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How understanding introverts can drive business success

Sarah K. White | Sept. 3, 2015
Introverts are dispelling the notion that they are quiet and shy. (Yes, there is such a thing as an outgoing introvert.) Businesses are realizing they can benefit by drawing on the strengths of introverts and extroverts, but nurturing opposite pairings in the workplace requires patience, understanding and even some training.

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Introverts are experiencing a type of 21st century renaissance -- that is, if you consider a bump in search traffic and some articles on Huffington Post and Forbes a renaissance. Either way, introverts are making headlines and the new attention is helping to dispel the idea that introverts are simply shy loners. In reality, the main difference between an introvert and an extrovert stems from how they get their energy, according to Myers Briggs.

An introvert might become easily tired or drained at a party, while an extrovert might leave feeling energized and recharged. It doesn't mean the introvert didn't like the party, but they just might need a day of quiet relaxation before doing it again, whereas an extrovert might be ready for another party the following night. This means you can have an outgoing introvert or a shy extrovert. It boils down to a person's energy levels. You can't tell just by looking at someone if he or she is introverted or extroverted, since each personality type can do a good job of mimicking the other.

Common misconceptions about introverts include stereotypes that they are quiet, have nothing to say or are slow and indecisive. These are dangerous assumptions in the workplace, since it might leave introverts overlooked when it comes time for promotions or collaboration. What a lot of people misunderstand is that introverts are more likely to think before speaking, whereas extroverts talk while they think to sort out their ideas. And to the untrained eye, it might appear that the extroverts are more confident and in charge, while introverts are quiet and withdrawn. However, that couldn't be further from the case.

Just ask Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, author of "The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together." She is a self-proclaimed extroverted expert on introverts and has written two additional books on the subject, "The Introverted Leader" and "Quiet Influence." She focuses on helping introverts and extroverts better understand one another and leverage their strengths to create strong teams in the workplace.

The rise of the introvert

After evaluating more than 40 "successful opposites," as Kahnweiler calls them, meaning introverted and extroverted pairings, she examined how these individuals influenced the organizations they worked for by drawing on their strengths. "A lot of those people were telling me -- introverts in particular -- that 'we're starting to own who we are and there's a rise of the introvert. I understand my strengths and I'm using them but I'm still coming up into problems when I try to communicate with extroverted team members'," says Kahnweiler.


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