Posted: 31 May 2022 10 min. read

Introvert? Extrovert? Or a little of each? How Business Chemistry relates

This is the first post in a two-part series that is an excerpt from our book, Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Powerful Work Relationships (Christfort & Vickberg, 2018). Read post two here.

An introvert and an extrovert walk into a conference room. They sit across the table from each other. Then the extrovert says…

Does it really matter what the extrovert says? Maybe not according to Steve Schloss, former CHRO and Chief People Officer of the United States Golf Association: “Even if what the extrovert is saying is likely incorrect, this individual is likely to win the day in that given conversation because the introvert chose to listen, process, observe, and maybe come back at a later point.”

Steve said this during one of our favorite Business Chemistry Confessions podcast episodes. And while it sounds a bit like a joke, it describes a scene we’ve witnessed in real life many times. An introvert pauses before speaking, and then never gets a chance to speak at all as the conversation barrels ahead. But Steve isn’t advocating for an extrovert style over an introvert style. In fact, he says later in the same podcast episode, “If you want applause, you can speak all you want, but if you want results, you have to listen.” We love the pairing of these two quotes together because it highlights the importance of having a balance between styles. If you pause too long before speaking up, you lose, but if you talk too much, you lose as well. Unless, of course, all you wanted was applause.

When it comes to personality differences, it seems people have always been particularly interested in the introvert/extrovert distinction. But in 2012, introversion burst into the spotlight with the publication of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Through a meticulous compilation of research, Cain argues there are many ways in which society today is built for extroverts, which means we lose out on much of the potential value introverts can bring to our schools, our organizations, and our communities. She really struck a chord—her book has sold millions of copies and her accompanying TED Talk has been viewed more than 30 million times. But Cain suggests (and we agree) that we don’t have to lose out on the value introverts bring. Instead, we can create environments on our own teams and in our own organizations that support the performance of both introverts and extroverts.

We’ve offered a number of practical strategies for doing so in other posts on this blog. Some of our favorite examples are here, here, and here.

We’ve also previously touched on the ways in which the Business Chemistry types relate to introversion and extroversion. Guardians are generally more introverted and Pioneers more extroverted. But Integrators and Drivers are mixed, each having two subtypes that divide along these lines. Among Integrator subtypes, Dreamers are more introverted and Teamers more extroverted. Among Driver subtypes, Scientists are more introverted and Commanders more extroverted. Given how much we talk about introverts and extroverts, we thought it would be helpful to devote a bit more attention to the distinction here.


What’s in a label?

To start, it seems to make sense to back up a bit and define what we mean by introversion and extroversion. While most of us likely have some sense of what is meant by these terms, there is no universally agreed-upon definition of introvert or extrovert.

Among the most highly researched definitions is one associated with the five-factor model of personality, which characterizes extroverts as outgoing and energetic, and introverts as solitary and reserved. Other definitions highlight physiological differences in the sensitivity of introverts’ and extroverts’ neurological systems, particularly in relation to dopamine and to base rates of arousal. Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine and naturally have lower levels of arousal, leading them to seek out stimulation in order to achieve optimal levels of both. Introverts are more sensitive to dopamine and have generally higher levels of arousal, leading them to avoid stimulation so as not to become overwhelmed. In line with that distinction, Cain describes introverts as having a preference for quieter, less stimulating environments and extroverts as preferring more stimulation. Still other definitions highlight common distinctions between the primary focus of one’s attention: a person’s inner world versus the world around them; or their primary source of energy, time alone or with others. And some definitions get even more specific, identifying multiple subtypes of introverts or extroverts.

We’re not going to tackle the challenge of arguing which of these definitions is superior. In fact, we considered several of these lenses when we initially set out to understand how the Business Chemistry types relate to introversion and extroversion. And what we saw right away was that the distinction was clear for Pioneers, who seemed more extroverted, and Guardians, who seemed more introverted, but that wasn’t the case for Drivers and Integrators. That is, it wasn’t clear until we looked closely at the subtypes. When we did that, we noticed that both Dreamers and Scientists seemed to have more of the introvert characteristics, while Teamers and Commanders had more of the extrovert. So to develop our own working definitions of introversion and extroversion as they play out in the workplace, we analyzed all the Business Chemistry traits and identified those showing a statistically significant difference between the three more introverted Business Chemistry types and the three more extroverted types.

Our resulting definitions are as follows:

Extroverts are outgoing and energetic. They talk fast, make impulsive decisions, and adapt easily. They prioritize having lots of people in their networks and take charge in groups.

Introverts are reserved and unhurried. Their contributions to discussions are measured, and they deliberate before making decisions and adapt at a gradual pace. They maintain smaller networks and add value in supporting roles.

Not lunatics

Of course, if you want to be really accurate about things, we should add “on average” to those descriptions, because these are generalizations. While we’re at it, we should also note that people aren’t wholly introverted or extroverted. In fact Carl Jung, who popularized these labels, once stated, “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”

To learn more about these nuances, read the next post.

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Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Research Lead | Deloitte Greenhouse®

Dr. Suz is a social-personality psychologist and a leading practitioner of Deloitte’s Business Chemistry, which Deloitte uses to guide clients as they explore how their work is shaped by the mix of individuals who make up a team. Previously serving in Deloitte’s Talent organization, since 2014 she’s been coaching leaders and teams in creating cultures that enable each member to thrive and make their best contribution. Along with her Deloitte Greenhouse colleague Kim Christfort, Suzanne co-authored the book Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships as well as a Harvard Business Review cover feature on the same topic. She also leads the Deloitte Greenhouse research program focused on Business Chemistry and is the primary author of the Business Chemistry blog. An “unapologetic introvert” and Business Chemistry Guardian-Dreamer, you will never-the-less often find her in front of a room, a camera, or a podcast microphone speaking about Business Chemistry or Suzanne and Kim’s second book, The Breakthrough Manifesto: Ten Principles to Spark Transformative Innovation, which digs deep into methodologies and mindsets to help obliterate barriers to change and ignite a whole new level of creative problem-solving. Suzanne is a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate with an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a doctorate in Social-Personality Psychology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She is also a professional coach, certified by the International Coaching Federation. She has lectured at Rutgers Business School and several colleges in the CUNY system, and before joining Deloitte in 2009, she gained experience in the health care and consulting fields. A mom of two teenagers, she maintains her native Minnesota roots and currently resides in New Jersey, where she volunteers for several local organizations with a focus on hunger relief.