It starts with school desks arranged in pods. It continues in the workplace with open work spaces and brainstorming sessions. Business and corporate settings tend to encourage people to talk and share ideas during the workday.

extrovert vs introvert

Introvert vs Extrovert approach

But what if you prefer a different approach? What if you do your best thinking alone and have your best conversations one-on-one rather than in a group? What if you are an introvert?

For the past few decades, it has been widely assumed that the more extroverted you are, the better you will do in business. In fact, you may have been trained or coached to develop an outgoing style if that is not your natural tendency.

But thanks to some new research and the popularity of books such as Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, introverts are getting their say. These voices for quiet point to a diverse list of introverts who have changed the world, including Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Seuss, Vincent Van Gogh, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet, to name a few.

So what makes an introvert or an extrovert and how does knowing which side of the spectrum you fall under affect your work?

What is an introvert approach

In his 1921 classic work Psychological Types, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung described an introvert as someone whose interests are usually directed inward toward his own feelings and thoughts. Conversely, he describes an extrovert as someone whose attention is directed toward others and toward the outside world.

The typical introvert is often described as being shy, reserved, contemplative and uncomfortable in certain social situations. An introvert usually weighs all sides of an argument carefully before making a decision. On the other hand, an extrovert tends to make quick decisions and is outgoing and responsive to others. He or she may thrive in group situations.

Phycologists today agree that no one is completely an introvert or completely an extrovert

Most phycologists today agree that no one is completely an introvert or completely an extrovert. Most of us instead fall somewhere in the spectrum between the two extremes. Why is it important to seek a balance in your work life? In other words, why should you become an ambivert? Here are five reasons:

  • Stretch yourself. If you tend to shy away form large groups and get nervous talking before a crowd, you may need to work on your public speaking skills. Public speaking is one of those things that can be practiced and learned. Sure, you may never feel completely comfortable in talking before a group, but the more times you do it, the more confident you will feel.

Similarly, if you are used to being center stage, it will stretch you to let others take the limelight for a change. Good leaders give others the opportunity to learn and grow. If you are a manager, you can strengthen your team by sometimes stepping back to let your employees shine. You also will be able to see which strategies work and which ones don’t by gauging reactions from clients and from other staff members..

  • Be flexible. No two situations are the same in the business world. You may find yourself feeling the need to hold back in certain scenarios (an introverted response) and jumping in with a quick decision in others (an extroverted response). When you learn to trust your instincts instead of going with the flow, you will become a more valuable member of your company.
  • Show integrity. By being an ambivert, you will display that you have integrity and self-awareness. No one will expect a rubber stamp from you, and therefore your opinions will be respected. In their book Finding Your True North: A Personal Guide, authors Nick Craig and Bill George say that a “true north” comes from developing a sense of higher purpose. You will be more likely to get that promotion or that new job if you consistently show that you have a firm set of standards.

A person of integrity also will put the overall well-being of the company above his or her own personal agenda.

  • Develop self-awareness. Sometimes whether we like it or not, we fall into old comfortable habits. Maybe you were labeled as the shy kid when you were little, or maybe you were called the class clown. You may have spent most of your life believing those labels, even if they were not true. Embrace the part of you that goes toward the introverted or extroverted side, but also realize that you can be yourself regardless of what you thought was your natural predisposition.
  • Gain confidence. One way to boost your self-confidence is by seeing exactly where you fit as a personality type as compared with others. A good place to start is with a Myers-Briggs test. A Myers-Briggs personality assessment offers questions that measure how you perceive the world and how you make decisions.

Women entering the workforce

Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed the test after studying Jung’s work. They created the test in the 1940s in the hope that it would help women entering the workforce find the best jobs for their skill levels. The underlying premise of the Myers-Briggs test is that we all have certain preferences and these preferences form the basis of our interests, needs, values and motivation. Many websites offer free testing. A good place to learn more about the test is http://www.myersbriggs.org/.

Once you learn more about where your personality falls, you will realize why you do things the way you do. Your answers may surprise you. Whatever a test reveals, it’s time to embrace both sides of your personality to become an effective business leader. The more you lose the labels and concentrate on being you, the stronger you will become.