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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • 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.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.