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A Newsletter for Intentional Relationships at Home & in Life
By Dawn J. Lipthrott, LCSW

NUMBER 2:2 Part 2

For more information on relationships or the loss of them,see the articles sections on this Web site.



--The Introvert/Extrovert Dilemma at Home and Work


Dear Subscribers,

So how did you do with your assessments of Joe at home and work? It's fun to give it to co-workers or your spouse and compare their thoughts to yours!

I heard from a few of you and your interpretations made sense. Some of you said that they don't know how to communicate; that Joe is afraid to reveal himself and can't share his feelings. Some thought Joe was a jerk, others thought Mary was a nag. Clearly, there can be many factors that play into Joe's behavior. I may comment briefly on some others in future issues. But in this newsletter, I want to offer one that many people don't consider when looking at a situation similar to this one. In fact, no one on the list considered it!

Before I tell you, I just want to welcome any new subscribers we picked up in the past few days! We're growing rapidly, so I know some of you have joined us in between parts of this edition. Thanks to all of you who pass on the information to your family, friends, and co-workers!




The Introvert/Extrovert Dilemma at Home and Work

Some of the biggest troublemakers in both work and personal relationship are the differences between Introverts & Extroverts. Inaccurate assumptions and misunderstandings related to those differences have led to the demise of more than one relationship!

Often people just think of the Introvert and Extrovert as one being shy and the other outgoing. That may or may not be true. The key difference, and the one that creates the most problems, is in the way each processes information. (Some of the characteristics are listed at the end of this article.)

If we were to measure our introversion or extroversion, we all would fall somewhere on a continuum. It is not an either/or factor. Some people score at the extremes, others more in a midrange. One is not better or worse than the other. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Typically, we quickly say, "Don't try to change me, that's just the way I am! " Yet pushing ourselves to act more like the other CAN bring us into more balanced behavior. Yes, it is possible to grow in this area--you are not doomed by birth or genetics or even family history to stay stuck in one mode of operating! Stretching into new behavior gives you more options and choices and can help you significantly at work and at home. I, like many Introverts, have learned to be more outgoing at work or in social situations because we live in an Extrovert world.

Throughout school, grades are influenced by 'class participation'-- heaven for an Extrovert and hell for the Introvert. At work people are expected to brainstorm (in a room with Extroverts who are all talking!) Most meetings are designed to seek responses to items or ideas thrown out on the spot in the meeting. Without an agenda and enough time to consider their thoughts about each item, Introverts will most often be silent in those meetings. (Extroverts probably won't even read the agenda until they are in the meeting. They just fly with any topic on the spot. One of the best ways to get the creativity and best thinking of your Introverts is to discuss something and then tell everyone to come back to you individually or to the next meeting with their best thinking and ideas.

Unfortunately, many Introverts are passed over for leadership roles because they are misunderstood by management, who are predominantly Extroverts. Like Joe, Introverts are frequently and inaccurately seen as uninterested, lacking in ideas, unassertive, somewhat aloof or withdrawn and as lacking leadership ability. Some of you thought Joe was depressed or self absorbed.

Introverts can be outstanding leaders if given the chance, and are particularly good at eliciting ideas from colleagues. They tend to be excellent listeners, are often very creative, and can think through an issue in a more focused and in depth way than can their Extrovert co-workers. Contrary to popular belief, an Introvert can also make excellent presentations as long as they have time to think through the topic and prepare ahead of time. Extroverts may feel more comfortable, but tend to wander as they talk.

Extroverts, get excited and stimulated by the sharing of ideas in the moment and will tend to talk until it becomes clear to them. Introverts wonder why Extroverts just don't get to the point. Group discussion is the Extrovert's favorite way of thinking at school or work. Another pet invention of the Extrovert is networking. Most Introverts can't stand pointless socializing and what they see as meaningless chit chat.

At home, Extroverts like Mary in our scenario often feel abandoned or rejected by Introvert partner. They are convinced that their Introvert partner doesn't care, doesn't love them, has no ambition, is dull, is clueless about relationships and spitefully withholding. They fear that they are losing their Introvert partner because he or she is so distant.

Introverts often feel invaded and overwhelmed by an Extrovert partner who is processing everything out loud--thoughts, emotions, observations, etc. Extrovert partners are seen as nagging, smothering, over-reactive and having diarrhea of the mouth. For an Introvert, talking about something often means you are ready to act--otherwise, why talk about it? Sometimes an Introvert will see their Extrovert partner as insecure or needy because they talk so much. They usually bristle and withdraw more when their Extrovert partner demands that the Introvert "talk more, share more, express their feelings, carry on a decent conversation, etc." Introverts sometimes get 'bored' with the thinking out loud process of Extrovert and will end up tuning them out. Extroverts demand time and attention from partner and if they don't get responsiveness, think relationship is in trouble. Introverts feel loved when their 'time and space' is honored and respected instead of invaded.

Certainly, there are many other reasons one person talks a lot and one person seems to hold everything in, but the Introvert/Extrovert difference is a big factor. Understanding it can help you both come up with better ways to work and live together--and can actually become somewhat humorous instead of irritating.

Here are some of the characteristics and behaviors:

I=Introvert, E= Extrovert

I---Internal focus--observes and decides inside

E---Observes and decides in outer world of other people

I---Often seen as aloof, withholding, unassertive

E---Usually seen as more 'friendly', outgoing, leader

I---Thinks then sometimes speaks

E---Opens mouth and later engages brain

I-- Sees Extrovert as talking a lot about nothing and talking just for the sake of talking

E---Often sees Introvert as uninterested and unwilling to share

I--Saying something out loud means readiness or need to act.

E--Talking about things to be done is more about processing. Sometimes it doesn't even really matter that much if they get done--and certainly doesn't have to be right now. Now we're just talking about it.

I---Needs time and space for self--somewhat territorial

E---Loves interaction

I---Limited relationships

E---Usually multiple relationships


E---Extensive, broad

I---Intense, focused

E---More diffuse, talks around an issue to process it

I---Conserves energy

E---Expends energy

I---More reflective

E---Thinking means talking it out

I---Thinks inside and because considers things within, sometimes thinks/he has told other person but whole process has been internal (frequent comments from partner or co-workers, "you never told me that.")

E---Thinks out loud and often says it over and over

I---Recharges alone

E---Energized by people and action, sometimes drained by too much time alone

I---Usually listens instead of talks, Answers with a nod or just a few words

E---Usually would rather talk than listen, but wants partner to talk and talk. . .

I---Does not easily or often stroke or affirm

E---Need more overt stroking and affirming

I---Reacts and rehearses internally

E--Reacts outwardly and puts out thoughts, ideas spontaneously

I---Conflict is internalized so they can think about what happened, make decisions about it, have dialogue inside head. Comes to resolution inside, but often doesn't express it outside! If surprised by a conflict, will often just 'go inside' (which drives the Extrovert nuts and it snowballs)

E---Conflict is something to be talked about--thoroughly. Often get more excited and louder as talk. Minor irritations can turn into major ones quickly. Often get to panicky stage if can't talk out problems right away.

Look at your own behavior and that of your colleagues, friends and family. Can you notice the differences in processing? Given the information in this newsletter, what are some options to better understand and work with one another when you are so different?


The Myers-Briggs test can show you where you fall along the continuum. However the Keirsey Temperament Inventory can give you a basic reading. You can take the Keirsey for free!

One useful and easy to read book on types is Type Talk by Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen. (Introversion and Extroversion are just one part of personality 'types'. Another is Please Understand Me II (updated version) that also has the test and explanations of the types. We will look at some of the other parts in future newsletters.)

To find more books related to these topics, click on this box to visit:

Please Understand Me IIType Talk Visit our Bookstore for more Resources for Relationship Success  Search Amazon

DISCLAIMER  Disclaimer: Information, observations, and opinions are offered for general reference only and should not be misconstrued as counseling advice, diagnosis or psychotherapy. Base your treatment or decisions solely upon the recommendations of your your own psychotherapist, counselor or physician or your own choices. By using this site, you signify full acceptance of our Terms of Use.   


I welcome your constructive comments and suggestions about the material on this website and how we can all be most effective in co-creating the kind of relationships and world that is honoring and respectful for all people.
©Copyright of the Dialogue Process as used in Imago Relationship Therapy belongs to Harville Hendrix, PhD

© Dawn Lipthrott, The Relationship Learning Center, 1998 Renewed 2008

(May be copied and distributed as long as this identifying information is retained on copies. Reproduction for financial gain is prohibited.)