Navigating the world can be challenging on many levels. Understanding who we are will help make traversing life much easier; allowing us to pursue our interests, avoid our stressors, while maintaining our energy levels. While there are a multitude of variances to consider, two key aspects are: the impact of being either an extravert or an introvert; and having one of four personal temperaments.
The terms extravert and introvert are often misunderstood. There is a misconception extraverts are charismatic, expressive, and the ‘life of the party’; while introverts are shy, quiet, people who prefer to be by themselves.
Being an extravert or introvert has nothing to do with likeability but rather everything to do with where a person gets their energy. While this aspect of someone’s personality can dictate how long they will engage with others, it is not their only internal guide. Couple this with personal temperament and we have an internal roadmap for guidance.
An extravert is someone who gets their energy from being around or talking with others. For example, my husband and I are extraverts. We can be invited to a social engagement and neither feel we want to attend. Procrastinating only makes it more difficult to get ready. However, once at the event and are mingling with others, we quickly notice our energy levels rise. Soon we are laughing, enjoying ourselves, and usually end up being the last to leave! Why? It was the people and conversations in the room which gave us energy to stay.
An introvert is someone who accesses their energy from within. They CAN be the life of the party, the one whose presence would be missed if they were not in attendance. However, being in a group of people, for any extended period of time, is exhausting and they must eventually leave. They must find a quiet space to go within and recharge their battery.
Extraverts and introverts process information differently. Extraverts often do their best thinking aloud, expressing ideas as they arise and interacting with others as they progress through the decision-making process. They will talk through a problem, reflect on what has been said, and then return for more brainstorming. Being with others keeps things moving which is why ‘outgoing’ is a term often used to describe an extravert. Talk – Think – Talk.
Introverts tend to problem-solve after quiet reflection. They do their best work when there is peace and calm, with few distractions. They usually surround themselves with a few select individuals whom they feel safe bouncing ideas off of. However, this is only after they have already thought things through on their own. Finally, introverts will typically return to their quiet place before making a final decision. Think – Talk – Think.
Extraversion and introversion do not operate in isolation. So much can be influenced by the temperament of the individual personality. Each personality type has their own strengths, rewards, and stressors which can support or inhibit daily decisions. Let us consider 4 personality temperaments referred to here as W, X, Y and Z.[i]
For example, if an individual’s dominant temperament were to be identified as a “W”, everything in their world would be driven by competence. I am reminded of Sherlock Holmes: someone who values intelligence and proficiency, gifted in the areas of invention, systems, reasoning, and abstract thinking. Ws are visionaries who have little patience for the project maintenance. They have very high standards for themselves and for others and usually work in the field of science, engineering, urban planning, and prefer working with systems then people.
Those identified as an “X” love the freedom to act, to think, to move, and to express. They tend to live life to the fullest! Carpe Diem comes to mind! Xs love to interact with their environment and the people within. They are flexible and adaptable and are comfortable taking calculated risks. Their gift is spontaneity. Like the Ws, Xs can be bored by routine and usually find themselves working in the skilled trades, the arts, middle management, sales, pilots, or as paramedics.
A “Y” craves security. When I consider the task-oriented traits of a Y, I hear the 7 dwarfs singing, “Heigh-Ho, Heigh-ho it’s off to work we go”. Ys take pride in being reliable, hardworking, and trustworthy. They are the backbone of any organization. Ys follow rules, maintain traditions, and prefer structure. They are most comfortable within a predictable, organized environment and feel stressed when their familiar changes. Ys usually find themselves working in stable professionals such as administration, bookkeeping, policing, dental, or nursing.
Lastly, a “Z” is all about relationships and connection. Zs remind me of the song, Part of Your World when Aerial dreams of being where the people are. Zs seek to understand themselves. Their gifts include empathy and an aptitude to see and develop potential in others. Zs strive to create harmony in their environment and are stressed by conflict; usually find themselves working in professionals such as teaching, counselling, and the human resources.
As we consider the myriad of temperament permutations combined with being either an extravert or introvert, it leads us to realize how extraordinary our individual uniqueness truly is! It also demonstrates the value in accurately understanding ourselves through a trustworthy personality assessment. Knowing who we truly are does help make life easier. Without knowing how to engage in a manner which is conducive to our personality and temperament, we can spend a lifetime throwing darts and hoping for the best. Personal and professional success should never be a guessing game.
[i] For more information on identifying your specific personality temperament, please contact the author for a full assessment.
Tammy Adams, Certified Coach Practitioner and a Certified Personality Dimensions Facilitator offering support, in-person or online, Canada-wide. To learn more about the personality assessment she mentions in her article book a 20 minute free phone consult with Tammy Adams, Learn more at www.tadams.ca