Bestselling author Susan Cain spoke recently at Brigham Young University on understanding how different personality types interact with others, and how we can best understand and use our own personality.
Cain, a popular speaker on TED Talks, discussed what makes individuals act and think in certain ways. She said one basic way to understand people is to consider whether they are introverted and extroverted, and she challenged her listeners to complete a mental exercise to determine their social preferences.
She told her audience to imagine they are attending a party and asked how they felt, whether energized or exhausted. She compared their reaction to a battery: Those who glean energy from being around others are extroverts, while those who feel drained are introverts.
"The metaphor of the battery is really useful, but it’s important to understand that it is just a metaphor," Cain said. "The fact is that we are wired differently. We have different nervous systems. Introverts react more to stimulation. Extroverts react less. When things get rowdy, introverts feel jangled and overstimulated. Scientists have discovered these differences in babies only 4 days old.”
She said that from a business point of view, it's important to see that these personality types complement each other, and it's good for a company to look at the strengths of both.
Cain added that in business situations, introverts should think through anything that they want to address beforehand and bring it up early in an interaction or meeting. They also do well to allow their enthusiasm to flow freely. Extroverts, however, should engage with introverts individually to understand their views and try to limit their enthusiasm slightly.