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The terms “introvert” and “extrovert” are frequently used to describe our individual comfort level in social situations.

On one hand, we may find these terms to be overly simplistic in their categorization of human social preferences. On the other, when we understand the deeper meaning of the terminology and break down some commonly held misconceptions, we are able to gain insight into our individual preferences where social interaction is concerned. Once we do, we open the door to leveraging those insights to our benefit as leaders.

Here are two basic descriptions of the difference between introverts and extroverts:

  • Extroverts derive a great deal of energy from others and subsequently want and need plenty of social interaction. They are extremely enthusiastic about people as a general rule. Highly extroverted people thrive in the company of others, where they find the kind of stimulation and motivation necessary to do some of their best work.
  • Introverts gain their energy from within, during alone time. They find that the company of others can drain their energy to the extent that they need to withdraw from social settings. Extreme introverts simply prefer not to socialize at all. They do their best work in a solitary environment. Being an introvert means a person needs to limit the number of social interactions in order to function most effectively.

As leaders, we need to optimize our social interactions, and make sure that the members of our team are doing likewise. One of the ways to do this is to understand our individual preferences when it comes to being in the company of others.

But Do These Labels Really Matter?

At times, we may find ourselves categorized as introverts or extroverts, and rightly or wrongly so. Categorizing people into these two distinct camps may present a downside, as each term brings with it a set of common misconceptions.

When people think of introverts they think of people as being socially inept. In turn, people tend to think that extroverts are socially adept. The reality is that extroverts can commit loud social blunders, while introverts might function very well socially.

No matter where we as individuals feel we might fall along the introvert/extrovert continuum, remember the importance of alone time. All leaders need solitude to get away from the noise and the chaos of the day’s hectic schedule. Introverts and extroverts equally need time to think things through, each spending that time in very different ways.

When we have a better understanding of the true distinctions between what it means to be an introvert versus an extrovert, we become more adept at identifying, and working with, the various personalities around us.

So sure, ask yourself – do you self-identify as an introvert, or an extrovert? But, more importantly, are you prepared to make the necessary adjustments to get the most out of your social interactions, and alone time?