Extrovert and Introvert Stereotypes—Busted

Everything you knew about being shy and outgoing just flew out the window.

| January 30th, 2012
Extrovert and Introvert Stereotypes—Busted

“She’s so outgoing! But what a shy sister she has.”

We throw around personality judgments all the time, and the bulk of them are totally untrue to life. When you take the time to learn the complexities behind how others really behave, it can help you learn more about you! Are you falling for these mega-myths about personalities? 

Stereotype 1: You’re either an introvert or you’re an extrovert.

Personalities are much more varied than just being so-called “sociable” extroverts or “keep-to-themselves” introverts. Meet the “ambiverts,” who fall somewhere in between depending on the situation. There’s a good chance you’re one of them—ambiverts make up an estimated 40 to 68 percent of the population.  

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“[Many people] have elements of both personalities and it’s contextually driven,” Psychology Advisor and “Smart Thinking” author Art Markman, Ph.D. says. “A lot of our behavior is an interaction between the person and the situation.” 

 Makes sense! If you’re on a tight deadline, you may play introvert for the day, locking yourself in your office. Then when your team completes a huge project, you may join your coworkers in celebrating (who cares if it’s midnight on a Monday?).

Of course there are those unwavering personality types who act the same no matter what the situation. The extrovert who keeps gabbing despite a tight deadline. The introvert who forgoes celebrating a job well done, so she can page through her latest read that night. If you always do your own thing despite what else is going on, chances are you’re a true introvert or extrovert. 

Stereotype 2: It’s better to be an extrovert.

American culture celebrates extroversion, but actually, one of these personality styles won’t make you more successful than the other. “People who are extroverts aren’t doing any better psychologically,” Markman says. 

In fact, what’s more predictive of your success is how well you can adapt your work environment and overall lifestyle to your needs and wants.

“It’s always fun to try something new and push yourself out of your comfort zone, but on a day-to-day basis you want to be living as much as possible [in line] with your personality,” says Markman. 

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That means if you’re an extrovert, you excel in careers where you can exercise “social proactivity,” actively engaging others for the benefit of your work, according to organizational psychologist Kevin Meyer, Ph.D., an International Consultant for Hogan Assessments. “If you uncover an interesting idea the team would benefit from knowing, you get up out of your chair to pull in team members and pitch the idea,” explains Dr. Meyer. 

Introverts tend to choose social reactivity instead of proactivity, meaning they wait for the right circumstances to arise, rather than seeking them out. “The socially reactive person is likely to keep [a new idea] to themselves. If they happen to be in a meeting that touches tangentially on the topic they may pony up their suggestion or discovery,” Dr. Meyer says. “Or the way they’re going to let other people know about it is through email, instead of getting up out of their chair,” he adds.

There’s definitely a communication style difference, but both introverts and extroverts can excel in work environments. For the most part, people tend to gravitate toward certain jobs that fit their personality best. People who score very high as extroverts are most successful in sales positions, Dr. Meyer says, or people management. Introverts can be leaders as well, though they tend to lead in more tech-y or numbers fields that are often less socially taxing. If you’ve read about Apple, you’ll know that co-founder Steve Wozniak thrived as an introvert, while Steve Jobs helped bring Apple to the people with his extroverted (albeit multifaceted) personality.

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