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Introvert or Extrovert: A CliftonStrengths view

Recently, a friend shared a story about life while sheltered at home. He, referring to himself as an “introvert”, was finding the situation highly tolerable. He caught up on projects, exercised and perfected his solopreneur business. His wife, described by him as an extrovert, normally works where there is a lot of direct contact with people. As a “people person”, she was not finding the situation even marginally tolerable.

Trying to be a helpful and responsive mate, he offered suggestions about how she might make the best of things. She did not find his suggestions helpful. What he discovered is what worked for him did not work for her. He recognized that his introverted solutions might not be the best answers for her extroverted personality. Good insight and good for their relationship.

As a Gallup Strengths Coach, I started thinking about the limitations of the terms introvert and extrovert.

Usually when people are described as extroverts or introverts, the black and white version is that they like or don’t like to associate with people. The reality is most people sometimes like to associate with people and sometimes don’t. The numbers, situations and expectations can greatly affect how they feel about people. My friend, the self-styled introvert, is actually, very involved with people. He is an executive coach making his living interacting with people. It is how he likes to associate with people.

Extroverts are often thought of as the life of the party. They know everyone; easily mixing and mingling. While introverts are shy, sedate, quiet. These are at best, cartoon character versions of actual human behavior.

The CliftonStrengths or StrengthsFinder assessment provides greater nuance to describe personality traits. It describes behavior using 34 talent themes revealing people’s natural tendency in interacting with the world around them. It describes hows and whys as well as motivation.

Several Strengths come to mind when thinking about the meaning of introvert or extrovert. The WOO™ (Winning Others Over) Strength, describes what we probably think of as an extrovert. WOOs™ tend to meet and greet with ease. They may prefer collecting groups of people over building bonds with any particular person. That is how they like to associate with people. The Strength of Relator™ describes people who build close relationships. They value close connections. That is how they like to associate with people. Connectedness™ is a Strength that revolves around a feeling of connection with many or even all people and can present as open or intimate. That is how they like to associate with people. One person could possess all three of these Strengths, which combine in fascinating and unique ways. Which is why Strengths come closer to describing real people, including how they like to associate with people.

Sometimes the shorthand of introvert or extrovert is sufficient for describing behavior. But if we are on a voyage to self-discovery, Strengths give us deeper understanding of other’s qualities as well as our own.