Being Spider Man: How Introverts Can Excel at Extroverted Roles

Sherrie Haynie, a consultant with CPP, Inc., the publisher of the Myers-Briggs assessment, had this to say regarding introverts:

“Often, introverts describe how they interact with the outside world as a performance, and acting is work.  Similar to professional actors, introverts may appear enthusiastic, lively and entertaining.  However, many describe the experience as being ‘on stage’ – for an introvert to spend a significant amount of their day using non-preferred characteristics requires a great deal of energy.”

Wow.  I couldn’t have said it better myself, and I am, in fact, one of those introverts.

A little while back, our own Eva Rykrsmith wrote a great piece on how introverts can be more effective at work.  Here are some recent thoughts from Sherrie on how introverts can manage the stress of a role that requires extroverted behaviors.

  • Don’t assume extraverts know how best to communicate with you – teach them.  For example, explain why you need time to process before responding to a question.
  • Leverage your natural talent for depth by identifying the goal as far in advance as possible, so you’re prepared ahead of time when pressed in a meeting for input.
  • Acknowledge the additional energy required to interact with others for long periods of time and allow yourself to tap into your energy reserve.
  • Pay attention to the activities that require more of your energy such as insufficient time to work alone, brainstorming meetings and noisy environments.
  • Depleting too much energy will lead to a stressful reaction, so look for early warning signs, such as withdrawal.
  • If a stressful situation is unresolved, your unconscious functions will take over.  We typically act out of character under extreme stress, and for introverts, this reaction may show up as an outburst or other outward expression – opposite to your normal calm and reserved demeanor.
  • Restore your energy level by finding time alone to reflect and direct your focus on thoughts, ideas and internal feelings. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to recharge your batteries.

Here’s something I thought was interesting too. A few years ago, I was asked to take the Myers-Briggs assessment while I was working as a vice president at a PR agency. I was unsure about how to answer some of the questions, because while my natural inclination was to choose the introverted answers, my perception was colored by my current extroverted role.  When the results came back, I was still classified as an introvert, but just barely.

Has this happened to you?  Have you actually become more introverted or extroverted as a result of working in a certain type of job?

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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