here have very small samples and may have little widespread relevance.

Continue reading

Do Extroverts Pay More Attention to Faces?

A new study thinks so. In a paper presented at the American Psychological Association this month, Brains of Introverts Reveal Why They Prefer Being Alone a research team from the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, California conducted an intriguing study. Here are  some excerpts from a write up in Live Science:

“They used a method known as the “oddball task” in which subjects see a series of very similar images, such as a bunch of blue cars, and then all of a sudden, a slightly different image appears, such as a red car. In the current experiment, subjects saw a series of male faces and every so often a female face appeared. They were also shown pictures of purple flowers interspersed with pictures of yellow ones.

Electrodes placed on the subjects’ scalps recorded the electrical activity in their brains, a technique known as electroencephalography, or EEG. The researchers studied a particular change in the brain’s electrical activity known as P300.

The higher subjects had scored on a test for extroversion, the greater their P300 response was to human faces. In other words, extroverts pay more attention to human faces (P300 can be seen as an indicator of human attention, or how fast their brains’ noticed that something has changed.) There was no link between scores on extroversion and the P300 response to flowers. Introverts had very similar P300 responses to both human faces and to flowers.”

“They (Introverts) just didn’t place a larger weight on social stimuli than they did on any other stimuli, of which flowers are one example,”  said.

“[This] supports the claim that introverts, or their brains, might be indifferent to people — they can take them or leave them, so to speak. The introvert’s brain treats interactions with people the same way it treats encounters with other, non-human information, such as inanimate objects for example,” Inna Fishman said.

The researchers concluded, “The results strongly suggest that human faces, or people in general, hold more significance for extroverts, or are more meaningful for them.”

The ideas here should not be taken as absolutes but perhaps are true to some degree. Keep in mind that the sample size was small (only 28) and limited (ages 18-40) More research should be done on this hypothesis. But it is an interesting start.

The Reporter as Introvert

I have done numerous interviews with reporters over the last few months. It has been enlightening to explore their views on the topic of I’s and E’s in the workplace.

I would say 98% of reporters are self proclaimed introverts. Our interviews often last longer than the alloted time. I find that the best stories have been the ones where we engaged in this give and take.

I love hearing their “ah ah’s ” and anecdotes – one reporter reminisced about hiding in the broom closet at a company reception. Another described the quiet mountain scene outside her window and her love of solitude in nature. Another, Taylor Mallory, Editor of the Little PINK Book shared some of her personal insights in her blog entry, “If I Am Not Talking, I Am Thinking!” I know you will enjoy her reflections.