Sunday, April 08, 2007

Tip#44: Extroverts, Introverts & Social Introverts - Captain Jean-Luc Picard - Freddie Mercury

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

One of my favourite role models is Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generationseries and movies. He has a great, commanding voice and presence and I loved his leadership style. And yet when he was on his personal time or vacations he always preferred to be alone reading a good book. Despite this distinct contrast when he is at his job, Picard's preference for quiet time reminded me of me.

I used to feel a little mixed up because people would call me an extrovert since I attended many networking and social events and that I can comfortably speak in front of huge crowds. At the same time I can feel introverted because I always needed my down time in quiet spaces. I'd enjoy watching a movie, visiting my favourite bookstores or immerse myself in my writing. Around people or alone I always felt energized though in the end I had a stronger preference to re-energizing in quiet environments.

Understanding my opposing preferences finally came into focus after discovering Carl Jung's original theories on introversion and extroversion. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is based on Jung's theories and I personally found it refreshing to study Jung's original thoughts.

Simply put, extroverts re-energize by being around people and the outside world. They are like solar panels soaking up the outside energy. On the other hand introverts re-energize by going inward and being in more quiet environments and activities. They are like rechargeable batteries. Jung's "continuum" brings this all into the bigger picture.

The Energy Continuum

Jung spoke about a "continuum" that I like to refer to as the "energy continuum". It's about how each of us were born with an innate temperament that locates us somewhere on this continuum between very extroverted and very introverted. Picture a line where at one end are born extreme extroverts and the other end extreme introverts and a centre that separates the two. Seeing this helped me realize I was born very close to the centre but on the introverted side of this energy continuum because I ultimately preferred to re-energize inwardly. It finally made sense, I was a social introvert!

Freddie Mercury

And I wasn't the only one. I began to discover other famous people were social introverts too like TV journalist, Diane Sawyer and rock star, Freddie Mercury. And like Capt. Picard, they happen to work in extroverted jobs but re-energize as introverts. I was surprised about Freddie Mercury because I'd always seen him as a flamboyant extrovert on stage with his rock band Queen. Only after his death did his personal assistant, Peter Freestone, share with the world that Mercury was an introvert. In his down time Mercury preferred to be home working in his garden and playing with his cats.

Social Introverts As CEOs

USA Today published an article called 'Not all successful CEOs are extroverts that presented well known individuals who fall under the social introvert category. Many examples included CEOs such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Charles Schwab, Steven Spielberg and Sara Lee CEO, Brenda Barnes.

In the article another introvert, Home Depot CEO, Bob Nardelli sounded energetic during the interview but says "You just kind of develop it over the years. I don't think I was born this way." He and other CEOs believed developing their extroverted side was an important skill they’ve learned. These CEO examples proved society's common perception is not entirely true that you need to be extroverted to be a successful CEO.

Know Your Preferences

In Marti Olsen Laney's book, The Introvert Advantageit states Jung believed that "We could adapt best in the world if we could move easily on the continuum, introverting & extroverting when we need." Knowing your innate preferences for re-energizing yourself and how others re-energize can make a world of difference in all your daily interactions.

For example if you realize that you are an introvert and you know you have to attend a social or work function the next day it'd be best to have as much quiet time the night before to store up extra energy. Or if you are an extrovert speaking to an introvert in a group situation you will understand if they feel uncomfortable or appear drained.

Whether you identify yourself as an extrovert, introvert or social introvert it's all for the purpose of understanding how you can interact best with others. Accepting both the introvert and extrovert within you is a big step towards becoming a confident, self assured and whole person. These are two important parts of you that need to work together in your daily life and workplace. Just ask my friend and mentor, Capt. Picard. Though I recommend not bothering him while he's reading his books!

Emmanuel Lopez

© Emmanuel Lopez 2007


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed as usual, reading your adventures. I resonnate also with being a social introvert. I guess it is not big surprise ! The new thing is that I did not know that the category "social introvert" existed, thank you.

I find that I have to take care of the introvert in me much more than I thought! And reading your column, it made me realize that this is why I needed the quiet time this week-end. Interesting !


Anonymous said...

A friend (and co-worker) and I have great talks about this very subject. I AM A SOCIAL INTROVERT...she says I am an extrovert and there is no such thing as a S.I. Thanks for this. I am e-mailing it to her!