TED Conversations

Michael Ullinger

Student - B.S - Computer Science, Baldwin-Wallace College

This conversation is closed.

How do you deal with introvert vs. extrovert tensions?

When I was president of my fraternity in college, I noticed a lot of tension between myself and some of the extroverts in leadership positions. They often felt that I wasn't moving fast enough, or that I couldn't make decisions effectively. As an introvert, how do you convey to people that you need time and space to make effective decisions? As an extrovert, how do you work with people that you feel aren't deciding things quickly enough? Are there other things that make you feel tension between introverts and extroverts?

Share:
  • thumb
    Mar 7 2012: Michael, I am an extrovert and I would want an introvert on my team any day. While I'm out there responding first to the public, the introvert is figuring out a better plan. It takes both to make the best teams and we depend on each other for our different gifts, as Isabel Myers in her MBTI called the type differences. Extroverts don't mind surprises because we like to learn through trial and error, where as introverts like to think before acting and like to have a plan. You don't always have time for thinking up a plan but you sure need one in the long run, well as soon as possible. Two extroverts might just jump off a cliff together, go too far out on a limb without enough forethought, but an introvert on the team will always bring you back before you go too far out. Of course, don't ever try to stop an introvert once they get a plan of action! Introverts can be some truly powerful people. So extroverts need to allow introverts to introspect and introverts need to respect the extroverts quick movements. Just remember, we extroverts get in and out of trouble 10 times to your once, and it may feel different for us to be learning through trial and error than if it were you. So please don't scold us for not thinking enough before we act and we will enjoy your abilities to take your time introspecting and mulling over ideas before acting. It is a different learning style that we have and we need each other.
  • thumb
    Mar 7 2012: It is interesting living in a society of leadership. To have leadership, you need followers. As I am not a follower I have the problem of being an leader and a hard core introvert. I do what I want and like and people jump on board and ask me for direction. And it happens over and over. I get tired of the whole leadership thing, go somewhere else and it happens again.

    I have been working hard on this leadership thing for several years. I finally gave in and decided I had better do something about it. One of the things that helps is to do a measurement like the Meyers Briggs and have fun discussions about it with the your work group. A lot of understanding can happen in those discussions and as long as it is done in a spirit of respect, respect will follow. The other insight is that you learn to leverage and spotlight everyone's talents and give them the opportunity to develop in areas they want to and sometimes in areas they don't want to with opportunity, encouragement, and support.

    I HATE public speaking. So of course, life took me to a place where that is a big part of my work. My work group now knows and understands this and supports when I have to go out and do this. And the extroverts at the table have a better understanding of the need to reign it in sometimes and are not offended if the group needs them to. I like to think about decisions too but I have really worked on my flexibility and being able to drop and run with a critical decision. But I also communicate about the non-critical decisions, I'll get back to you by 3 pm.

    The other thing that is helpful if some are not as quick to comprehend is to just make a rule. Something like: If the office door is closed, enter only if the building is on fire. But you have to be real careful to not close your door all the time. Only when you really need it.

    The last suggestion I have is to really leverage silence especially in meetings. If you do it right people think you're really smart.
    • thumb
      Mar 7 2012: Linda, I read your reply to this question with great interest. As an introvert you have unique skills and attributes which make excellent leadership qualities. I know as an extrovert I form thinking through talking, this can be a real weakness if I don't have the right people with me to support me to do this. Influence as a leader comes in infinite ways and reading your reply your character clearly has a positive impact on the teams you lead...they are lucky to have someone who is thoughtful and articulate; ultimately your self-awareness is your greatest strength. Trust yourself and keep leading, the world needs leaders.
      • thumb
        Mar 8 2012: Thank you Stuart. It is a wonderful compliment. I also think that extroverts have great leadership qualities. The ability to be on point, out in front and quickly is always a strength in leadership. But I also understand about talking out problems as I have many extroverts in my group. Sometimes you just want to take the words that come out and help them put it back into their mouths:) But if you are good and leverage talent, it will be a safe place and mistakes and learning can happen.

        I truly admire the extroverts and their ability to just walk up to someone and talk to them. That is so difficult for me. I work on it but I would rather have dental work.

        But how a person leads is very important too. In my mind we are always a group and everyone contributes their strengths. I am finding with clear expectations and mentorship the biggest decisions I need to make lately are what time to break for lunch. Its getting close to the time for me to leave again...
    • thumb
      Mar 8 2012: So it seems as if maybe the key to being a good leader isn't in introvert vs. extrovert, but in the passion and ability to leverage differences.
      • thumb
        Mar 8 2012: Great start. I really don't think it matters if you are an introvert or an extrovert. What is important is that you know yourself and your group. The only other thing I do, is I am always providing opportunity for each member to gain the skills to replace me. I know that sounds weird but it seems to work. Like I said it's about lunch.
  • Mar 7 2012: Extroverts: For them everything is a problem and that has to be solved at once other the world will fall next moment. My daughter ( Extrovert) She goes to office and send me an email asking my approval to resign, when I was busy with my work. I used to say: "Please wait" then she comes to chatting in the next second
    " How long, Dad?"
    Wait till I finish my discussion with my client -
    Oh You are busy with office work?
    Yes, can you hold your resignation till I finish?
    Oh! Dad, I can wait till evening .. Take care of your client.
    That was how I used to handle her.

    By the time she comes home and I reached home expecting and preparing myself about handling her, she was on the mobile talking to many people and then say hello to me and go to bed.

    Introverts - my son
    I start watching the TV and he comes there and start watching...
    For an hour nothing happens - both are seriously busy in watching the TV.
    " I don't understand why people are celebrating these festivals? he will say.
    Yes.. ( that's all)
    Silence ...
    Dad - do you ever participate in every function in your office - every function??
    " What is function? and why they should celebrate functions? I ask
    "That is my question "- he gets encouragement.
    The functions are invented to bring all kinds of people on a same level playing ground.
    What do you mean? - his doubt.
    As you know all people are not made with fixed measure of knowledge, intelligence, wisdom etc. There are always difference in degrees of these capacities or wisdom etc., So, some people talk too much, few people only listen, many people fake and certain people do have ideas but may not be in a position to express...So these meetings will enable them to bring with par with other people. "

    This way, I size the people, for extroverts immediate NO is danger, accept and agree with them and postpone it and then handle them. Introverts - best thing is discuss the subject deeply and then advise them.
  • thumb
    Mar 6 2012: It's not just getting others to understand you, you need to develop some understanding of the others as well. If you have an awareness of their drivers it will help you to consider whether you can modify your approach to produce faster results. And if you understand where you are able to compromise, you are in a much better position to negotiate the extra time you really do need.

    You're focused on doing things the way that feels right for you. The extroverts are focused on the way that feels right for them. People are like that, whether extrovert or introvert. The ones that get consistent results are the ones who can compromise and negotiate.
    • thumb
      Mar 8 2012: You make a good point Anne. I suppose I hadn't really considered that I was only ever trying to buy myself time to think about things, instead of considering why they wanted decisions so quickly. In that vein, is there anything that bothers or annoys extroverts as they work with introverts? What do the extroverts in the discussion wish the introverts could do better?
  • Wu Ted

    • +1
    Mar 18 2012: This conversation connects with my own recent life events, attending a business school as self discovered introverted leader.

    The rate decisions are made, in my own experience, has had no correlation with the distinction between introvert or extrovert; contending only with competency of the individual. The introverted face such bias of decision making 'lag' in lieu of their judgment making process, which makes incompetency all the more painstakingly obvious than with extroverts. The incompetent introvert when faced with a challenge beyond their scope reflexively pause, seeking the internal mechanisms which they find comfort in. On the flip side, the extrovert when faced with a challenge beyond their scope reflexively seek out others' opinions, which has the potential to be perceived as a form of decisiveness/competency amongst peers.

    "The most comfortable place for an introvert is not as a leader"
    Heather White
    This notion that extroverts are more 'comfortable' within a leadership role than an equally competent introvert highlights only the cultural bias to place extroverts in said roles. Familiarity begets comfort and only through repeated interactions is this achievable. So, here is the call to action to introverts everywhere; you have a voice - speak.

    The distinctions between these two leadership styles was just not made in my western studies on organizations. Until we recognize, highlight, and integrate these two polar styles synergistically - our organizations everywhere will be the poorer.
  • Mar 9 2012: I deal with the tenson by facing it and not being myself, at work and social settings I act as an extrovert. I am an introvert but only close friends and some family know that. This has let to be put in places of responsability and the one in front. I really prefer to be in the back on ponder the questions then acting on the solution.
  • thumb
    Mar 6 2012: I think I got an idea what you mean and how you might feel.
    At the moment I am in a leadership position myself. Supervisor in a 10 man department. My boss is very great, a good leader and always supporting me and helping me to learn and grow.

    He does realize and accept that I am an introvert. This is a two edged sword.
    On the one hand it describes my strength. I am an expert in my field and receive acknowledgement beyond my department for it.
    However, the people in my department expressed towards my boss they would wish I would become a bit more open to them. Approaching them more often, Small talk and so.
    Yes, I do sit in my corner and often feel sage there but I don't intend to hide there. We have an open office (no walls, just small table separators).

    The introvert I am says: I hate small talk. I will approach my people when they express they need me or when I feel I should help them. I don't want to bother them with silly stuff or waste their time. They're all great and commited to quality work. They do not need me often.

    The learning and young supervisor in me says: You do need to show your team members that you care for them. Take note of them more frequently. Show them you acknowledge them.

    And now more towards your actual question: The problem is you can teach neither of these.
    You cannot change an introvert into an extrovert and vice versa. You cannot change yourself (too much) either.

    Now what to do? I for one believe in the way of saying nurture your strengths and aceept your weak spots.

    If someone complains that you take too long to make decisions that person is either addressing the wrong person, putting you in the wrong field or not giving you the tasks that correspond to your strengths.
    It all depends on what you wish for in your job. Whatever you want: Communicate this with your boss.

    If I need a quick decision I will address those people I know who can do so. I too must address the strengths of my team members.
    I hope this is of help to you.
  • thumb
    Mar 6 2012: The most comfortable place for an introvert is not as a leader - which is probably why you're asking this question. You have identified yourself as an introvert but then expect compromises for you to function in that role. Not everyone put in a position of leadership is right for the role. Extrovert's tend to be dynamic - acting on impulse. Introvert’s tend to be reflective - acting only after consideration. Therefore, an introvert would normally feel more comfortable as the leader's advisor. Leader's need to be in the spotlight - advisor's don't. Advisor's have more time to think and reflect - they see the wood for the trees and are able to influence the leader's decisions. They are the true power. The role of a leader is to be visible - to provide direction - to inspire and encourage - and to take the flack when things go wrong. The role of the advisor is to understand the internal and external environment (social, political, economic etc...) - consider the probable impacts of alternative actions - formulate and present a strategy (or several) to the leader. Both roles are vital and a wise leader will value their advisor - after all it's the leader in the hot seat if things go wrong and they can't blame their advisor without losing face. Since most people are extrovert, yet their are very few leadership roles, most extrovert's are frustrated. Introvert's (at least those who have not had leadership thrust upon them) are more content, rational and productive employees / club members.
    • Mar 8 2012: Heather, I appreciate many of the distinctions you make between introverts and extroverts in the area of talents and preferences. I'd respectfully disagree though that introverts are more suited for an advisory role in an organization. I'm an introvert and a minister. The central aspects of my job are very people oriented, whether I'm meeting with people one-on-one, leading groups or speaking for 30 minutes in front of a crowd every week (which are very energizing for extroverts and draining for introverts). I know and follow the careers of many ministers who are strong, inspiring, visionary leaders of growing and dynamic churches and para-church organizations. You'd be surprised (as I was) to discover how many of them are introverts! I think the distinction is less about leadership vs. advisory roles and more about recognizing your specific strengths and weaknesses.

      I think a key distinction between introverts and extroverts is energy. What energizes you and what drains you? Introverts are energized by being alone with their thoughts, while this sounds like punishment to an extrovert! Extroverts are energized by being around people, while too much time spent with people drains an introvert. As a leader, there are some tasks that energize you and others that drain you. The key is to find balance, and when able delegate some of the tasks that drain you to someone who may be energized by those tasks. I've found that many of may tasks drain me, so I make sure that, in my personal time away from work I plan time for activities that energize me so I don't burn out. Hope this is helpful!
      • thumb
        Mar 8 2012: Eric, your description of introversion/extroversion is the one with which I am familiar as well. I have not before this thread heard of processing speed as part of the definition.
        • Mar 17 2012: processing speed is a part of the definition as I understand it. that does not mean "smarter" or "dumber". just faster or slower. Introvert brains, as it has been described at least, use slower pathways than extrovert brains do. this is probably why it is draining for introverts to deal with extroverts and vice versa... we are not processing the things around us with the same rhythm and it's hard to accommodate a different speed.

          "slower" is often better, when it comes to thought...
    • thumb
      Mar 9 2012: Heather, the role of a puppet is 'to be visible - to provide direction - to inspire and encourage - and to take the flack when things go wrong' especially if the true power is in the 'advisor.' Puppets are disposable talking heads that are interchangeable and empty. The reality is know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses and know those same things about your team. I does not matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert.
  • Wu Ted

    • 0
    Mar 18 2012: Without knowing the context/my life I offer the reader this:
    To: 'the extrovert'
    Differentiate the competent and incompetent introvert, spending no time listening to the latter.

    To: 'the introvert'
    Your negative bias towards the leadership role stems from a failure within current cultural context to highlight your strengths; and their are many which prepare you for a place of authority. Hone your internal processes/mechanisms to offer you snap decisions. Lose the obligation to justify/share in the specifics; rely more on being right and offering review in lieu of your team's success carrying out said orders. It was the synergistic ability of snap unquestioning decision making and being right consecutively that landed me the majority of the project manager roles throughout my College years. Roles either group appointed or thrust upon me and not sought; the key was (aside from being consistently right and decisive) showing compassion to the extrovert's method of madness.

    WARNING: understand that through the loss of 'sharing' the decision making process you too lose the feeling of shared failure. The introvert will be more likely castigated for failure to execute than an extrovert. Case in point? Look to the story of how Steve Jobs got fired from his own company; an introverted leader himself.
  • thumb
    Mar 10 2012: Mike. I am a big fan of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) and do not have any medical or psych revelations. So let us look at your tool box, yep mechanical tools. As you veiw the tools in the box you come to notice that each tool is designed for a specific size or application. So it is with life. We are all individuals that come with different qualities. I see some people as so focused that they would not know the building is on fire. Others are so glib that they don't ever take an issue or even life serious. My advice to you is to not take the advice that I have read below. I think that you know yourself as you made that clear in your statement. Your style is your style. The most important thing that you will be known for is the decision itself, not the time it took you to arrive at that decision. Is it approperiate, applicable, and correct for the senerio presented. You are who you are be comfortable with that. Best of luck. Bob
  • Mar 8 2012: Hi Michael! You were the president of a frat and an introvert? Who in the hell, put this in your mind? So,, I am a fence sitter! Would I have survived the fraternity? You are fine, humans will be humans. I love your question and it is making me think! ( crap ) :)
  • thumb
    Mar 7 2012: I have wondered whether introverts face a handicap in entrepreneurial ventures because they tend not to cultivate or bring with them the sort of networks that extroverts may have. In situations in which an employer is hiring, the employer may well prefer a thoughtful introvert willing to work behind the scenes without seeking the lime-light. But in entrepreneurial environments in which partnerships and connection may be useful or vital both for the work itself and for promoting the work, it would seem being an introvert is a handicap, regardless of the person's talent or advantages.
  • Mar 7 2012: In the case of Introverts - decision making is taking long time because they check the pros and cons and would like to see the many alternatives and may not be able to decide on any one. The problem with extrovert is Instant decision making and it is a dangerous trend. You have to call the fire fighters when dealing with extroverts.
    My son used ask me " I need space - give me time to decide" - It is not space, in fact you need some one close to you to certify that your idea or decision is good. For extroverts - no support is needed because they don't bother about consequences. The best thing is -- look around, select a good friend - particularly whose wave lengths matches with yours.. whether male or female - no issues - discuss everything except this extro or intro issues. When I was in late 30s an young lady ( colleague) met me and we became friends, close friends. Whatever I speak - she used to encourage me, praise me, ask me doubts, give me such a kind of support - I learned computer without going to any institute and trained all the office staff. So you need some one, some one on whom you can have good confidence.
  • thumb
    Mar 7 2012: Michael, I would first of all like to "second" the comments of Martha Love. She is right on the mark. I am an introvert and have found myself in numerous leadership positions throughout my life. These have usually been situations where I was asked to be the leader. I came to realize it was because at some level others understood I would be reasoned, balanced, and measured in my role. My first was also as president of my college fraternity where I experienced similar challenges working with the extroverts. What I wish someone had told me then that I came to learn much later in life is to simply let extroverts know that you need time and a bit of space to think things through. I learned to use these moments as an opportunity to teach by offering the knowledge of how the two personality types work as Martha shared. Once extroverts understood the difference they came to value my capabilities and approach.
    • thumb
      Mar 7 2012: Thank you, Jeffrey. I have since left my role as president (my time had come,) but as an active undergraduate, I'm trying to learn how we can better incorporate all of our leadership styles into the group.