Tag Archives: Extraversion

The truth: introverts and extraverts are wired differently

Guest author Edythe Richards

Two of the most common misunderstandings of the Extravert-Introvert dichotomy is that 1.) Introverted types are more introspective than Extroverted types, and 2.) Introverted types enjoy solitary activities more than Extraverted types.

Extravert Steve Balmer

The MBTI® relies on a dichotomous scoring procedure, and the instrument depends on this perspective of personality. The MBTI® assumes a person falls into 1 of 2 “sides” on each of 4 dichotomies, which results in one of 16 “Types.”

It is therefore a “forced choice” assessment (a person only has the option of “A” or “B”). We use both preferences on every dimension at different times, but we’re predisposed toward one over the other.

Unfortunately, some people who use the instrument do not fully explain the concepts of preferences to ensure an understanding of the dichotomies. The proper verbiage is not “You’re an Introvert” but “You have a preference for Introversion” or “You’re an Introverted type.”

The nature versus nurture debate is one of the oldest in the field of psychology, and I believe it can also apply to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator:

Introverts and Extraverts’ brains are simply wired differently. One major difference is the way they each respond to the neurotransmitters dopamine (which provides motivation to seek external “rewards” such as money, happy faces, food, exploration of the environment, social status and affiliation), and acetylcholine (which powers the ability to think deeply, reflect, and focus intently on one thing for a long period of time).

Dopamine:  while both Introverts and Extraverts have the same amount of dopamine, it is more active in the brains of Extraverts. This means that Extraverts are triggered by the expectation of these “rewards.”

In short, Extraverts have a low sensitivity to dopamine and therefore require large amounts of it, and they need adrenaline to increase the dopamine in their brains. Therefore, the more active they are, the more dopamine they have.

Introverts’ brains, on the other hand, are not as activated by these external rewards from the environment, so it may appear that they are less enthusiastic about these rewards. They are just less energized by external stimulation.

Acetylcholine: this neurotransmitter also rewards us, but on a more subtle level. It is more active in the brains of Introverts. When it is engaged, the body conserves energy, muscles relax, pupils constrict, blood pressure is lowered, and we relax as we withdraw from the external world. In short, the body is getting ready for “hibernation and contemplation”: two of the things Introverts like the most.

Introvert Reading

Additionally, Introverts and Extraverts process stimuli differently. The “dopamine pathway” Extraverts use is shorter than the Acetylcholine pathway Introverts use. This could explain why many Extraverts are able to respond faster to an onslaught of stimuli.

This explains why Extraverts may appear to like face-to-face networking more than online networking: they prefer the effects of dopamine, which are aligned with the interactions, new experiences and expressions of people that in-person networking events reinforce.

Too much dopamine overloads the brains of Introverts and they may be prone to over-stimulation at such events, thus preferring online networking where they can be more relaxed in their own homes in familiar territory.

It’s important to note, however, that correlation does not imply causation. Though science says we’re pre-disposed to Extraversion or Introversion, our own individual experiences, families of origin, and culture all play a part too.


To use myself as an example: my mother was my primary caregiver, and she is a very clear Introvert. As a child, my behaviors and activities that were rewarded were Introverted ones; solitary activities such as reading, piano (solo – not with groups), and individual sports like horseback riding. I was taught to think before I speak, be mindful of other people; don’t interrupt, etc. We also lived on a farm, isolated from other people. I used to beg my mom to move us to a neighborhood so I could play with other kids. As a teenager, I craved group activities, and in college, I actively sought out group affiliates. As I became more aware of Type Theory, a light-bulb clicked: I am naturally an Extravert, but due to my upbringing, I became very comfortable in the world of Introverts – so much so, that even today, I’m often mistaken as an Introvert.

To be clear, there’s no right or wrong: we are who we are. All of us fall somewhere on the spectrum between Extraversion and Introversion – and all of us use both in our day-to-day lives. Neither is better or worse; we can all learn from each other.


Edythe Richards, founder of A Top Career (www.atopcareer.com) is a Career Counselor and Corporate Trainer in the Washington, DC Metro. She was one of the first 50 people worldwide to receive the Myers-Briggs Master Practitioner designation for her work with Type Theory in career development.

Photo: Flickr, Norbert Stuhrmann

Photo: Flickr, Brianthesnugglebunny

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Job Interview Success for Introverts: So, you’re an introvert

So, you’re an introvert

Book Cover

I was in my mid 40’s when I discovered my preference for introversion. Until then, I thought I was an extravert (extrovert), mainly because I could, and still can, talk with ease to complete strangers. Truth be told, I hoped that my preference was for extraversion, not introversion; simply because society favors extraverts in most aspects of life: school, work, social interaction, and the job search, to name a few. I doubted my acceptance and didn’t speak proudly of my preference until I learned more about the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory.

Do you remember when you learned your preference for introversion? Were you in doubt like me? Did you have a sense of dread thinking of the stereotypes of introverts, such as shy, loner, standoffish, aloof, recluse, or rude? Furthermore, you may have believed that introverts couldn’t make small talk or associate with important, outgoing people.

But if all of this were true, how were you capable of talking with complete strangers, even approaching them, or want to be with your peers and attend social gatherings? How was it that some of your friends accused you of talking too much? And how have you been able to rub elbows with authorities in your town or city, to make small talk with the best of them? You were behaving more like an extravert, weren’t you? No, you were behaving like an introvert, able to adapt to your setting, and doing all the things mentioned here were a result of your introversion.

Now being an introvert doesn’t seem so bad, does it? In fact, being an introvert has its benefits. You are an intelligent conversationalist. You think before talking and, therefore, don’t make as many faux pas as some of your extraverted friends and colleagues. You are an engaged listener who doesn’t think about what you’ll say next before totally hearing the other person out. Being alone doesn’t upset you; rather, you enjoy going to the movies alone and eating alone. Your friends and family can’t understand this. You love writing and do it well. There are many things about being an introvert that you appreciate, feel comfortable with, and wouldn’t want to change.

There are truths, though, that set introverts apart from extraverts; truths that put introverts at a disadvantage in life and the job search, especially at the all-important interview. Some of the strengths introverts possess can be faults, particularly when it comes to verbal communications. Talking, small talk to be precise, is a challenge for introverts because they feel the need to think before speaking, whereas extraverts will speak before thinking. Because of their inclination to think before talking, introverts are often left out of conversations.


Job Interview Success for Introverts is available at Packt Publishing

Small talk and 5 other traits introverts must improve upon

breakroomWhen my colleagues are chatting away during lunch, I like to join their conversation which is usually about current affairs, television shows, or other topics extraverts seem to enjoy and master with ease.

I do my best to break into their banter, picking the right opportunity to voice my views. But at times choosing my words seems like work. I’m not unusual in this way–finding making small talk difficult–other introverts have expressed the same frustration.

Being comfortable making small talk is one trait I admire in extraverts. Other extravert traits I admire are:

Ability to promote themselves. Extraverts have the gift of gab, and we all know that verbal communications is more direct and timely than written communications. While I feel comfortable sending an e-mail to my manager about my accomplishments, extraverts would go directly to her office and talk about their accomplishments. This confidence they display I erroneously misconstrue for conceit.

Solution. Before approaching the manager to speak of their accomplishments, introverts should formulate what they’re going to say. It may be helpful to write down some talking points on their accomplishments before approaching the manager. They should also remember to smile.

Ease of networking. Most extraverts will tell you they have no problem entering a room full of people and striking up a conversation. Most introverts will tell you this takes effort and is often uncomfortable, and some introverts will tell you they fear networking, both for professional and job-search purposes. Therefore they don’t network and miss out on valuable opportunities.

Solution. Introverts should not network like extraverts. I tell my jobseekers that introverts can network; they just do it differently. Instead of working the room, they feel more comfortable in smaller groups and engaging in deeper conversation.

Boundless energy. Presenting in front of a group doesn’t scare me. By most accounts I’m quite good at it. However, after conducting three workshops a day, my brain feels like mash potatoes. Extraverts, on the other hand, can talk till the sun goes down. Where extraverts may run into problems is not taking time to ask questions and listen to their attendees. Introverts are said to be better listeners. Still, it’s nice to have the endurance to talk with people for eternity.

Solution. Introverts should take advantage of downtime to recharge their battery. I retreat to my cubicle where I can rest my mind and reflect on the next workshop to come. When colleagues approach me during my down time, I tell them I’m busy with important work…even if I’m not. Introverts must take any opportunity they have to re-charge their batteries so they can be ready to jump back into action.

Conflict management. Well-known psychologist and author, Marti Olsen LaneyPsy.D, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, asserts that introverts are not as strong at conflict resolution as extraverts are. She writes that introverts avoid conflict as much as possible, and I see her point.

Solution. In order to be good at conflict management, introverts must choose their battles and formulate their thoughts before jumping into the foray. When an answer to an accusation is called for, introverts should ask for time to think about their response. I feel this way when I’m asked to defend my actions.

Participating at meetings. I tell my MBTI workshop attendees that introverts have wonderful ideas but often let those ideas go unheard because they fail to speak up at meetings. The extraverts dominate the discussion because they feel uncomfortable when there is silence. Silence is not a problem for introverts.

Solutions. Arrive with talking points or write them as you’re listening to the other members of the group. When your ideas warrant being introduced, don’t wait passively for your turn; speak out regardless of etiquette. I feel strongly about being forceful, as evident by the time I jumped in front of one of my extraverted colleagues in order to express my thoughts. He took offense, but he’d already had his 500-word limit.

My admiration for extraverts makes me think about how I can improve on the aforementioned strengths they possess. I’ve witnessed them in my extraverted colleagues and friends; as I’ve also witnessed introverts weaknesses. With some practice, introverts can improve upon their weaknesses, and extraverts can tone it down.