TED Conversations

Anne N

This conversation is closed.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Has your introversion/ extroversion shaped your choice of career?

I would like to know if you are more of an introvert or an extrovert.

Did your introversion or extroversion affect your choice of career?

How has your introversion or extroversion led to obstacles/ helped you in your career of choice?

Share:
  • thumb
    Jan 17 2013: I am more of an introvert. I can communicate certain ideas, but I would be lost as a salesman. I work in community theater as a lighting designer. I could not do the job of the producer where you have to be constantly on the phone soliciting other people to do things. I work well alone or in small groups. When the group gets too big, I get uneasy.

    My career choice found me. I joined the navy and was prompted to enter the nuclear power field because of my intellect and technical skills. I was asked if I wanted to become an officer. I turned it down because it would mean that I couldn't work with tools. Trying to tell someone how to fix something and not being able to fix it myself would have been overly frustrating.
    when I left, I found a job (or rather it found me through the unemployment office letter) working for a city owned utility. I worked my way up to control room supervisor. When asked if I wanted to move up to manager staff position, I knew that it would pose the same problem as becoming an officer, so I stayed where I was.

    I would be lost as a politician or any job that requires constant interaction with other agencies. I couldn't do the job of a police officer where you would have to invade the privacy of others.

    Contrary to what Greg says, TED allows you the isolation of not being in the room with a bunch of people. You are free to communicate your ideas when you feel up to it, and have the option to take a break at your leisure. If you don't like what someone else says, you have the time to think about it first. You also have the choice to choose the topic you engage in, and don't have to dread being dragged into a boring conversation, or a topic that you don't feel comfortable with.

    My introversion allows me to spend time building, fixing, researching things without interruption. That is what I find most relaxing.
    • Anne N

      • 0
      Jan 20 2013: Thank you for such a well written answer, Roy! I can see from your point of view in all these scenarios as an introvert myself. I suppose it would be a fair assumption to say that introversion has shaped your career in the sense that opportunities have presented themselves to you but your qualities as a more introverted person have helped you in or prevented you from taking these opportunities. Personally, I feel that as an introverted person, we can perform well in jobs that require higher degrees of extroversion. However, it might take a longer time to be comfortable in the job and unless it is a job that the introvert is passionate about, he or she might burn out after a while.
      • thumb
        Jan 20 2013: You seem to have a good assessment of it. I could have taken the jobs offered to me, but I doubt that I would have been happy in them, even if I was successful. I was aware enough to know that my happiness was not based on money.
  • thumb
    Jan 15 2013: I do not make sense. Seriously! I am an extroverted introvert. My job entails not only being around people all day, and interacting and communicating with people constantly, I can confidently stand in front of 300 people and give a lecture on a complicated topic. So, people I work with and know well will describe me as extroverted and confident. I can also be incredibly shy, and love being alone. I actually prefer my own company most of the time and sometimes hate dealing with people. I struggle with meeting new people and communicating sometimes. I am terrible at maintaining friendships because I find people too demanding of me half the time. So, I would not say my introversion has been an obstacle to a very extroverted career.
    • Anne N

      • +1
      Jan 15 2013: It's wonderful that you are able to have a career which requires extraversion although you are an introvert. I am just curious-- why do you think you are able to give lectures to hundreds confidently but struggle with meeting new people? Is it due to the small talk involved when meeting new people one on one? As an introvert myself, I believe that the ability to communicate with others on a large scale and on a smaller scale at work is extremely important. As such, I was wondering how you are able to do it with such ease.
      • thumb
        Jan 15 2013: When I am training or presenting a lecture, it is on topics that I know extensively. I have confidence in my knowledge and my ability to answer any questions on what I am talking about. This has come with extensive training and experience myself, but when I first presented a training session, I was so nervous and stressed that I put my neck out! (I carry tension in my neck and shoulders). So my ability to stand up in front of many people has come with time.

        In personal interactions, I have less confidence about myself. I am Obese, so am often judged by people who have never talked to me. I think it depends on the interaction. If when I meet people I have to make small talk, I am extremely uncomfortable, but then I love talking and debating ideas, but you rarely meet people who jump right in with what do you think about.... If that were the case I would have no problem interacting in social settings. I wish I could meet Tedders in person because people on this site love to debate and think and critically analyse ideas. I never seem to meet these kinds of people in person!

        Another aspect of my introversion is that I have learned to be alone. I was severely ill for many years (my illness caused a lot of my weight gain because I was almost bedridden, and unable to prepare healthy meals). I would have considered myself an extrovert before then, but for around 4 years I was in so much pain that I stopped going out, stopped having social outings because I was too sick and people eventually stopped calling. I learned to live a very isolated and insular life, and when I got well again (I am in remission so have periods of being unwell and not having any energy so am inclined to read a lot and do very little as am not physically able to do so), I found that my confidence with others had disappeared. I seemed to lose a lot of the social skills I used to have and because I am so used to my own company, I am less tolerant of some behaviours in people.
        • thumb
          Jan 15 2013: This to me both Lee-Anna and Anne is the TED community at it's best. I was going to share earlier and felt I would have been off topic. Came back and witnessed what makes this community great. Not sure where you are geographically Lee-Anna I can say that the two of you have an instant connection in large part to the commonalities that I'm learning all TED-sters, TEDxers, etc. embody.

          Lee-Anna thank you for being so honest and open you organically give each of us permission to follow your example. Anne if you are reading this thank you for posing such a thought provoking question. Your phraseology is disarming thus inviting meaningful dialogue.

          Ladies, both of you moved me and I thank you for it!

          Jacqui:~)
        • Anne N

          • 0
          Jan 15 2013: Thank you very much for sharing Lee-Anna! I agree with Jacqui about the honesty and openness of your sharing, and have learnt from what you have shared.

          As an introvert, I too am able to express myself when it comes to topics I know extensively. However, the act of presenting is something that I still find nerve-wracking at times. Practising does help though!

          Similarly, I am also one for debate and prefer thinking about topics as compared to making small talk. However, I find that a balance is always good because small talk can lead to debate and can be refreshing after a deeper conversation has taken place.

          Jacqui, thank you for for expressing your thanks! I am happy that my question and phraseology has been thought provoking and created meaningful dialogue-- those are ultimately the aims of any TED conversation I create :)
    • thumb
      Jan 15 2013: I don't see lecturing to 300 people on a topic at which you are expert as being at all inconsistent with introversion. On the other hand, I see small talk with three hundred individual strangers at an event as being extremely challenging for an introvert.
      • Anne N

        • 0
        Jan 17 2013: In my opinion, it can be challenging for an introvert because more introverted people tend to prefer small groups and need alone time to recharge. Speaking to a large audience is challenging, in that sense. However, introverts (or people who are more introverted) are almost always extroverted to some extent. Thus, lecturing to hundreds is not inconsistent with introversion if keeping in mind that extroversion and introversion exist in all of us.

        It is akin to saying that if someone is more extroverted, he or she would never go out with a small group because they would not enjoy it.
        • thumb
          Jan 17 2013: Two of my three children are introverts and none has stage fright or discomfort of this kind. Delivering material on a subject you know can be very different from social engagement with lots of people.

          I have known many introverted university lecturers. And I have known extroverts who get nervous about presentations even to small groups.

          I think presentations may feel different from personal social interactions.

          Here are some people psychological testing says are introverts: Gandhi, Al Gore, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steven Spielberg.
      • Anne N

        • 0
        Jan 17 2013: Interesting comments, Fritzie! I feel that there is some overlap in social engagement and delivering material on a subject because both to a certain extent, involve large groups which may make introverts uncomfortable. However, it is true that delivering material on a subject and social engagement with many people can be very different experiences.

        For yourself, are you more of an introvert or extrovert? Did your introversion or extroversion affect your choice of career?

        How has your introversion or extroversion led to obstacles/ helped you in your career of choice?
        • thumb
          Jan 17 2013: I am an introvert. I think that has had more implication for I have spent my time when not at work than it has my career.
    • thumb
      Jan 15 2013: what if you try to see it as i defined below? introversion = energy conservation, extraversion = energy using. being an enthusiast, being able to give a lecture to 300 and not feel anxious is not a determining factor. but do you enjoy talking to people just for the sake of talking to people? do you enjoy fun like being with friends without doing anything, garden parties, brainless movies with popcorn, dancing and such things? or rather you are focused on results, and you dislike activities that does not result in something, as they are just a waste of time? i believe that is the main difference. an introvert sees the energy wasted, and tries to eliminate it. an extravert sees the energy spent, and tries to maximize it.
  • thumb
    Jan 14 2013: I am an introvert. My profession (engineering) tends to attract a number of introverts as well. One of the reasons I was interested in it was the fact that many aspects of engineering were consistent with the way my mind has always worked (which most of my education and life experiences prior to becoming an engineer were *inconsistent* with).

    I had never considered the implications of being an introvert before I watched Susan Cain's presentation (one of my favorite TED talks), but after doing so, I believe it is entirely possible that there is a relationship between the inherent logic of my brain and my social inclinations.

    How about you?
    • Anne N

      • 0
      Jan 15 2013: It's interesting how you say that you were interested in engineering because it is consistent with the way your mind works. In what ways is it consistent? For example, do you mean that tasks in engineering require a lot of focused thought which is how an introvert likes to be?

      I have not completely chosen a career yet. Rather, I just feel that I have interests in different fields. I felt that introversion and extroversion would affect me in whatever my field of choice would be and as such, was interested in this question. Personally, I am an introvert but would want to work with people. I do like talking to people and find it meaningful. However, I would not choose a job with an overwhelming amount of interaction so that I can recharge.
      • thumb
        Jan 15 2013: Throughout the course of my life, I always liked logic, efficient problem solving, optimizing tasks, and testing for repeatable results (I also had a strong aptitude and interests in mathematics and science, which influenced my career choice as well). Upon becoming an engineering student, I was introduced to those concepts as basic tenets of the engineering profession, but I was already familiar with them via the inner workings of my own mind. While some of my peers had to learn how to "think like an engineer", that was a skill I already possessed inherently. Choosing to study engineering gave me the foundation and knowledge to apply that mindset to something productive, and defined some of my natural thought processes for me in communicable terms.

        I wish you luck in choosing a career. It is worth mentioning that the ideal conditions that are taught in school do not always exist in the workplace. I worked as an engineer for several years and was terribly frustrated by the lack of efficiency in engineering companies, and annoyed by how much of my time was (in my opinion) wasted on meetings and such. I work for myself now and am much happier. That is something I would recommend for anyone who identifies as an introvert, when possible. A benefit of working for yourself is that it can give you more power over the frequency and duration of your social interactions, among other things.
        • Anne N

          • 0
          Jan 15 2013: Thank you for sharing, Jacqueline! I found it really interesting how you chose a career choice that was based upon the way you think and that allowed you to apply it productively. That is a line of thought I have not encountered before.

          I also realised that you and Allan both shared about working for yourself. However, you gave different reasons which linked back to introversion. Thank you for your input, it is a thought that I will be considering! :)
  • thumb
    Jan 20 2013: Hi Anne,
    I don't like labels, and I agree with your comment..."Most people are indeed both introverted and extroverted to varying degrees." Whether or not we recognize and/or accept this in our "self" is another question.

    I LOVE to go "inward" to explore various thoughts and feelings in myself, and in fact, some friends get worried about me at those times because I am, at other times so "bubbly" and appear to be so much of an extrovert, which I also LOVE to experience:>)

    I appreciate and am grateful to friends and family who recognize that I am both introverted AND extroverted at various times. Yes, the experiences of introversion and/or extroversion have indeed affected several career choices, and I have enjoyed every single moment of experiencing both introversion AND extroversion. I have not found this ability to create obstacles in any way, and in fact, believe this recognition facilitates understanding and ability to deal with obstacles. It is another "tool" which has helped me navigate the life adventure:>)
  • thumb
    Jan 16 2013: Still struggling with your question, Anne. There is a little bit of a contradiction in it, because if someone were truly introverted, we would expect that they wouldn't answer your question at all, wouldn't we? As soon as someone says "I'm an introvert," we might say they're a little extroverted to even communicate it.

    On the broader question of you choosing a career, doesn't it seem like the extroverted people get more of the rewards in life? For instance, I'm extroverted, and I've gotten some good rewards. I've gotten to work in front of the camera with many movie stars, some of the world's most famous people. I've gotten to speak on the radio many times, sometimes my voice goes out across the country. I have pretty good money in my pocket.

    If you wanted to emphasize your extroverted side a little more, with the idea that the career of an extrovert might be more rewarding, think of what you do in your more extroverted moments. Do you go to the park? Get together with friends and talk? Go to the movies, or the beach? All these things can become careers, for example you can work for a parks department, work in some profession where you help people meet others (like matchmaker), run a movie theater, work as a lifeguard on the beach. Just an idea.
    • Anne N

      • +1
      Jan 17 2013: Hmm, well Greg, almost everyone is introverted and extroverted. When people say that they are "introverts" or "extroverts", they usually mean that they are more introverted or more extroverted. A person who is more introverted can want to answer questions. In fact, people who are more introverted can communicate with others as well as a someone who is more extroverted. The difference is that people who are more introverted prefer talking to small groups of friends and "recharge" through alone time. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts have been called "famous introverts".

      Personally, I don't think that more extroverted people get more rewards in life. Rather, the type of rewards a more introverted and a more extroverted person want may be different.However, I feel that regardless of whether people are introverted or extroverted, everyone aims for different goals and rewards.

      I agree with your suggestion, though. If I, or anyone else who is more of an introvert, wanted to emphasise our extroverted sides and make them into a career, we could consider what we do when we are feeling more extroverted.
      • thumb
        Jan 18 2013: I wonder if we're talking about the cliched "style" of extroversion/introversion, or the real substance of it? For example, someone may walk into a party and start shaking hands with everyone, talking for a few minutes with many different people, and we'd say they're extroverted. Another person may walk in, find one person to talk to, and go to a corner and talk for an hour. Some might say that person is introverted. I wouldn't. I think you can be quietly extroverted, that is, outward-directed, wanting to communicate, and just careful about who you communicate with.

        I would still have to think that the communicative person is the more successful one, because they get to gather more ideas from other people, learn more about life and how to handle life, get more love, friends. I still would think that the really introverted person is a negative person. I'd like to go into a prison and see what percentage is introverted. Of course we all spend some time alone and need to process our experiences.

        I'd have to guess that Julia and Meryl are rather extroverted, or communicative. Having worked in this business a lot, I know that there's no way to get work unless you are willing to communicate, to reach out. In fact, the product itself is all about communication. A movie is not a solid good like a pair of shoes, it is all about communication, emotion and conveying emotion.

        Anne, I really like how you start conversations and keep getting back to people and offering thoughtful ideas and questions. I wonder if you could use this in your career? Teacher is a job that comes to mind. Or a host on the radio. Here in the U.S. we have a lot of "talk radio," where hosts will talk on the air, have guests, and also take many calls over the phone from the audience sitting at home, where members of the audience get to be on the air. Very likely you could be a host. Do you have "talk radio" in Singapore? What is it like?
  • thumb
    Jan 14 2013: I'm an introvert and occasional 'omnivert'. The main obstacle I've encountered on many occasions have always been related to the enforcement of standardised procedures and the truly ridiculous assumption that 'team players' are more competent than solitary ones.

    I think introverts have an in-built revulsion towards imposed standardised procedures and/or ways of thinking in the workplace, especially if that person was interviewed in the first place and taken on on the basis of personal and inherent competence in that particular area.

    A devotee of standardised work practices may well be a good employee - but seldom a good practitioner.

    Standardised procedures are too blunt an instrument for many introverts to deal with, because (along with being forced to work in a team) they are not synonymous with their need to be autonomous and provides no opportunity for contemplative freedom of thought and expression.

    Whilst many standardised procedures do have their place, introverts naturally rely more on internal reference for all that they do - and the outcomes from those are usually right, especially when there are strong links to an empathic understanding of others, and how things work in the wider context.

    The dilemma here is that contemplative, internally sourced thoughts are incompatible with the introvert's reluctance to outsource them for others to see. This alone has implications on the perceived compatability of introverts within the workplace. It is the reason why I prefer to be my own boss.
    • Anne N

      • 0
      Jan 15 2013: You brought up a very interesting point on how introverts like autonomy and freedom thought and expression which may affect their liking for standardised procedures. It is a point that I have not thought of before. Thank you for sharing!
  • thumb
    Jan 14 2013: Anne, I must not understand the definition of introvert/extrovert. Your topic came up on another conversation by someone who had watched Cain's talk, and I made the assertion that to be successful in life you have to be communicative, at least somewhat sociable. Even the lady below who calls herself an introvert would have to interact a lot of the time in order to achieve her projects. The only person I know in my community who seems really introverted is a homeless lady who never appears to talk to, interact with, anybody.

    Thus my perception is that to some degree every person who has any success in life (which is the vast majority of us) is to some degree extroverted. So the question in my mind becomes more like, are you extroverted (sociable) to the normal degree, or are you extroverted beyond most people?

    What do you think introversion is? When I think of a real introvert, I think of someone who holes up in their apartment for years, and then emerges to shoot a bunch of people in a mass killing. To me, introversion and anti-sociable are very similar. But I don't think most people agree. What am I missing here?

    I don't know where I fall. I might have said more extroverted than most. For twenty years I've worked on-camera off and on as an extra in TV and movies (I live just east of Hollywood, California). But lately I've been feeling like acting isn't very meaningful for me. I don't know, I'm very interested in nutrition as well. You've got me thinking that introversion/extroversion might not mean so much in career. For instance, if I were an engineer I think I'd be an extroverted engineer.

    Where do you fall on your scale? What sort of work do you do?
    • thumb
      Jan 14 2013: where did you get the idea that introverted means unable / unwilling to communicate? it is so much simplification it already falls in the "totally wrong" category. introversion is actually a misnomer. it has nothing to do with being a lone wolf.

      a good attempt describing intro/extraversion is this (though i'm not an expert): introvert - energy conservation, extravert - energy use. it is just an attitude, a personality trait, nothing more.
      • thumb
        Jan 16 2013: Not sure on this one, Krisztian. Some people say that as you spend energy you get energy. Doctors say that if you exercise you will get more energy, surprisingly.
    • Anne N

      • +1
      Jan 15 2013: Most people are indeed both introverted and extroverted to varying degrees. Thank you for the input! I have changed the question to "Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?"

      Introversion is different from being antisocial or even shy. In fact, introverts can like to interact with people. However, they get energy from being alone. For example, being alone before a big speech. On the other hand, extroverts get energy from being around people. For example, they energise themselves by talking to friends before a big speech. However, extroverts can also be introverted at times.

      Here is a link which neatly sums up the difference between introversion and extraversion: http://www.mypersonality.info/personality-types/extraverted-introverted/

      In my opinion, I think that introversion and extroversion do make a difference in choosing one's career. For example, an extrovert is very social and would probably like settings with a lot of interactions. A job where an extrovert has to sit at a desk without talking for hours on end would probably not be a good fit.

      Personally, I am more introverted than extroverted. I have not completely chosen a career yet. Rather, I just feel that I have interests in different fields. I felt that being more of an introvert or extrovert would affect me in whatever my field of choice would be and as such, was interested in posing this question to see what others think.
    • Jan 18 2013: Hi Greg, the introversion and extroversion preferences are about where a person's energy source and focus come from. Have you heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment or the MBTI? As a practitioner, I tell people to not get caught up in the dictionary definition of the words "introvert/introversion" and "extrovert/extroversion" but rather think of these terms as labels from Carl Yung's work.

      I'm an ambivert leaning slightly into introversion but most people think I'm extremely extrovert because I love to meet new people and to have new experiences, and because my profession involves my being with people all day, talking and teaching. But the truth is, I feel "my best" when I have moments to myself, where I can be lost in my own thoughts. I need this silent space to gather myself so that when I am with other people, I can now share - also, as an introvert, I have to "prepare" myself before I can have a full day's workshop. Afterwards, I just need need to go home and be alone to rejuvenate by ordering take out and watching tv.

      I tell folks in my MBTI workshops that if you don't know the thoughts of someone who prefers introversion, you haven't asked him/her what she's thinking. If you don't know what an extrovert is thinking, you haven't been listening. Folks who prefer extroversion have an inherent preference for experience to be external of his/her own mind, to involve other people, to be in a collective environment. Their "best" is when they can talk through ideas and collaborate. Folks preferring extroversion are the folks who walk into a room of strangers and networks through the room, while I sit in my chair and quietly introduce myself to the person sitting next to me.

      It's a pretty fascinating topic about preferences - the MBTI also looks into how people take in information, how people make decisions and how people organize themselves in the external environment. Let me know if you want to hear more!
      • thumb
        Jan 20 2013: I don't know, I tend to think you can be "quietly" extroverted, that you can enjoy deep conversations with one person and that can be extroverted. The division you're making, between someone who walks into a party and starts networking vs. someone who doesn't seems more like the cliched "style" of extroversion. But maybe I'm wrong. Any info you send will be appreciated.
  • Jan 14 2013: Introvert No Obstacles