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It’s So Much Deeper Than Introverts and Extroverts (+Video)

Most people who ponder human psychology are familiar with the notion of being an introvert or an extrovert. At least they’re familiar with it at a surface level. They would probably tell you that introverts like to be by themselves and that extroverts are highly social. I can understand that being as deep as some people go. They’re not psychologists and they’re not in the business of understanding personality assessments. But I am, and when I consult with my clients I make sure they understand that there’s so much more to know here. Even within the framework of the introvert/extrovert dichotomy, you’re only scratching the surface with those two descriptions. For example, extroversion can actually refer to two different things - a personality type or a personality trait.

The personality type "extrovert", is measured using tests like the Myers Briggs or 16 Types. It is a way of categorizing how you prefer to gain your mental energy.

Think of it like comparing an apple to an orange. The 16 Types tells you if you are an introvert or an extrovert. Basically, it tells you if you are an apple or an orange.

But, the personality trait known as "extroversion" is the degree to which you can tolerate sensory stimulation, from both people and situations. It is measured using a different assessment called The Big Five Inventory.

Our traits are rooted in biology. In fact, 60% of our personality traits are inborn, 40% are due to our environment. So, a trait test digs deeper into all of that. The Big Five measures your level of extroversion. In other words, it tells you how much of an orange you are. People have a variety of different personality traits, emotions and ways of thinking – and that’s before we even get into physical and mental health. The good news is that we can actually understand all of this, and it doesn’t necessarily require an in-depth conversation (which is surely good news for people who aren’t comfortable having them). The assessments I work with give us the opportunity to understand a great deal about the personalities of people we’ve hardly interacted with. And you’ll find that many of those people who don’t want to sit down and talk a lot about themselves won’t mind grabbing their phones and filling out an assessment via an app. People are wired differently, with unique characteristics that drive how they think and how they do things. The ability to identify these characteristics and better understand each person is a real gift, and if we deploy it effectively it can make us better as managers – while allowing us to lead better teams full of happier people who feel understood and appreciated for who they are. That’s what I’m helping my clients to do better all the time. Here’s an interview in which I discussed all this with Michelle Cohl:


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