Wisdom//

Knowing Whether You’re an Introvert or Extrovert Can Completely Change the Way You Work

Science says your social tendencies have more to do with your success than you think.

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We each have tendencies that are more introverted (think: self-sufficient, focused, committed) — and we also have traits that tend toward our more extroverted sides (think: talkative, sociable, action-oriented). Both sides can be very useful at work.

“A successful team requires both extroverts and introverts,” Rebecca Greenbaum, Ph.D., a professor at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, tells Thrive. “The two types of emotional intelligence complement one another in a workplace setting.” She also notes that it can be helpful to determine which one you identify with most strongly. Here are a few ways that recognizing your social patterns can significantly impact the way you work:

Improving your team’s communication

We’re typically conditioned to see certain industries as best for strictly extroverts or introverts, but Greenbaum says that acknowledging the value in having both on a team can improve the entire group’s decision-making process and communication patterns. “Introverts complement groups because they read things in a way that’s different than the extroverts, who have more of an active mindset,” she points out. That’s why, in meetings, it’s crucial to ask for everyone’s opinion. “By acknowledging that we’re each thoughtful in our own ways, we can think through different factors more creativity, and work better with one another,” Greenbaum says.

Reframing weaknesses

Greenbaum says the self-awareness of your own social habits can help you recognize when your specific tendencies are coming into play, and when it’s time to venture outside of your comfort zone. “Introverts are typically less attracted to social situations,” she notes. “But once they put themselves in those situations, whether it’s a company social or a happy hour, they often experience various career benefits, and feel happy about the social connection.” Greenbaum says that by acknowledging the fact that you’re doing something outside of your comfort zone, you’ll be more likely to reap the benefits that come along with the experience. And for extroverts, she says it’s important to be okay with holding back to gain some perspective. “Extroverts prefer to be socially dominant,” she adds. “It’s important to step back from that at various points and make sure all members of your team have a chance to speak up.”

Letting go of limits

If you have ever sensed that you’re more introverted in some settings, but extroverted in others, there’s research behind that common feeling — and Greenbaum explains that it’s part of a specific model in personality psychology. “There’s a theory called ‘trait activation theory,’ where parts of our personalities get triggered depending on the circumstances,” she says. According to Greenbaum, identifying the fact that we can fluctuate in our patterns depending on our environment can help us grow as team members. “Most people fall in the middle, and can flip between the two depending on the context,” she adds. “Knowing that we’re not limited to one type can allow us to grow as individuals (and in the workplace).”

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