Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the kitchen – They’re back
Da dum –Da dum- Da dum
Everyone look the other way. An extrovert is circulating. They’re going to eat you up and your lunchtime too. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything, just sit, listen and smile, hopefully at the right time. They’ll do the talking, the laughing, the reminiscing, the story telling and if you’re lucky, you won’t take a blow from their wild gesticulations. Ok, they’re covering the entertaining as well now. I can’t believe they’ve introduced Kitchen Karaoke in the office for the lunch time break. They are the complete social package.
It’s pretty trendy to write about introverts at the moment. I am not suggesting for a moment that they’re the flavour of the month, because they are one of the flavours of a lifetime – but so are the extroverts and because there are usually plenty of extroverts floating around the office it’s important we give them some airplay as well.
I think my behaviour is a good blend of both introverted and extroverted characteristics. Like most people, my behaviour varies according to the company I am keeping. If you’re in the good company of introverts and you’re border line extroverted, you’re probably likely to give the impression you’re very extroverted and vice versa, when in fact you may not be at all.
What’s an extrovert – just ask them, they’ll tell you.
“Researchers estimate extroverts make up 50 – 74 percent of the population. These “social butterflies” thrive under social stimulation. Extroverts focus on their external environment, the people and activities around them. Extroverts thrive in active, fast-paced jobs, such as politics, teaching and sales, where quick decisions are commonplace. Extroverts learn by doing and enjoy talking through ideas and problems. Multi-tasking comes easily to them. Two examples of famous extroverts are Oprah and current U.S. President, Barack Obama.” Psychology Today
Something technical for the introvert readers
The characteristic personality differences we see in Extroverts and Introverts is actually a reflection of their physical makeup. Scientists have identified that stimuli causes reactions in different areas of the brain for each personality type. In fact Introverts are stimulated more by being alone and having quiet reflective time. Scientists can track this stimulation in brain activity that occurs at the front of the brain. Extroverts, on the other hand, react more to external stimuli which is seen as activity at the rear of the brain. Dopamine is a hormone that our brain releases when we experience something positive, a feel good moment. Extroverts need more dopamine than introverts to feel that positive effect.
Extroverts need downtime too, you know
There are days when I come to work and I am tired or very busy and focussed on a task and it’s amazing how often people will ask me if I am ok. If you have a tendency toward some extrovert characteristics then people expect you to be up and bouncing out of your shoes every time they see you and will want an explanation if you don’t have a smile on your dial and a set of rapid fire one-liners to entertain them. But put me in a crowd of extroverts and the introvert will come out in me. Often I will be content to just listen and even hope that I am not engaged directly.
How do we manage extroverts?
Get yourself a stockwhip and a chair (just kidding – just a whip will do)
No surprises here. Extroverts work best in a group. They are stimulated by the social interaction. They should be encouraged and given opportunities to collaborate. They will work well in brainstorming sessions.
Talk it out
Extroverts develop their ideas and thinking through discussion. They will like to bounce ideas around, listen to other people’s thoughts and discuss their own in order to reach solutions. They will be comfortable and not threatened by debating points to reach conclusions. Provide opportunities for robust discussions.
To an extrovert, body language can be as loud as an argument. They see the cues and they are aware and affected by them. Remember, they react most to external stimuli. Be conscious of your body language, facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, posture etc. It will make a difference in how effectively you communicate with an extrovert.
Don’t always assume that an extrovert is confident, or dare I say it, overconfident. Their communication style may be deceptive and in fact they may be equally as nervous or unsure as you are, but responding how they know best.
May require conscious boundaries
Extroverts may find managing work relationships very challenging with a tendency towards crossing the boundaries between personal and professional relationships. Now I am not talking about romance, simply that their highly social behaviour could leave them challenged when a professional distance is required. Extroverts need to be conscious of maintaining boundaries.
Look out for burnout
Extroverts can run themselves ragged since many extrovert activities are high energy. Extroverts may require management to reduce stress and burnout. Equally, if you do enforce some quiet time, they will need reinvigorating with appropriate activities to raise their energy levels, yes, more group activities.
Look out they don’t overpower others
Are you familiar with the DISC personality profiling tool? If you are you’ll be aware of Dominant and Influencer personalities where your extroverts would primarily loiter. Dominant personalities will struggle with collaboration and can in fact overpower people they work with. Of course, dominant personalities are very valuable in many circumstances, particular where tough decisions need to be made and made quickly, or where leaders need to act on their instinct and gut feelings. Dominant personalities have the confidence to back themselves. Extroverted influencers are great collaborators and networkers.
Best types of work
It’s important not to pigeon-hole an extrovert, but it is possible to provide meaningful opportunities that may lend themselves more toward the personality of an extrovert.
Extroverts will happily volunteer for all sorts of opportunities, working with people, new tasks, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and so on. Be careful not to rely on them entirely and to overload them, but they do enjoy these opportunities.
Well connected through networks
Extroverts are natural networkers and so lend themselves to opportunities that require strong networking like, sales and business development. But take this a step further – do you need a strong collaborator or facilitator? Then perhaps extroverts are your ticket. They are well connected and enjoy meeting new people and developing new connections.
Like an extrovert, I just have one more thing to say
Well, we need a good balance of personalities in any workforce. Extroverts and introverts are just two types or categories of personality. Each receives good and bad press, but neither is good or bad, they are just different. Neither is more or less intellectual or emotional. And neither is more or less likely to be a success or a failure. But if you are managing one or the other, then it’s very important to appreciate the personality and in order to most effectively engage them, you tailor your management or leadership to enable them to flourish.
Best of luck and would be really pleased to hear your war stories and celebrations of course.
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Many thanks to my nephew James Westmore for his wonderful artwork and to Rosie Broadfoot for her continued enthusiasm for editing my posts.