Like many other things in life, as Carl G. Jung asserted, introversion and extroversion exist on a broad spectrum, and it's OK regardless of where you happen to fall on it. But speaking very generally, if you lean a little more in the introverted direction, you're going to have different strengths--superpowers!--than if you're more extroverted, and vice versa. While you don't have to deny who you naturally are, you still can try to become more comfortable in situations that aren't your perfect social preference.
How introverts and extroverts compare
Traditionally, introverts are said to
- Be energized by spending time by themselves
- Not like the limelight
- Like talking one-on-one
- Have a small circle of close friends
- Make decisions slowly, taking more time to process and understand ideas
- Reserve personal or intimate information
With these traits, introverts are great at focusing, observing, preparing and organizing, mentoring and forming critical, trust-filled connections. They can be incredibly considerate and supportive, and they choose words wisely while allowing others to demonstrate their own strengths.
By comparison, extroverts are said to
- Be energized by spending time with others
- Love attention
- Enjoy groups
- Have a lot of acquaintances
- Decide fast, moving from one idea to the next rapidly
- Be OK with more openness
With these traits, extroverts are great at bringing in fresh enthusiasm, understanding perspectives from many social circles, and express their thoughts and feelings easily. They can organize and pull together groups well and tend to make connections quickly.
Experts are still debating what really leads to these differences, but some research suggests that extroverts and introverts actually process stimuli differently through different pathways in the brain.
Bringing introverts the power of the extrovert
Understanding the basic differences between extroverts and introverts, some great ways to help an introvert grab some extrovert superpowers might be to
- Bring them into a group with one or more people they know to bridge the social gap
- Let them lead or present to small groups
- Have larger meetings but for shorter periods of time
- Entrust them to make important business calls, webinars and video conferences
- Encourage them to stand in the center of the room, which naturally invites others to them
- Keep them posted about current events and trends so they have something to chat about with others
- Have them put their phone away so they can't hide behind it
Bringing extroverts the power of the introvert
You might help extroverts tap into the calm of introverts if you
- Encourage them to write so they slow down to think (e.g., email instead of call)
- Set more one-on-one meetings or projects
- Encourage them to pause before responding
- Assign solo projects
- Introduce them to interesting educational or philosophical podcasts, interviews and TED talks where they can practice listening
- Clarify and enforce protocols that can hinder snap or rash judgments
- Set up work stations away from the hustle and bustle, but allow some music, white noise or other gentle stimulation
- Let them use social media-based technology for planning ahead and staying on task
As most of these recommendations suggest, it's all about bringing extroverts and introverts a bit more to the middle, rather than forcing them to slide all the way over in the other direction. And none of these suggestions have to be standard order all day, every day--the idea is just to let them experience differently in a controlled way so they can empathize and function no matter what they might happen to be given. And remember, both introverts and extroverts alike can produce exceptional work just as they are, and both enjoy people. It's simply what revitalizes or drains them that makes the biggest difference.