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Gini Dietrich

Introverts in Business

By: Gini Dietrich | March 30, 2010 | 
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Introverts in BusinessI’m an introvert. Go ahead. Debate me on it. Most don’t believe me. But it’s true. When I was a kid, my mom used to make me call to order pizza because I was so terrified of the phone (for those of you who call me, you’ll understand I’m still terrified). I was not popular in high school because I was so painfully shy I couldn’t talk to people (though most just thought I was stuck-up). And then Gary Kisner, the general manager for the Kansas City Fleishman-Hillard office (where I worked after I graduated), provided me with some great life lessons…and worked with me daily to pull me out of my shell.

I tell you all of this not so you’ll walk away from reading this in disbelief, but because there is an important lesson in how all of us operate, and manage, on a day-to-day basis. Yes, I’m an introvert with super high social skills, but an introvert, none-the-less.

So what does that mean? It means that I can go and go and go, but when I’ve run out of adrenaline, I’ve run out and I have to go into my cave (as my good friend Justin Brackett calls it).  Usually I can make it five days and then use Saturdays as my cave time so no one is affected. But sometimes my travel schedule doesn’t allow that and I have to use reserves to get through the work ahead. And, if that happens, my networks of people are affected. Most people assume I’m mad at them and, a lot of the time, some are really disappointed that I didn’t live up to the expectations I’ve set early on in our relationship.

Extroverts, by their nature, get their energy from having other people around. Introverts get their energy from cave time. So, because I have high social skills, most people assume I get my energy from having people around. Not true. It drains me…no matter how much I like my friends, colleagues, and family. It drives my husband (who is a crazy extrovert) insane.

But what does this mean for the people you work with?  Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you deal with the opposite personalities at work every day?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

46 comments
Jerry2
Jerry2

Being an introvert myself, I can say that we don't always fit the common stereotype. Some experts have defined the difference between introverts and extroverts basically as how we "recharge our batteries." Some people need and thrive on social interaction and some of use need to crawl under our respective rocks for a while for much needed introspection. More helpful tips for introverts at: http://www.helpforthenetworkingintrovert.com/

ibrowej
ibrowej

Being an introvert myself, I could really relate to your article. Naturally also, I would prefer to go to the dentist rather than have to interact in a room full of strange people.It's not that I'm afraid, I just have my mind made up to be uncomfortable. I believe this type of hang-up requires a lot of practice in creating positive networking experiences. I did find some free informational tools that could be of help to your readers. I got some fresh insight from Paul Aaron Travis at: http://relationshipcapital.co/op/?utm_src=bl

velda
velda

OMG! You have said exactly the way I've lived my entire life. I have always put myself in jobs where I have to be around people so I've learned the "how" in my life but you are so right. I have to retreat to refuel. It is absolutely exhausting. Want to know what my job is now? I'm a real estate broker. I HATE prospecting. Once I meet someone and spend a little time with them I'm OK but I still find it exhausting. I really don't have anyone in the family who understands either so it isn't like I can talk it out with anyone. I literally tell my friends (and family) to NEVER show up on my doorstep without calling me first. My home is my safe place. Fellow agents don't understand why I don't prospect in my neighborhood even though it seems to be a hotbed of homes for sale right now. It is because my home is my safe place. I don't get all buddy buddy with my neighbors anyway. If I get all buddy buddy, I'll lose my safe place. One evening when we first moved there 12 years ago, my next door neighbor just walked in my front door. All the neighbors were that close back then. I was in my sleep shirt. Thank goodness her husband wasn't with her. From then on, the door is not only locked but I have the safety clasp on too. Saturday and Sunday is a time for me to be by myself but now that we are getting into peak selling time, I'm losing my weekends to buyers and investors who want to view properties. If I'm not careful and I let them take over my weekends, I'll burn out and shut down. Before I was a broker, I worked in college administration. Had to meet students all the time, had to give public speeches at orientation and high school nights. I was real involved with our professional organization and spoke at conferences and stuff. Evidently I'm good at it because I was frequently asked to head up committees or running a workshop at a coference but it would just wear me out. When I was in college and I was "all tapped out" I would drop a class if we had to do any oral reports. Other times when I was all fueled up, I would stick it out and even get compliments on my reports. No one understands. I think I should do something to retrain myself to another occupation so that I can be alone like I really want to be but not starve because I do have to have some kind of income. Maybe I should become a reclusive writer.

Katya Belenkova
Katya Belenkova

Such a great post, Gini! This describes me so well. I've been in the ad agency business (highly social environment), for 10 years now, and after especially busy, intense days, need a lot of "cave" time. What's interesting, is that from the comments, most introverts are married to extroverts. Hmmmmm.... I married an UBER introvert, who actually says stuff like "I hate people" in the comic (only when he talks about his professional life and he means it in the best possible way, of course)...

Dave M
Dave M

I can RELATE. What I find with my Introvert, is that I can hide behind facts, I speak when I know the facts, if I don't know the facts I don't speak.. because if I am rejected, it was me that got rejected, but if I speak facts, then they can not be rejected, and if they are, then great it pulls me into a much needed back and forth conversation, with no personal recourse. The outcome? I do not open up personally much in the office, so very few know the real me, but I gain the respect and reputation of when I speak, it is worthwhile to listen.

April Phules
April Phules

Got the link from HARO.

You've been shankman'ed!

Great Blog Post!

Agatha Kubalski
Agatha Kubalski

Great post! I, too, am often dread picking up the phone and hate forced networking situations (although I'm consciously working on getting better at interacting with people at these). My friends agree that I can be socially awkward, yet I'm the only one in my circle of friends that is active in social media. It truly is the perfect crutch for introverts!

Julia Stewart
Julia Stewart

Thank you for giving me a name! "introvert with high social skills." I love crowds, meetings and the great stories I always seem to get from total strangers, but wow, do I need my cave time. Loved the post, so glad to know that I'm not alone. Wait, don't introverts want to be alone?

Ed Brenegar
Ed Brenegar

The other aspects of the MBTI have an effect upon your Introversion. As an Extrovert, who is also a J (Judging), my extroversion needs to be with people who want to do more than hang out. Not doing things that lead to a conclusion drains me of energy. So, I'm energized by being with people, and drained by being people who just want to hang around and not accomplish something.
We are all more than simply introverted or extroverted.Those other aspects of our lives have a big effect upon who we are in our lives and work. Thanks for sharing a part of yourself with the world.

Teresa Peek
Teresa Peek

Gini, thank you for bearing your soul to the world to comfort others who are similarly challenged. I am SO happy to see this topic beginning to come out in the open more! I say that because, in business, I think there's a fear of admitting such a "weakness", as some have called it in my case.

While I am not a shy person, I am smack in the median area of introvert and extrovert. Those who know me, both personally and professionally, think I'm lying when I say I'm afraid to meet new people. It's not meeting new people as much as the typical scenarios that surround meeting those people. Until recently, this was my one big secret!

I mean, really, do you send a man into a department store without a safety net of help and expect him to come back with the expected perfect gift? (Sorry to pick on you, guys! It just seemed a perfect example.) Why do you send an introvert, of any level, into a room of extrovert salespeople and not expect instant wallflowers or panic?

I've enjoyed reading all of your comments. Thanks again, Gini, for bringing the topic to light! I look forward to meeting you....we're already friends! LOL

Claudine Motto
Claudine Motto

Gini,

Total introvert here...and like for most of you, everyone's always surprised to hear it.

Feels GREAT to be in a "room" full of people who UNDERSTAND!

I was just reading about this the other day on Psychology Today - it cleared up for me that there's a difference between being an introvert, and being shy:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner/200910/introversion-vs-shyness-the-discussion-continues.

When I run into articles like this I can't wait to show them to my husband! He is an extrovert, and although he accepts me 100% the way I am, I suspect sometimes he thinks that I secretly want to be more extroverted (I don't).

Claudine

Rose Elliot
Rose Elliot

Being an introvert I luv Twitter and social networking as I find going out exhausting and enjoy getting to know someone before meeting them IRL :)

Andy Donovan
Andy Donovan

Isn't it funny how many of us "introverts with high social skills" are out here...I think that it works as an asset since we spent most of our developing years watching and learning. Not to say that extroverts have anything to be ashamed of - just that as an introvert you fight this constant battle of needing to be out there and interacting when as you point out having a little "cave-time" is needed to recharge the batteries. Once again - another great post from a great introvert in business. Andy

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

My friend Nancy Lyons sent this Atlantic article to me: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/2696/. It's really good!

If you are an introvert with an extrovert partner, have them read Brad's suggestion - The Introvert's Advantage. It helps them understand why we are the way we are.

I have a friend who speaks on executive communication skills for a living. He always recommends business leaders figure out what type their clients are before they try to mash them into their way of doing things. He says, "If you're dealing with an introvert and you have to get them on the phone, leave them a message after hours so they can reflect on why you're calling and return your call on their own time."

Brian Meeks
Brian Meeks

Gini,

Wonderful post, I especially liked the opening lines. I consider myself an extrovert. I like to mingle, meet people, crowds get me excited. That being said, I just moved to a town of 280 from the DC area, which is slightly larger. I work from home, often go two, three or even four days without leaving or seeing anyone face to face. I guess it is my cave.

I am finding that I am just as happy alone as I am in a crowd. I find that solitude has a different type of reward. I have taken up woodworking, which is a solitary pursuit, and blogging, which is too, in a sense.

I enjoyed reading about your life and how it made me look at my life. I have concluded that I don't have any complaints, and it seems you, and many of the commenters are doing pretty well too.

Thanks so much for the post,

Brian

Ann Dwyer
Ann Dwyer

Thank you for this. I see myself in this post -- it's nice to know I'm not alone!

Love your blog ... keep it coming!

Mark Jacobsen
Mark Jacobsen

I can totally relate. Funny how many times I've come across as the social one in my relationship, but at the end of the day I would like nothing more than to sit in a small silent room with a book, while my wife wants to be on the phone, FB, email, etc. I guess I do have some of the "stereotypical" programmer in me after all.

Jake LaCaze
Jake LaCaze

I can relate. However, I call myself a social introvert because I feel it doesn't make you sound as if you hate people. It took a while, but I learned to be more social and I feel that anyone can do it.

Lon
Lon

One of my favorite TV shows is "Inside the Actor's Studio" on Bravo. Watching the show I have learned that many actors are introverts as well, which sort of astounded me. I came to the conclustion that introverts are self-directed and that is the key component of their success. Self-directed people learn to establish goals and are not happy until they exceed those goals, whereupon they set some new goals. Extroverts let others define them. Introverts define themselves and learn enough extrovert skills to reach their goals.

Rob
Rob

It's possible I'm a little of both actually (which is annoying). I thrive in social situations depending on quite a few factors such as who, where, what when and how the situation takes place.

I certainly understand your perspective (my wife is an introvert) and I think it's just one of those things you have to adapt to.

Sally G.
Sally G.

I, too, always thought Introverts were shy, withdrawn, etc. ~ and so never considered myself to be one as I have a presence power and energy that lifts and supports people I'm with and I love sharing that ... in small doses. For more than 40 years, I considered myself 'weird' and 'awkward' as I could be with people for periods of time ~ and then, I'd feel depleted, agitated and desperate to let my Inner Hermit rule and withdraw from the world to balance myself again.

I'm learning that, with many areas of life where we feel disconnect or misalignment -- knowing the language to identify our feelings empowers us to work through them without shame or guilt or embarrassment. It would have been so helpful over the last several decades to have had the language and capacity to say, "I have so enjoyed your company/presence/time/event - and I now need time to myself to process/reflect/maximize/fully appreciate this experience. Thank you."

So, to answer your question - I have learned to make no assumptions about people I am interacting with, as there will always be more that I don't know about them than all I think I do know about them. And when I find myself feeling let down or disappointed or perhaps even disrespected by another ... I try to remember that I do not have to take their behaviour personally, for there is probably something going on of which I'm not aware ~ and in most cases, I'm likely not even part of it.

Great post Gini!

Scott Hepburn
Scott Hepburn

So THIS is why you're so hard to get on the phone! ;)

I think blogging, Twitter, and the entire notion of inbound marketing were invented by introverts. Think about it: Who else would dream up the idea that you could just crank out valuable content ant attract customers to you, instead of calling them?

We (I'm an introvert, too) need every tool, trick and third-party out there to pull us out of our shells. The good news: Practice makes perfect.

Joe Heidler
Joe Heidler

I believe this is one of the reasons that social media is so great. It allows some of us introverts to socialize on our own level, whatever that may be. I know that it has allowed me to meet some great new friends and when I feel daring, like this morning, I can even go out to a tweetup and meet them IRL.
Thank You

Clayton Thornton
Clayton Thornton

I used to be a huge introvert, but I find myself more extroverted now. I still lean toward the introverted side of things, and people notice the fact that I am quiet. However, leadership positions and working at a summer camp (with Justin Brackett) has brought me out of my shell entirely.

Carmen Krushas
Carmen Krushas

I think most CEOs are closet introverts. We worked our way to this position, because self-reflection was our best friend, and though we appreciate the wisdom of our teams, we tend to lean heavy on our own wisdom at the end of the day. It can be quite loud in our internal debates, which may lend more reason to us seeking solace over the comforts of others.

Laura Scholz
Laura Scholz

Gini, you are my twin! I used to HATE calling people and selling things. My mom is a total natural extrovert--she could not understand my aversion to the phone (which I still have--totally guilty of screening everything). Social media is the perfect invention for us introverts disguised as extroverts. We get to be social behind the computer screen.

I've found what helps me is a mid-week respite. On Wednesdays, I take no calls and no meetings. Just hang out at my house and work, then recharge with close friends over margaritas and cheese dip. It gives me the energy I need to make it through Thursday and Friday. I know your schedule isn't quite that flexible, but I know that if I don't make SOME time for me, I will end up canceling appointments because I just don't have the energy for people any more.

I'm lucky, in that I meet my very small staff once a week, on Mondays, so we get the week kicked off right, but it doesn't require any more face-to-face time. And I try to do all of my meetings either in an afternoon or morning, so I'm not drained by the end of any particular day. It's a balance, but knowing my style and that of my clients definitely helps.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

I had no idea posting this would elicit such a great response! Like people say to me, I had no idea some of you were introverts (though, Doug, I think you relate to the comic I pulled for the image!). It's also fun to see some new commenters here...you know who you are and thank you!

Jeff, my Vistage Chair always asks me questions last during our monthly meetings because he knows I have to have time to stir things in my brain before I speak. Which is exactly what your P.S. means. Introverts aren't stuck up...in some cases they just enjoy listening more than talking.

And Mike? You zip it!

Ces
Ces

Great subject! I'm a huge fan of personalities and how the interaction works in the workplace and beyond. And, while I too am an introvert, my strength is relationships. I've worked on intentionally putting myself in situations that has forced me to develop the skills necessary to survive in an extrovert's world!

Danielle
Danielle

Gini, I read your blog avidly, but this is the first time I have been moved to comment.

When I was in PR, we took Myers-Briggs tests about once a year or so, and I was always one of the only introverts in the room (and yes, everyone was always surprised that I am an introvert). I describe myself as a "relationship-oriented introvert," but I can completely relate to that feeling of exhaustion after being out around people for several days in a row.

It's amazing to read all the comments on this page from people describing what I have been feeling for most of my adult professional life (at least 15 years or so). What's really amazing is that I've never read it anywhere else before.

Way to go!
Danielle

Charlotte Sherman
Charlotte Sherman

As an extrovert one of the biggest differences I have noticed is that introverts ABHOR small talk, they are drawn to conversations on subjects that interest them and that are important to them.

I want an introvert on my team! Give the MBTI, to potential employees or even to current staff, the results can give you a huge heads up into their strengths.

Thanks,
Char

Nick Shin
Nick Shin

Just had to mention this, but the moment I tweeted this link and a note about my comment, I had a couple people telling me they had no idea I was an introvert. Acting and disguising is a skill that everyone needs to have.

Nick
http://www.twitter.com/shinng

Davina K. Brewer
Davina K. Brewer

I'm an introvert, naturally shy and I'll admit to not always being a "needs people" person. I'm comfortable eating out by myself, relish my quiet, alone time and am fine working autonomously. It's one of the things that makes me effective as a Solo PR– and yet there are times I miss the camaraderie and teamwork of coworkers. That typed, once I get to know you, and am comfortable with you knowing me, you'll discover a whole different side of me. FWIW.

Nick Shin
Nick Shin

I'm very similar to you in that I'm an introvert at heart, but I have high social skills. I love what you said here about the adrenaline and the "cave" - "when I’ve run out of adrenaline, I’ve run out and I have to go into my cave". Familiarity, too, has a lot to do with how socially capable I am. When I go out with one or group of extroverts, I naturally adapt and I've found this to be the most effective way of breaking out of the shell.

Loved the post.

Nick
http://www.twitter.com/shinng

Jeff Lipschultz
Jeff Lipschultz

Sometimes I think I'm an introvert in an extrovert's body. You put me with a bunch of people I'm comfortable with, I can go and go and go, like the Engergizer bunny.
But if I have to work at meeting new people and making novel conversation for several days in a row, I lose steam.
So I can understand all sides of the equation.

To answer your question, Gini, the key to working well with colleagues on the other side of the fence is no different from dealing with other personality traits (detail-oriented versus big picture or data-seeking versus emotion).
We need to start by being aware of the others' preferences in the first place. Naturally, this requires communication. If we ask and really listen, we'll know how to approach others and respect (and perhaps even appreciate) their differences from us.

Starr McCaffery
Starr McCaffery

Love this Gini! It's the real reason why my office is in the basement while my extrovert husband's is right up at the front of the house. I need my cave time!

Jeff Schwartz
Jeff Schwartz

Such a great post, on all levels: What's your preferred style, do you know, what are your communication needs, the needs of your colleague's, friends and loved ones, how does your style complement a team? We are all "flavors-styles," and all flavors are gifts. At work. At home. With children. Can you imagine a high-performing team where everyone is the same? Me neither.

Awareness of your "probable," daily style - including under stress or deadlines - really helps. Just as it does to know your talents. I just presented about this to an international conference of engineers. Most of them already knew their MBTI. Superb start! There are online MBTI and talent-assessment sites. Try them. It's good learning!. Also, I highly recommend: "Please Understand Me (MBTI)" and "Now Soar with Your Strengths (Gallup-Talents)." If you're an Extrovert, who's your Introvert? If you're an INTP (the big-picture architect), who's your ENFP (enthusiasm, supporter, action)? We all need each other. All styles are good and important.

P.S. If you don't know what an Introvert is thinking or feeling, "It's because you haven't asked...checked in." And when Introverts say something, listen closely. They may look "quiet," but they're communicating-processing inside constantly. So they say what they mean...because they've given it a lot of thought. Someone who listens, researches, thinks, considers. Sounds like someone I'd want on the team.

Mike Koehler
Mike Koehler

I am totally cracking up at the HS comment. (I'll save stories of then for your hubby next time I make it to Chicago) Yeah, the way you put it I would agree that you are an introvert. I always picture extroverts more as social butterflies of which you certainly were not way back when, at least not that I remember. Then again, I was too busy being a giant pest and trying and failing to avoid your wrath. I'm an introvert. Happy with the peace of very few if any people around and music in the background. It's how I work best. Probably why I excel at analytical work in my career and dread having to do large group projects. And yes, "cave time" is a must.

Lorri Wyndham
Lorri Wyndham

I have never heard it described as "Introvert with high social skills" that is so completely RIGHT! - It explains why I am exhausted after being out at a public venue.

Have you found that this has had any sort of effect on your self confidence? I think it greatly effects mine to the negative.

Lisa Foote
Lisa Foote

Thank you so much for this post! I relate to all the comments, too. (Like Rob, I retreat into the kitchen!)
We well-adapted introverts need a commonly-understood/accepted shorthand for our style. It gets irritating to keep hearing "You - an Introvert? No way!" without a way to explain it.
Happily, people are becoming more sensitive - MBTI's popularity has helped many understand motivation, style and where-you-get-energy a lot better.

Jon Aston
Jon Aston

Total introvert here, too, with OK social skills.

If you have the time and inclination, I would love to read more about your time spent with Gary Kisner.

XOJA

Gwyn Teatro
Gwyn Teatro

You go into the cave and I go into the closet so I know exactly what you are talking about.
In my past working life I spent a lot of time facilitating meetings and workshops. Usually after a three to five day stretch of being "front and centre" I needed two days "in the closet" to recover. And like you, it was hard for some people to believe that I could be an introvert. But there it is.
I think there is a popular misconception that introversion is about being bashful and reticent when, as you point out, it is more simply about where our energy comes from. I discovered this about myself when I became familiar with the MBTI. After that, my need to "restore" made a lot more sense to me.

Rob S
Rob S

Same situation here. Introvert with high social skills. I remember a corporate leadership exercise where people took a personality test, then lined up according to where they ranked (from introverted to extroverted). I was second from the end on the introversion side. Everyone else in the room challenged where I was. I am an introvert who has learned that to be successful, I must master the social skills. I act!

I've found that I'll organize the social events with friends, because it limits my interaction with other people. I'm there, engaged, but it's not draining. I've become a great cook because it keeps me in the kitchen!

I enjoy cave time, but I think E/I also denotes where you get your motivation from. Extroverts are reinforced by praise and people around them. Introverts tend to be more internally motivated (and also our own worst critics).

It's an important distinction. An introvert that recognizes they need social skills can be very successful. They're less prone to false flattery. They hold themselves accountable, which is good if they have high standards.

It's also a challenge. I work in a very social organization which can be very draining. I can't let work suffer, so weekends find me retreating to the woods with my dog to recharge.

Good post. Glad to see I'm not the only one!

Les McKeown
Les McKeown

I like to think I'm "wonderfully self-contained". My friends tell me I have borderline Asperger's (though it isn't really funny, I think they're joking). I don't own a car, and live the life of a semi-recluse in the small town I live in - which is located, unsurprisingly, at the end of a peninsula and is backed up against the ocean.

Yet my calling is to train, teach, counsel and facilitate others - and the result is exactly as you describe it. I have a 3-day exhaustion horizon - I envy your 5 days -and every night is a battery recharge.

Mind you, I wouldn't change any of it.

Great post. Thank you for it.

Doug Davidoff
Doug Davidoff

As a fellow introvert (who most people think is an extrovert) I completely get what you are saying. There are times, no matter how much I care or want to reach out, that I just can't. It's like that muscle has been completely exhausted and it can't lift anymore.

What's interesting (and not to take anything away from extroverts) is how often highly successful public people are actually quite introverted. I coach salespeople all the time and one of my favorite sayings is, "I'd rather have an interested introvert than an interesting extrovert."

Just as we introverts have learned from extroverts to "get out there and risk it," I think many extroverts can learn how to benefit from "cave time," to go inside and deep where new discoveries (and energy) await.

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