By Dr. Karyn
Happy April to our DK Leadership Community!
Let’s Talk Personality…
The topic of personality is generally one that all my audiences (organizational, educational or parenting) get highly energized and excited about. I think there is something just generally fun about understanding how we are wired and how we are similar to or different from those around us! In one of my recent TV segments on the national talk-show, Cityline – I discussed this important topic! (Click the link below if you prefer to watch the video clip.)
What comes to mind when you think of an extrovert? A loud, over-the-top, outgoing person who dominates whatever group they’re part of? And what about an introvert? Someone who prefers to be alone, quiet, unassuming to the point of meekness? The truth is, while we can all be divided into extroverts and introverts, the differences are much more nuanced and understanding how we are ‘wired’ will impact ALL parts of our life – at home and work!
What’s Your Type?
Although there are personality tests that will define your specific type, there are often clues in our behaviours and preferences that reveal our most likely category. The difference between extroverts and introverts is their energy and how they respond to different situations. Extraverts get their energy from others – introverts get their energy from within. For example, I’m an extrovert and being in groups of people leaves me energized and feeling ‘alive’. Back in my student days, I landed a part time job in an accountant’s office where the money (at the time) was great – but I didn’t like it! Why? Because I was working all alone in a quiet office, and it left me completely drained and feeling uninspired. So, I only lasted 1 day there, but soon became a front desk receptionist at a hotel. The money wasn’t as good, but being around all those people energized me – I loved it! An introvert, on the other hand, may have preferred the office job simply because it suited their energies and fulfilled their need for quiet.
Another clue to understanding your type is in your thought / speech process. Extroverts tend to process out-loud so they “speak-think-speak”, while introverts process more internally so they “think-speak-think”. I’ve also noticed that many introverts I know are extremely observant; perhaps this is what they are doing while the rest of us are talking!
A great example is former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. I’ve never met them, however based on watching interviews I would guess that Barack is an introvert and Michelle is an extravert (yes, opposites in this category usually end up marrying each other). If you watch him in interviews, Barack carefully chooses his words and thinks before he speaks, demonstrating classic introversion tendencies, while his outgoing wife Michelle tends to be more animated, speaking freely off the top of her head. Different styles for sure, but both equally eloquent and completely engaging in their own way!
There’s No Right Or Wrong
I often find that western cultures tend to idolize extraverts while eastern cultures tend to idolize introverts. The truth is there is no right or wrong here, and neither should be considered better. They are simply different and the most important thing with this topic is to understand who you are so you can maximize your personality!
Author Susan Cain has written extensively on the subject of extroverts and introverts in her incredible book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She offers a fascinating look at how we can all gain from understanding these differences. In fact, Cain states that the most effective teams are comprised of a healthy mix of both personality styles, which further proves the point that there’s no right or wrong – and I fully agree!
Play To Your Strengths
Once you’re in tune with yourself and understand exactly what energizes you, you’ll have a much easier time playing to your strengths. One of the VP’s I interviewed for our Strategic Career Industry Expert Podcast Series shared a great story with me from earlier in his career. He shared that he had been getting increasingly frustrated at work when he kept seeing his extroverted co-workers networking with ease and as a result getting promoted. At first he tried to be like them, but that didn’t work for him. Then he realized he needed to simply play to his introverted strength. One day after work, he made a list of all the ‘key players’ he would like to network with in his bank. The next day he started emailing them, asking them out for lunch or coffee. He realized that his strength was in building relationships 1 on 1 (not in large groups). His strategy worked and today he is one of the senior leaders at his bank!
The takeaway is to know how you are wired so you can understand what energizes you and structure your life accordingly. If you are an extravert, make sure you are surrounding yourself at home and work with other people. If you are an introvert, structure your life with small groups, 1:1 interactions and plenty of alone time.
As a spouse – also try to make sure your partner is getting what they need so they too are fully energized. I’m an extravert who is married to an introvert. When my husband & I were newlyweds, I took it personally when he started to say he “needed space”. Thankfully, once I understood the power of personality, I understood it had nothing to do with me, as he had told me – he simply just needed space to be energized. So a little tip for spouses: first play to your strengths, and then also make sure your spouse is playing to theirs! This little “secret” can literally energize couples!
Your Leadership Coach