Getting Along: Introversion vs Extroversion

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Some people, like Mr. Cruise here, seem to lose their cool every once in a while, but, while some people may seem crazy, most of us are fairly sane most of the time, yet we're all still so different. Why do some people at the office talk all the time? Why do others seem so distant or stuck up? Some say nothing at meetings and some hog the floor. Some people are always talking about something, either at the copier machine, on the phone, or gossiping with anyone who comes along, while others ghost around the office grunting at people. Why is there is so much difference between people who come from similar backgrounds and have the same training? Why do we get along easily with certain people, but others drive us nuts, even though we can't pin down anything they're really doing wrong?

Much of what happens in an office can be explained when we look at the personality types of ourselves and our co-workers, and especially the notion of introversion vs extroversion.

Millions of people have had an introduction to some version of Dr. C.G. Jung's theory of personality type. They are usually pleased by the result, but there is often little follow-up to explain how all the pieces fit together and what that means for functioning in business. Let's try to fill in some of the gaps.

Dr. Jung made it very clear that the biggest difference between people depended on whether they are an introvert or an extrovert. Extraverts tend to be more interested and comfortable when they are working actively with people or things. They tend to be focused on the outer world and are the talkers. Introverts are a different kettle of fish: they are the quiet ones, and tend to be more involved and comfortable when they are working with ideas and concepts. Take a look at the following simple quiz to see where you come out.

  • Do you tend to want to socialize? Do you know all the gossip, everything that is going on in the company?
  • If you're the boss, do you tend to have you office door open, or at least let everyone know that you enjoy visits? Do you circulate around the business and possibly know everyone’s name. Do you tend to encourage and enjoy brainstorming sessions? Do you like company parties, get togethers, and inviting people into your home?
  • Do you tend to be friendly, outgoing, the center of your circle of friends?
  • Do you know people and have little-to-no fear about taking on the external world?
  • Do you tend to initiate a project and keep to a timetable?
  • Do you enjoy conferences, both attending them and setting them up? Do you believe conferences and meetings generally are helpful, as people can pool their ideas?

Now, how many of these apply to you? What is your score in the extrovert department?

  • Do you draw your energy from a rich inner world of thoughts, images and feelings?
  • Do you need quiet to regenerate?
  • Do you prefer to work quietly in your head?
  • If forced to do an extroverted job (like chairing a meeting) do you find that you are more tired than you would usually be? (Introverts can do most jobs that extroverts do, but in contrast to extroverts, who seem to get energy from the group, introverts are tired by exposure to groups. Johnny Carson, for example, was an introvert and required serious alone-time.)
  • Are you known as the quiet person in the office?
  • In a meeting, are you reluctant to speak up and give your opinion? Do you often feel over-ridden or put down by the noisy extroverts?

How did you score as an introvert and how does that compare with your score as an extrovert? Did you lean towards one or the other, or are you roughly the same in both?

This is a quick and dirty quiz, but it probably gives
you a sense of which side of the scale you come down on. We all have an introverted and an extroverted side, but we tend to favor one, like being left or right-handed.

It is when working side by side in the office that these two types tend to clash. Their experience of life is so different that some clashing is almost inevitable. It almost fair to say that the extrovert's outer world is in colour and their inner world is in black and white, and vice versa for the introvert. This difference between introverts and extroverts is the biggest source of miscommunication, misunderstanding and communication breakdown between people who genuinely want to get along.

At their worst, extroverts tend to see introverts, because of their quietness, as closed, secretive, moody and unresponsive. But they're nice people. At their worst, because of their love of being social, extroverts are found by introverts exhausting, shallow, and noisy. But they're nice people too.

We tend to think that the way we are is the best way to be, and to think that people of a different type are weird, irritating or obstinate. It's important to realize that we all possess only part of the puzzle and that everybody contributes something valuable. Introversion versus extroversion is probably the biggest difference between people, but the first step to appreciating our differences is to understand them.

Next week we'll take a look at the next piece of the puzzle, intuition and sensing.

Henry Sharam

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Introversion vs. Extroversion with low self-esteem

I'm really interested in this topic, but one thing I've been wondering about for a while... what if you're an extrovert, but at times a lack of self confidence makes you introverted. I'm not suggesting that introverts don't have a healthy self-esteem, but I think I was confused about myself for quite a while.

When I was younger, I always assumed I was an introvert even though in some situations I was the "class clown" and quite outgoing in my circle of friends. But I think that all along I was an extrovert without much confidence. I'd go to a cocktail party and never talk to a soul I didn't already know. And if there weren't many I knew, I couldn't wait to get out of there.

But now that I'm older and have a bit more confidence, I'm quite the extrovert. I love going to parties and meeting new people. I don't think I changed from introversion to extroversion... I think I just started feeling better about myself.

Any thoughts?

Introvert or extrovert that is the question...

Hi Eric
A popular misconception about introverts/extroverts is that introverts are always shy and extroverts are the life and soul of the party. Not so. Any personality type can be shy, lack confidence or suffer from social-phobia. I think you have answered your own question, you describe yourself as 'quite outgoing, love going to parties and meeting new people'. this would suggest from a Jungian perspective you are an extrovert. Lack of confidence is a separate issue.

Good Point!

I am a classic introvert, but I love public speaking. I am the person with my hand up more often then not in class.

Sometimes people assume I am an extrovert, but it is just that I love ideas. To tget access to other peoples ideas you usually have to talk to them. Discussion is what motivates me, not the people.

Good person - ideas person

I see myself as an introvert, because I get my energy from within, rather than without. But in public I can seem very social because like you interesting discussion about concepts and ideas interest me and motivate me more, rather than people.

Time to start juggling chainsaws

Hmm, so you sometimes lack confidence... Sounds like you've got an incurable case of being human;) Da can correct me if I'm off track, but I think confidence is partly an overall state of mind, but can also be very particular to certain activities. You're not going to have much confidence juggling chainsaws if you've never done it before just because you're a sensing type, even though sensors (the crazy ones, anyway) would be the ones naturally good at that job.

Likewise, why would you automaticlly feel like the life of the party just 'cause you're an extrovert? I'm quite introverted and felt when I was younger that I never quite grasped what was going on in the impossible melodrama known as life. This is still true, but now I can hide it better and I can hold my own in just about any social situation, having developed that side of myself.

I'd say social confidence is a skill that needs to be developed, just like juggling chainsaws. Now, having said that, one thing often feeds on another: If you could juggle chainsaws, you're always be the life of the party (or possibly the death of it:P)

Steve Sharam

big knife little man... (Italian proverb)

'...If you could juggle chainsaws, you're always be the life of the party...' Possibly, there again chainsaw jugglers may also be using social props to hid their lack confidence in social settings :O

Good point

Touche Cecil.

Steve Sharam

On the right track

Good comments all. Eric I agree with Sardonias. You have largely solved your own concern. But having said this, the problem you outline is major. Many people do not know where they fit. A lot of people fill out one of the type tests and think that they have a fix on their type but then over time they begin to wonder. They begin to think: “Well perhaps I am more like the other side that I thought.” Even Isabel Briggs Myers in Gifts Differing, as I remember, says that people tend to be one type in their youth and develop another as they age. I have never found that idea very persuasive.
I think that we are who we are, and only slowly, as we age, maybe start to develop the other side of ourselves. You have put your finger on the issue that bothers many who try to understand their type. Introverts are good at doing a job, playing a role where they can hide their own introversion. Many introverts are clergy, actors, actresses, etc. One clue is that if a person functions as an extrovert and is exhausted afterwards then they are likely an introvert.
One commentator I read said that even the last pope who functioned so much in an extroverted fashion was very quiet when around the papal palace. It struck me at the time that, like Johnny Carson, perhaps he too was an introvert.
Keep an open mind about it. Your thinking may continue to shift. The critical thing is, no matter what type we are, to accept ourselves, even if what we do doesn’t fit some perfect image of our type.
Henry Sharam


I am an introvert; however, people don't think I am because I can be very articulate and handle myself fairly well in public. The catch is, I cannot maintain my verbal communication energy level for any significant length of time. I have to build up energy to communicate verbally.