Introverts and Extroverts Think Differently


I think my post that gets the most attention is one titled An Introvert in an Extroverted World. So for this post, let’s take that picture into the realm of how each type thinks.

Business Team In Office

Basically, Introverts think before they speak and Extroverts speak before (or in order to) think. Extroverts need to “air out” their thoughts while Introverts process them internally. Here are a couple of examples:

  • I had to prepare a script for an important video shoot. The company CEO asked that he be allowed to review the script before shooting. When I completed the script, the CEO was overseas so I faxed him the script, but didn’t hear from him. As the shooting schedule was nearing that panic button phase and I heard from his Executive Assistant who told me that he had received the script and wanted a meeting to discuss when he returned. “Can’t he just read it and get me the changes?” I asked and received a firm “no” from the Assistant. “He needs a meeting.” When the CEO returned we had our meeting and he sat, with another Extrovert and read the script word-for-word out loud. He made no changes. It was simply his need to “air out” his thoughts. He could not just read it and approve it. The leader was so Extroverted he could not internally wrap his thoughts around the script.
  • Being the Introverted thinker I love to get agendas ahead of time. It helps me prepare and think before I have to speak in a meeting. On many occasions, on many a sundry topic, I’ve been the first to offer an idea or solution orally. Then the Extroverts pick up on the idea and take it over. As an Introvert you sit there and say, “That was my idea”, but by this time the Extroverts have aired it out and it’s theirs. It’s almost humorous to watch (and all you Introverts are shaking your head in agreement).

Sometimes we Introverts make the mistake of thinking an idea is solid before its time. My friend Ron Potter tells the story of an Extroverted CEO who, while walking into the building with his three Introverted VP’s looked up at a beam and said, “Wouldn’t that look nice in gold.” The CEO left on a two-week business trip and returned to look at the same beam and see it gold – not painted gold, but gold. When he confronted his VPs they told him, “That’s what you said you wanted!” The CEO then realized he’d been “thinking out loud” and his airing out of the idea caused action he really didn’t want or could afford.

The lesson: both Introverts and Extroverts need to be aware of how each other thinks and how best to use each other’s strengths to move to good decisions, not just quick ones. Each type (and their way of thinking) can be used to create an atmosphere of quality decision making as long as the leader recognizes the inherent strengths of each type and the patience to make sure true discussion from both types has happened.

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5 Responses to “Introverts and Extroverts Think Differently”

  1. Pete Wilson says:

    Great point Wayne. God has surrounded me (an extroverted leader) with some quality introverted staff. Our combined perspectives allow us to lead more effectively.

  2. R says:

    You’ll probably never know, this side of heaven, what an eye opener this is for me. (I’ll try to remember to look you up on the other side to explain it to you.)
    I’m an introvert, so when at meetings, I take a bit of a while to get my mind around what I think and to frame it just right. Usually, by the time I’m ready to speak my (brilliant) thoughts, everybody is ready to move on to the next thing. And on and on. It drives me crazy.
    Now I will know to insist for everything I need before the meeting. And to firmly state that I’ll be unable to meaningfully contribute unless I have ample time to consider the agenda and other pertinent documents beforehand.
    Seriously, great stuff.
    Making it happen might be tricky, but still, great stuff.

  3. That’s great to hear. It’s easier to implement when your supervisor knows they’ll get the best out of you if they are willing to help you prepare. Results will speak volumes to them, take it from my experience.

  4. K says:

    This article is wonderful, Mr. Hastings.
    I’m an introvert to the extreme. The situations described above happen in my life events daily. It hurts my feelings when people treat me like I don’t know what I’m doing/thinking.
    I really think it’s because when I do speak, my voice is very, very soft and hard to hear.
    Could you provide more tips as to effectively get an intro’s voice heard, please?
    Thank you,

  5. K:
    Great question. Here are my thoughts (and thank you for your comment).
    First, I’d suggest that your team take the Meyers-Briggs (MBTI) and have a qualified person help you with the results. This begins some good dialog and will help everyone understand each other from new perspectives.
    Second, always make sure you have an agenda before the meeting. This way you can think about your responses beforehand. Even if the meeting wanders, it’s never a bad idea to come prepared.
    Third, don’t let yourself slip into your Introvert “cave”. Stay on top of the discussion, stay in focus. The meeting will naturally rob you of energy. Stay with it, take a quick break alone so you can regather some energy. But hang in there as best as you can.
    I’m sure there’s more. Feel free to email me if you have any other questions.

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