Embracing Who You Are  

As people get to know themselves better and dive further into their personalities, often more questions come up, and they want to answer the question who am I, and how did I arrive at where I am today? I think most of us have asked, ‘is my personality more based on nature or nurture?’. 

  • What does it mean to be an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between? 
  • Has my personality changed over the years? 
  • How do I successfully work with someone who is very different from me?

One of the biggest misconceptions I’ve seen with groups when I’ve taken part in personality workshops is how introverts describe extroverts and vice versa. People seem to think they can identify introverts or extroverts 100 miles away. But it is not always so easy. 

Contrary to what many think, being an introvert does not mean that they don’t like people, are shy or do not have opinions. Instead, being an introvert refers to where people get their energy. It is not from being in big groups; instead, they recharge by being alone or just with a few people. Being an introvert does not mean that they can’t go to a party and enjoy themselves or are not capable of delivering a great keynote in front of hundreds of people. But instead, introverts want to be more reflective, take time making decisions, and often prefer to write instead of talk. These approaches can be questioned, especially in Western Society that rewards extroversion. 

About 15 years ago, I joined an enterprise software company where we had a Marketing leadership offsite a few days after I started. The CMO had us each complete our Myers-Briggs assessment and share it with our peers. I’m an ISTJ. One person on the team was shocked that I was an introvert. His comment was that you seem so outgoing and social and that you lead communications for us. 

And this guy was the biggest extrovert I’ve ever seen, which is terrific since he was doing all the talking. But when I explained to my extroverted friend and colleague, it was about where I got my energy that made everything clear. No problem, I could be very social and pop into someone’s office for a chat or lead a cross-function brainstorm. But I explained to him that I got home and collapsed in the living room or needed a few minutes of quiet time outside by myself; that is how I recharged. I appreciated our frank conversation as a team, so we could understand where each individual was coming from and how we could operate more effectively as a team by leaning on our unique strengths. 

For more than twenty years I have been in Marketing and Communications, we do a lot of talking, hold a lot of meetings, host many conferences, and frequently are labeled as a social and gregarious group. But the reality is that not everyone in marketing is an extrovert, so designing your organization for only one personality type can be disastrous.  

So how do leaders, teachers, and parents cultivate workplace, school, and home environments where each individual can play to their strengths? Attributes, including thoughtfulness and listening, need to be valued and rewarded. It cannot be just about the first person to raise his/her hand or be the quickest to comment in a meeting. Suppose we do not make room for those people who are deemed quiet. In that case, we will not be listening to nearly 50% of U.S. working professionals who identify as introverts, according to a recent Truity Psychometrics study.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is jumping to the conclusion that introverts are not ambitions. Things like “true leaders” need to be visible, and in-your-face generals who are calling all the shots. The myth that you only get to be on top by being the life of the party and socializing at every event is perpetuated. I agree that collaborating and knowing your colleagues is critical, but there is no one-size-fits-all model for building relationships. 

Flexible Working Environments

Nothing has changed workforce dynamics in such a short period more than COVID. It felt like all of a sudden, in March 2020, we were all sent home from our in-person jobs to take a couple of weeks to work remotely while COVID ran its course. Well, two and a half years later, we have learned much about the new world of work. Work does not need to happen in one seat, in one location from 9:00-5:00, Monday through Friday. 

Introverts have benefited from a more level playing field. One study even found that the impact of the COVID pandemic was that the mood improved for introverts but worsened for extroverts. With far fewer extracurricular activities, many employees have felt more evaluated based on the merit of their work rather than time at the bar after hours with like-minded colleagues. 

When you open your mind’s aperture to understand when someone is different from you, it goes a long way in valuing them and working together even when you might have very different lenses through which you look at the world. Ultimately having friends and colleagues and building a team with people who are different from you will give you a deep appreciation for the world and make you happier.

By diving into our Enneagram and our ikigai, each of us has an opportunity to connect with ourselves and the world around us. As we become more in tune with our areas of strength and what brings us happiness, we can design our lives around this. It can be simple things, like knowing when to take a break and recharge, designing a workspace that plays to your personality, to picking a career path that builds on your strengths.

By creating and vocalizing your path, you can improve your quality of life and build a sustained work and personal life that you have envisioned.

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