Personality types are important in any business, but what about when it’s just you? Over the years I’ve been learning more and more about personality types. I’ve learned how they affect not only group dynamics, but also the individual. Introversion and extroversion are two of the most polarizing factors within an individual’s personality. A classic example is that introverts prefer to recharge their social battery alone, while extroverts get their energy from others.
It’s believed that the number of introverts and extroverts are almost equal. Yet, I’ve seen estimates that say 16% to 50% of the world's population are introverts. This data is obviously hard to measure, since most people are a combination of introverted and extroverted. For example, some may need to recharge alone, but would much rather work in a group.
Introversion and extroversion are two of the most polarizing factors within an individual’s personality.
As a freelancer, you may think you won’t have to deal with this. To the contrary! You may not have coworkers, but you definitely have clients. And these clients have their own personalities that you need to be aware of. I’m not advocating giving each new client the Myers-Briggs test. But you should be on the lookout for clues that will help you efficiently and expertly handle communication depending on their (and your) personality type.
The Introvert and Extrovert Basics
Let’s break it down.
You have introverted tendencies if you…
- Don’t mind isolation
- Prefer company of a few, rather than many
- Are more prone to silently thinking
- Dislike being the center of attention
- Are seen to lack enthusiasm
You have extroverted tendencies if you…
- Are social
- Easily adapt to new situations
- Can be a charismatic leader
- Are informal
- Are a strong conversationalist
It’s important to note that people can be a mix of both, called ambivert. It often depends on which social situation you find yourself in and other personality traits around you. While categorizing people is a way to figure them out, everyone is a unique combination of traits. You can find an extensive list of personality types here.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, please don’t get down on how you’re wired! We all have strengths and weaknesses. It’s good to know where you fall, but they aren’t boxes.
Work Habits and personality types
Work habits vary, but there are some aspects that point to introversion or extroversion.
Introverts prefer to work alone, rather than in groups. They’re more productive when they can get their work done alone. They can also be seen as rude, due to a calmer and less outgoing personality. Of course this does not have to be the case!
It’s important for introverts to have everything planned before starting a task. If not, this can be a cause of stress.
Introverts also process information before speaking. This means they may not have anything to say until the moment has passed. Have you experienced having a great thought after the group moved onto the next topic? This could be why. It’s important for introverts to have everything planned before starting a task. If not, this can be a cause of stress.
Introverts also tend to fade into the background. This can be discouraging in a group setting where extroverts seem to rule. If you work with introverts, try to give them time to think and bring them back into the conversation when they’re ready.
Extroverts, though thrive in a group setting. They tend to think out loud, whether they intend for people to pay attention or not. This is how they mentally process their thoughts on the task at hand. This difference in work flow means they can often intimidate introverts.
Extroverts will feel valued when encouraged to share ideas. Working and talking together helps energize them for the day and tasks ahead.
Extroverts will feel valued when encouraged to share ideas.
Extroverts are also great conversationalists. Are you someone who can go up to a stranger and strike up a conversation? Or did that sentence just make you want to hide? There are valuable traits that extroverts and introverts can share with each other, like being conversational.
Remember that no matter what their work habits, each person brings a new perspective. It might just come at different times and in different ways.
Up to this point, I’ve written this as a sort of guide to help introverts understand extroverts, and vice versa. Yet, there will be times you’re working with a like-minded person. Working with someone like yourself can be great, because of the similarities in your work flow. But of course this can also create tension.
Just as you should remember how opposite personality types behave, you should also bear in mind how your own type reacts to certain situations. It can be easy to assume. Be careful to take each person as an individual. See how you can best work together.
Do you want your introverted client to raise their concerns at your next meeting instead of in an email later? Try giving them your questions beforehand, so they have time to process them. They'll appreciate knowing the plan. Uncertainty can be stressful. So if possible, think about how you can help introverts plan ahead of time.
Want to best work with an extrovert? Realize that much of what they say is a work in progress, and that they can move quickly from one thing to the next. This isn’t to say ignore what they say while working through a problem! Instead, take that time to formulate your thoughts. What I love about extroverts is their infectious energy towards a project. They embrace change and are excited to make it happen.
Personalities in the freelance world
A freelancer/client relationship is different from the typical coworker relationship. Freelancing is a partnership, but the client is still paying. How do you present your best side during a meeting? Try to feel out their personality type with a few different tells.
- Do they prefer email for communicating (introvert), or would they rather call you (extrovert)?
- Are they quiet and reserved, or are they gregarious and talkative?
- Do they take long pauses or “mmm”, or is it evident they’re thinking out loud?
Some traits may be easier to pick up on than others. Training yourself to pick up on these traits can help you to work better with clients.
I know I’ve mentioned this above a few times, but please don’t see this as judgement of your personality type. We all have strengths and weaknesses that play into how we interact with others. Embrace your personality! This post is about recognizing signals and traits and learning how to work with them. Learn how you and your clients work best, and you’ll be on your way to stronger relationships!
I highly recommend watching this video interview with Susan Cain. She has some great thoughts on the power of introverts, as well as misconceptions about the label we often give them.
Do you think there is value in recognizing these differences, and why?