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Introvert or extrovert - and when it matters

A woman sitting in front of her sofa with legs crossed and eyes closed

Oh, I've heard - and lived - some crackers when it comes to this topic. 

Extrovert versus Introvert. 

Have you got a moment? 

One colleague told me how - in a team event - people were divided up into extroverts and introverts. How they jeered at each other. The extroverts (obviously) much louder than the others. 

I was in a team event myself, where we did an MBTI survey, and Extroverts were teamed up with other Extroverts. (Why?)

And then only this week I was watching a video, and all I ever thought I knew about being an extrovert was being questioned again. 

But before I delve into a full-blown rant, I'm going to tell you a short story. 

Years and years ago I was developing a course on communications and communications styles. 

One of the prospective course providers demonstrated, there and then, what it was like to be an introvert and having to 'perform' in an extrovert manner. 

He sat quietly in a corner, drinking his coffee. Let his colleague do the talking. Until it was his turn. He stood up, and acted out the (four, if I remember correctly) communications styles. He was confident, he was well-spoken, he was a performer. And then he sat down again and was quiet as a mouse for the rest of the meeting. 

Afterwards he confessed that he was an extreme introvert and would have to (as he called it) 'lie down in a dark cupboard' after a meeting like that. 

And THAT, my friends, has always been my understanding of what it means to be an introvert. 

Being an introvert or an extrovert means that you get your energy from different sources. 

  • Extroverts get it from being in contact with people. From talking. Their best ideas are born when in conversation with others. They say their thoughts out loud, until they arrive at 'the' idea. They get energised from being amongst people. 

  • Introverts, on the other hand, need to take information in first. Process it. And discuss it with others when their thoughts are more fully formed. They get energy from being by themselves. They need to (literally?) lie in that dark cupboard under the stairs and re-load when they've been in large meetings and had to 'perform'. 

Of course none of this is black or white, but, like everything else, on a spectrum. 

You may be 'ambivert' and be somewhere in the middle. 

In some situations you may find yourself to be introverted, in others more extrovert. 

As you get older you may find yourself more introverted than you used to be when you were younger. 

Women, studies say, are slightly more introverted than men. (And if that isn't because of a patriarchal society then I'll eat my hat). 

And why is this important? 

Well, it's not in the 'let's all stand in a line and measure each other up for our (superior) extroverted-ness' way. 

Being an extrovert is not better than being an introvert. Or the other way around. 

Extroverts don't make better leaders. 

Introverts don't make better thinkers. 

It's. Just. Different. 

YOU're just different. 

EVERYONE is different. 

Different ways of doing things. Different ways of re-fuelling the tank. Different ways of generating ideas. 

And - of course - battling with different perceptions in society. 

So, all I want to say this week is this: 

The only way in which any of this is important is for you to know what you need to do your best work. 

For you to create, as much as you can, the circumstances in which you can build on your strengths. And to keep on showing up as the leader that you are. 

That's all. Mini-rant over. 


Tineke Tammes supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artistnever-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler.

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