It seems that ever since Carl Jung introduced the terms introvert and extrovert (initially spelled extravert), the two personality types have been bumping heads. Introverts feel like they have to excuse themselves for being introverted, while extroverts can’t shake off their bad reputation of obnoxiousness. Each type tends to misjudge the other and see the negatives in each other. But introverts and extroverts have something to bond over: a lack of productivity methods uniquely adapted to each personality type.
Extroverts and introverts each have their own set of needs when it comes to being productive, and very different ways of fulfilling those needs. This is because both have different communication styles, different motivational factors and different ways of managing interpersonal relationships. That's why rigid corporate rules can have a detrimental effect on the productivity of both extroverts and introverts. Before we look closer at productivity methods for each type, let’s take a moment to debunk any myths about both introverts and extroverts.
Myths about introverts
Being an introvert doesn’t mean being low-energy or being shy. Introverts don’t hate being around people and they’re not anti-social. Introverts simply derive their energy from being alone. This is how they recharge their batteries. This is because their rate of arousal is much higher, so they require less stimulation. In her book Quiet, Susan Cain points out that if you squeeze a lemon on the tongue of an introvert, he/she will salivate more than an extrovert. Introverts are more likely to enjoy one-on-one conversations and familiar situations.
Myths about extroverts
On the other hand, being an extrovert doesn’t mean having the attention span of a two-year old or being loud, obnoxious and not sensitive to others. It also doesn’t mean that extroverts are more productive than introverts. Extroverts gain energy from being around other people. They recharge their batteries by being social and are energized by people. Because of how they gain energy, alone time can be a torture for extroverts.
Productivity for both introverts and extroverts
The difference between an introvert and an extrovert is, as we just saw, in how they recharge their batteries. It isn’t a question of who is more productive. But when it comes to really unleashing each personality type’s productivity levels, the secret is within the task itself. Because of their predispositions, people belonging to either personality type will be more likely to perform better at specific types of tasks. For example, extroverts might thrive in positions where there is a lot of human interaction, like customer service, whereas introverts might shine in professions that require more reflection, like writing or engineering.
The thing is, within every job, there are both tasks that require more reflection and tasks that require more human interaction and involve more stimuli. The difference between introverts and extroverts is not so great that each group needs to seek professions away from the other. The two can and do coexist in the workplace, where it becomes more about their different styles of accomplishing tasks. An introvert might prefer to communicate via email, while an extrovert might be looking to get that ‘people buzz’ by picking up the phone. An extrovert might find brainstorming sessions completely exhilarating, whereas an introvert might prefer ‘brainwriting’ sessions.
(Notice how in these examples, what the extroverts would do seems to be the one preferred by the Western world? No wonder introverts often feel they live in a society that places more value on extroverts than on them.)
Productivity for the extrovert
Because extroverts have a lower basic rate of arousal, they simply need more to be productive.
Embrace being busy
Extroverts crave high levels of stimulation, so packed schedules and tight deadlines might be what extroverts need to ramp up productivity.
Work from a coffee shop
The quiet of the office may be daunting for extroverts, killing any ounce of productivity they might be bringing along. Or, extroverts might be distracting to their coworkers because they seek company. Either way, working from a coffee shop where they are surrounded by other people’s buzz will give extroverts to get a little shot of energy every time they raise their eyes from the computer and make eye contact with someone or smile at them.
Structure quiet time
Regular reflection can be hard for extroverts since they need external stimuli to get energy. Because of this, extroverts need to be more aware of the time they spend on reflecting and carefully considering the bigger picture. They should try setting aside time every day to consider goals, next steps, and the bigger picture of what they are trying to accomplish. To give a boost of energy to extroverts, compliment them. Extroverts enjoy being validated socially. While praising would embarrass an introvert, it will satisfy extroverts’ need for external stimulation.
Productivity for the introvert
It’s no secret by now that introverts gain more energy and focus from being alone.
Claim your space
Introverts should carve out personal space between meetings and other team activities to recharge their batteries. While this might feel like shutting down great opportunities of getting to know others, it’s more imperative for introverts to actually have the energy to see their work through.
Make every interaction worth it
Every time they need to interact with people will drain introverts’ levels of productivity. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary that introverts make every interaction worth it. This can be done by clearly defining the goals of that interaction. After every interaction, it’s also good to focus on the positive aspects of that interaction, making the loss of energy worth it.
In his book To Sell is Human, Dan Pink notes that introverts are great at adapting to other people in one-on-one situations, meaning that introverts can have higher than average social intelligence. They should really focus on honing this skill by trying as much as possible to have one-on-one meetings when possible. If the environment makes them both happy, then introverts and extroverts alike will be productive. The key is to create balance for both sides - which can be a daunting task. This can be accomplished by creating a culture where each individual is valued and respected, instead of projecting the world’s standards of accomplishment. It also helps when management knows exactly how to harness the strengths of each type.
How about ambiverts?
"There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum." Carl Jung
The truth is, few people are truly introverted or extroverted. We most likely fall somewhere on a continuum between the two personality types. Ambiverts display both introverted and extroverted features, meaning that they do gain energy from being around people, but after a while their energy starts to drain and they need alone time. Recent research by Adam Grant from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Management shows that ambiverts make the best salespeople, because they master the skill of attuning. Ambiverts seem to be more sensitive about when it’s time to push and when it’s time to hold back. Depending where an individual is on the introvert-extrovert continuum, she can take on more productivity tips for the introvert or the extrovert. The idea is that flexibility, as always, is more important than blindly following rules.
To find out if you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert, take this quick and easy quiz.
Are you an introvert, extrovert or ambivert? What productivity tips can you share from your experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.