Introverts vs. Extroverts and the Use of Technology
By Sandra Beck
I am a public extrovert and a personal introvert. Due to the nature of my career, I put on an extrovert personality to host my radio shows, run my company and interact with the public at large. When I am not the public version of me, I relax naturally into the introverted me preferring to read or write quietly, play silently with my dogs, swim laps, and cook fabulous meals with only music playing. I am extroverted with my close friends and family, but in public as me and not professional me I clam up in a nanosecond.
“We need to hear that catch in the voice, see the way the eyes glitter, and let them see and hear us. If you want to be more effective, stop hiding behind technology. Get out there and see someone. Pick up the phone. Have a real conversation. Stop pretending to take action.” Says Michael Wade in his article about How Introverts Hide behind Technology in US News and Money.
The subtleties of complex human behavior mean we need to understand both sides of the human condition with respect to introversion and extroversion. Wade in his amazingly one-sided view of the world, fails to understand that all introverts are not hiding through the use of technology any more than all extroverts avoiding technology because they can’t sit still and focus long enough to compose an email. Each one uses technology to their advantage and in accordance with their comfort level.
What I see from the cheap seats is extroverts show up in digital media in the form of videos, webinars, podcasts and technical elements that showcase their physical form of communication. Introverts show up in forums, chat rooms, email and texts that showcase their internal form of communication.
Extroverts form the success model for much of our society – politicians, celebrities, and noted personalities often convey to the public an extroverted personality when in reality like me in person they are an extrovert. However, what has made many of us truly successful is the ideas behind out work which stem from that introverted side of our personality. Introverted me created the ideas that extroverted me present to the public. The integration of those two personality type skill sets has made it possible for me to find my own success and glean an understanding of both sides.
Despite Wade’s assertion that we introverts would be more effective if we would just “pick up the phone and have a real conversation and stop pretending to take action”, I challenge him and others to see a different side of the use of technology from an introverted standpoint.
As a card carrying introvert I cringe when the phone rings. Public appearances drain me, as do parties where I don’t know many people and am forced to interact. Don’t get me wrong, I have many friends, but I need time alone to recharge. In interpersonal communication where my feelings are concerned or things take an emotional or heated turn I completely shut down. I can’t think. I can’t speak. A phone conversation or a face to face conversation would be complete torture and the extrovert who wants to be seen and heard would put me into complete overwhelm. The extrovert would talk and talk and talk and I would force myself to listen but in reality communication at this point has broken down.
I’m not saying the extrovert should whip out a smart phone and start texting the introvert but he or she should be aware that in dealing with an introvert that that person doesn’t process verbally, can’t respond in the manner or time frame the extrovert expects and might benefit from giving the introvert space to respond.
As an introvert I need to mull over the situation. I need to organize my facts and figures and think about what I think. I can’t just blurt it out on the phone or in person at the moment it happens. I need time. I also need quiet and space and when extroverts fills that space with words, and gestures and demands communication breaks down.
I have found that the process of writing and email or forming a text enables me to organize my thoughts better and clearly convey to the other party what I am thinking. Do I miss the glitter in someone’s eye or hear the catch in someone’s voice through technology yes. Do I get to express myself in a way that is reflective of what I am truly thinking and feeling yes. And what does the extrovert want – an immediate answer or an answer truly reflective of what their partner is thinking or feeling. From the introvert perspective its often both – but that just can’t happen.
Most times in interactions with extroverts we are not given time or the space to react and respond. Just because we don’t “do it on the fly” as most extroverts do, it doesn’t mean we are any less effective, intelligent, successful or emotional. It’s as difficult to get an extrovert to sit and write about their feelings as it is for an introvert to talk about their feelings.
Somewhere in friendships, relationships, marriages and parenting, extroverts and introverts need to work with each other to forms tools and strategies to communicate effectively. For me the introvert that means picking up the phone and talking about how I feel, and for my extrovert friends that means understand why I communicate something via text or email when I can’t otherwise.
Neither the extrovert or the introvert in my book is a barometer for success or the “right” way to live. Our brain chemistries are different. The blood flow to our brains are different. Out thought processes are different. So why would we communicate in the same way?
A friend of mine in a leadership position at a national defense contractor has opened my mind to the subtle complexities of human behavior and the beautiful, but equal difference in extroverts and introverts. As someone completely unlicensed in the practice of psychology I am going to challenge the public opinions on the web that criticize the use of technology as a inferior form of communication and welcome you to think of it as a communication aid in certain situations.
Some of us introverts have found a way to put on our extrovert coat when we go out the door. Some of us haven’t. Some extroverts extol the virtuous life of the outspoken glad hander, and some don’t. As someone who has spent her life surrounded by public extroverts and personal introverts I offer a different perspective on the use of technology and see the value in both.
Contributor: Sandra Beck is the owner of Motherhood Incorporated a virtual technology support company and the host of two popular radio shows Motherhood Talk Radio and Military Mom Talk Radio. A graduate of Northwestern University with both her Undergraduate in Journalism and Master’s Degree in Advertising.