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Are you an introvert or extrovert? (and how this should affect your choice of business)


Personality type plays a large role in all aspects of our lives, including work, so before you choose the type of business that you want to get involved in, it’s worth trying to understand your own tendencies, as well as those of your potential colleagues.

Sliding scales

Much has been made, over the past few decades, of the effects of introversion or extroversion on our behavior and for a time it was considered that you were either in one camp or the other.

However, Carl Jung’s initial study on these personality types, formulated a century ago, actually stated that ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ were at the extreme ends of a sliding scale and that most of us fall somewhere near the middle with tendencies towards one end or the other. An ambivert sits comfortably at the very centre of this scale.

Further to this, more recent studies have eschewed ingrained, one-dimensional stereotypes – (introverts are shy, extroverts are outgoing), in favour of a broader analysis of the motivations behind the behavioural tendancies of people who fall near either extremity of the scale.

The focus here is more on where people get their strength and inspiration from than what they actually do. 

An introverted type will feel more able to perform well and contribute effectively if they have had quiet time to reflect and re-charge. An extrovert will prefer to head straight for the action, with a double espresso on board and get stuck into some productive banter.

That’s not to say that more introverted folk don’t enjoy other people’s company, or feel energized after brainstorming or attending a business function…it’s just a matter of thresholds. 

Where’s your base line?

Think of it in terms of sensitivity to stimulation. If you’re an introvert, you’re more likely to feel overstimulated by intense or prolonged social interaction—and retreating at this point to digest thoughts and feelings is vital. 

An extrovert has what ‘60’s psychologist Hans Eysenik described as ‘a lower base rate of arousal’ - meaning they have to seek a lot more stimulation to reach the ‘normal’ state that introverts can achieve quickly. They will therefore take more risks and embrace and effect change more readily than their more cautious counterparts.

However, neither type should be considered ‘better’ in terms of business. Making the most of our characteristics is key.

Susan Cain’s worldwide bestseller 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking', published in 2012, has helped erase the longstanding stigma of introversion. 

Bill Gates named Cain's TED talk one of his all-time favourites and also embraced the notion that you can learn to incorporate advantageous behavioural aspects of either ‘type’ into your work practices (hence extroverted introverts and vice versa!) in order to perform better.

So what does all this mean if you are thinking of investing in a new business?

Think before you buy

Think carefully about your personality type and if it’s suited to the day-to-day interactions of the role you will play. 

Reflective introverts have a head start here – but extroverts beware! Don’t rush in to buying a business that excites you, without carefully considering the financial/practical aspects of the venture.

It seems fair to say that businesses where an exuberance of character will encourage repeat custom - corner stores, post offices, ice cream parlors, coffee shops and hair salons – would be a good fit for extroverted types.

Introverts might get exhausted by ‘front of house’ roles so internet businesses, B&B’s, and gardening and maintenance businesses might be more appealing.

Can you be the boss?

Whilst it was long assumed that extroverts perform better as leaders, recent studies have confirmed that both types have advantages in these areas.

Introverts may not feel comfortable interacting with people all day long, but are fine to own a business and manage staff. The thoughtful, more empathetic nature of introverts actually makes them good leaders.

In studies made by Adam Grant (Ph.D.) and his colleagues for his book ‘Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success’, it was revealed that the success of extrovert bosses could be hampered by a lack of empathy:

‘Extroverts had the enthusiasm and assertiveness to get the best out of passive followers, but they hogged the spotlight in ways that stifled the initiative of proactive followers, leaving them discouraged and missing out on their ideas. Introverted leaders thrive by validating initiative and listening carefully to suggestions from below.’ says Adam for The Huffington Post

Consider the personality types of your staff

Understanding our own tendencies is a good start when buying a business but effective communication in the workplace will require making room for your employee’s personality types as well. 

Be aware that highly extroverted employees, though full of bright ideas, might elicit negative emotions in other staff members and inhibit teamwork. Managing extroverts requires a delicate balance of giving them the encouragement and praise they crave, whilst ensuring they don’t drown out other quieter opinions.

On the other hand, introverted staff need time to absorb new information and should not be hounded for instant answers to questions. They are more likely to crumble if they are publically reprimanded and should be given the space to work out how they can best do their job.

Interestingly, ambiverts (those who share equal traits of both types) seem to make the best salespeople. In Daniel H. Pink’s book 'To Sell is Human – The surprising truth about moving others', he reveals that extroverts tend to dominate conversations and put people off, whereas introverts can be too reserved and feel uncomfortable pitching - something to consider when hiring, if your business depends on trade.

Whatever enterprise you are in, or hope to be, keep one simple thought in mind – that business is ultimately about people, and you have the power, whatever your ‘type’ to harness the best in yourself and those around you.

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