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Introvert vs. Extrovert

Introvert vs. Extrovert

by Bryan Emmerson


The first thing I typically do with a new coaching client is what is called a DISC assessment. The DISC assesses one’s temperament and is similar to other such tools (e.g. Myers-Briggs, OMS/OAD, PI, McQuaid, colours, animal systems, etc.).  DISC is a little different whereas most of these other systems focus on behaviour, the DISC focuses on communication style. I’m not going to go into great detail, but there is one aspect of this assessment that is helpful to understand. That is in the area of introvert versus extrovert.

Generally speaking, I have difficulty with these words. The reason is that they tend to bring to mind the extremes. We tend to think of the extrovert as the life of the party dancing on a table, and the introvert sitting in the corner too shy to ask the girl to dance. While this is true the extremes, most of us are somewhere in the middle.

Some have tried to differentiate between these two types of individuals by explaining that extroverts are energized by being around people and introverts find people tiring and are energized by having some “alone time”. While this may be generally true, the closer you get to that middle ground, it ceases to be so. That is, an introvert can still have a great time with friends and feel energized, and an extrovert may need some alone time.

I find that a better way of understanding this is to examine how a person processes information. An introvert processes information internally. That is, they keep their own thoughts, think about an idea and then come out with a conclusion. An extrovert on the other hand processes externally. That is they need to talk it out. Not surprisingly, this means that extroverts tend to talk more than introverts. This explains why when you see a couple usually one is in introvert and the other is an extrovert. This ends up being a comfortable arrangement. From time to time, two introverts will pair up. This works because if each of them only wants to talk (for example) 40% of the time, they are both okay with 20% silence.  Two extroverts pairing up is much less common as they would both be competing for “stage time”. I have known a few couples like this and they tend to “lock horns” pretty regularly.

The challenge that most of us have then is that we tend to be paired with somebody that is our opposite in this regard. The main issue is perception. When the introvert processes internally and then comes out with a conclusion, the extrovert says, “don’t you want to talk about it?” When the introvert says, “No, not really, I’ve already thought about it”, the extrovert concludes that he is stubborn. Conversely, when the extrovert is processing the information and talking it out, the introvert looks on and says, ”Will you make up your mind? You’re waffling. You’re here, and there … Just make up your mind.”  By the time I finish explaining this to a client, there is usually some chuckling as light bulbs start to come on. “Well that explains …” is a typical response.  

So whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, I trust this has shed light on how the other half thinks.

I hope this has been helpful, and remember …

Your success matters!

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