This is the story of a lunch spent discussing the book Quiet with an Extrovert (Jerri Barrett, CMO, Global Tech Women) and an Introvert (Ellen Brigham, INTJ – a technical women with more than 20 years in the Valley). To make this easy for all of you we will be identified as E and I in this conversation.
I – Where shall we go to lunch?
E – We could go to any one of a dozen places. We’re not taking the dog so we can eat inside.
I – Where have we not been for a while?
E – Well, what do you want to eat?
I – I like anything.
E – We’ll go to the place with the good French Toast. They have stuff you like there.
NOTE: What happened here is the extrovert had a million ideas and rationalizations. The introvert wanted to quickly limit the set of options before they became unmanageable.
E- So what did you like best about the book?
I – My favorite part was in the chapter called the Myth of Charismatic Leadership where all the Harvard Business School Students would have died because they would not listen to the introvert who actually had all the information they needed to survive. Explains a lot about what happens to companies in the Valley.
E –Explain what you mean.
I – According to the book, humans have a weakness in that they equate loud with right.
E – I’ve always believed that. But then I’m from New Jersey – we’re all loud, and we’re all right. Chris Christie said it best – Get the hell off the beach. Exactly what should be said when a hurricane is coming.
I – Because life is complicated it turns out that each preference has its place. The next chapter talked about experiments determining whether introverted or extroverted managers get the best results. It all depended on the tasks and the requirement for individual contributors to be creative.
E – I wonder if the extroverts who can’t manage individual contributors are people who are just not able to delegate effectively. Is that an extroverted characteristic? I will admit – I had to learn over the years how to be an effective delegator.
I – The trick seems to be figuring out how complicated the tasks are and making sure that the people who actually do them have the ability to do a proper job. And the book goes into a discussion of open work environments vs offices, which makes a huge difference, as well.
E – Do you think being an introvert has held you back in any way?
I – Absolutely. If you are a quiet short woman in a group of loud men who don’t want to be bothered with facts, you will not succeed.
E – Well, I ‘m a woman – but I haven’t been quiet or short since I was a child.
I – That’s because you’re from New Jersey, if you were from Pittsburgh it would different.
E – Maybe, though I was very quiet in Middle School and High School except with my good friends or if alcohol was involved. It was only when I went to college and decided to become more outgoing, like I was as a child, that things changed for me.
I – That is discussed in Chapter 4. (Laughter ensues). Turns out that a lot of extroversion and introversion has to deal with a child’s perception of threats in their environment. In a safe environment children are less likely to view novelty, noise and change as threatening. If a child does not feel secure, there is a sense they are always looking for threats, which is an inherently introverted behavior.
E – It’s interesting that we both came from dysfunctional family environments and then both went to the same college that I went extrovert and you maintained introvert. Though I will have to say that some of the extroversion was my choice and a lot of extroverted behaviors were thrust upon me because of my leadership in activities that required me to get up and talk in front of groups. It took years but now it’s completely second nature and I can speak publicly off the cuff. I remember my first time public speaking, I threw up three times before I went in.
I – Thanks for that vivid detail.
E- Sorry – we extroverts do tend to talk just a few minutes too long.
I – One thing the book doesn’t address is the Myers Briggs scheme in which there are multiple functions in which each function can be either introverted and extroverted. For example, I have introverted intuition but extroverted thinking.
E – Say what?
I –You are going to have to sit still and listen to me explain this.
E – Oh dear.
I –People have four different functions (according to Myers Briggs/Carl Jung) : sensing, feeling, thinking, and intuition. So, my weakest function is sensing which is introverted which explains why I can’t find my way out of a paper bag, whereas you as an extroverted sensor always knows where everything is and how to get there. It’s very annoying. You are always aware of what’s going on around you, that’s the extrovert.
E – Unless I deliberately turn everything off, which is how I focus.
I – Whereas I have to make a deliberate effort to turn on the outside world.
E – Which is why I did all the driving in Hawaii.
I – But why I needed you to navigate to Tahoe so I could just focus on the road. So, in a balanced organization you need to have multiple levels of information that are acted on appropriately, so you need introverts and extroverts to succeed. The book discusses how social media is really changing the relationship between introverts and extroverts and providing a much more level playing field for ideas to be presented.
E – Does this mean you’re finally getting a Facebook page?
I – No, I’ll just do more with LinkedIn.
E – So, can I tell you about the introvert I met the other day?
I – Please do.
E – I was at a birthday party for an 11 year old girl and there was a girl who wasn’t engaging – she was off standing in the sun by herself. I went to check on her and asked if she was ok. She looked at me quietly and said yes, I just have an urge. I asked an urge for what, thinking chocolate, ice cream, booze? She said I have the urge to fold clothes. I had no clue whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. I knew she was an introvert so I just left her to her thoughts after asking her to come by my house – I have lots of clothes to fold. So, what was up with that?
I – What she was probably feeling and not yet able to express was the need for better structure and to reclaim some control of her situation. My guess is that you were dealing with an introverted sensing person – she wanted to organize things.
E – I wish I’d read this book when I first became a manager, it would have saved me a lot of grief.
I – The moral of the story is evaluate what you hear at every decibel level.
We hope you will join us in the launch of our Book Group and read Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking! Our first meet-up is Friday, June 28th at 11am PST/ 2pm EST.