The myths and tales of introversion and extroversion, what it means to you and how it affects you as a presenter and how you present.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you worry or think as an introvert or an extrovert you’ve been made to feel less than normal; insular and standoffish by one standard, overbearing and a nuisance by the other and wish to understand what it is that drives you and why you do what you do and how you can use this in your presentation then this article is for you.

Misconceived

The common misconception is that an introvert is shy and suffers from social anxiety with a preference for their own solitude; their own company. The extrovert on the other hand is domineering, loud, brash and likes to be centre of attention.

The terms introversion and extroversion come from the work of Carl Jung and later typified in the personality profiling work of Myers Briggs.

Many organisations today use the Myers Briggs type indicators to determine your personality preferences as a means to help them with the job application and interview process.

As with many personality indicators rumours abound and misconceptions occur. The crass preference then becomes fact. Introverts are shy and social outcasts, extroverts are loud, brash and the soul of the party…

…and they’ve been sadly misled.

Introversion and extroversion and has less to do with personality and who you are but more to do with how you respond to stimulation.

For years I’ve been lead to think I was an extrovert – outgoing, easy to make friends, loud (sometimes), enjoy the lime-light, sometimes a little brash 😉 and so on….but how wrong I was when I completed this test!

The simple test below will show you what I found out.

This test is taken from the BBC Child of Our Time series by Prof. Robert Winston

The Test: Which one are you?

What you need. 1-4 sheets of A4 Paper. 1 Lemon cut in half

1) Take an A4 sheet of paper, hold it in front of you and lick along one edge and continue going until you run out of saliva, that is your tongue dries up on the paper. If you get to the end of the paper, turn it over and use the other side. Continue going on each side until you run out and your tongue feels dry on the paper.

2) Then make a mark or an indication of how far you licked.

3) Take the 1/2 lemon and squirt on your tongue. Now take some new A4 sheets and repeat 1)

Now measure the difference.

  • Is there little or no difference?
  • Is there a huge difference?
  • How much extra saliva did the lemon produce?

(no lemon, paper? you can do this if you’re good with your imagination – follow the guide below)

  1. Clearly see in your mind’s eye a freshly cut lemon coming to your mouth
  2. Picture it in detail, smell the zest of the lemon as it comes closer
  3. Imagine putting the lemon into your mouth while squeezing and chewing it deeply

If you started to salivate or found it hard to even imagine getting a lemon nr. your mouth then this demonstrates how easily your olfactory senses are stimulated. (introvert)

If nothing happened, then this demonstrates that you require more stimulation for your senses to be enabled. (extrovert)

(for a full proper test, use the physical method as described above).

The Test Answers

  • If the ‘Acid test’ produced little or no change and the lick tests are similar in length, then this is a demonstration that your personality profile is that of an extrovert.
  • If the ‘lick lengths’ were different and you produced more saliva, then this indicates that you have a personality profile of an introvert.

The degree of difference between the lick lengths will indicate the degree by which your personality traits are that of an introvert.

Imagine at one end of the scale is introvert, the other extrovert: –

The greater the difference the more introverted you are.

As an indication, if your initial lick length was 6 inches and your final lick length after the lemon was 1.5 metres, then you’re at the far end of introversion, if it’s about 18 inches then probably you sit somewhere in the middle.

Why does this happen?

The amount of saliva that you produce as a result of the lemon juice indicates the degree to which your senses are stimulated and therefore you either produce saliva as a result of the stimulation or not. The amount of excess saliva also indicates how sensitive to stimuli you may be.

Therefore, the acidity of the lemon stimulates our receptors and produces saliva; the more you salivate the less stimulation you require. The less saliva you create the greater stimulation your senses require.

What’s this to do with Introverts or Extroverts?

Think of it this way, if a novel provides a lot of stimulation and satisfaction then the ‘degree’ by which you need stimulating to achieve this is less than if you need to go skydiving or bungee jumping.

So an introverted person is someone who needs less stimulation to be happy compared to the extrovert who needs more stimulation.

What this means to you

Introversion and extroversion have little or nothing to do with social ability and likeness and more to do with the amount of stimulation you require to achieve a state of ‘happiness’.

(Happiness: (used loosely) as the act of knowing you are happy only happens after the event of being/doing. Probably more accurately the desired state is one of being ‘yourself’ and of personal achievement – I am sure you’ll have your own word for this)

The more stimulation you need to get to this state the more you will attempt to find solutions that require you to seek ‘riskier, adventurous, and daring’ solutions.

The less stimulation you need, the less need you have to bungee jump every day.

However, here’s what’s interesting about it…

To Bungee or Not

…If you like to bungee jump or do gregarious and ‘seemingly’ extrovert activities and you found that after the test you’re an introvert…

That’s OK!

This just demonstrates the amount of stimulation you need to achieve your desired state – IN A PARTICULAR Context and TIME!.

NOT that you’ll never be capable of ‘extroversion’ activities or ways of being.

NOR

That if you like your extreme sports or clubbing that you won’t enjoy softer past times.

Introversion does not mean you won’t want to go skydiving anymore or that you may see or feel less of a need to do it as often. It simply means that you may wish to experience ‘high stimulating’ activities less often than an extrovert.

Similarly, if you discovered through the test that you are an extrovert, it doesn’t mean you will never want to read War and Peace, it simply means that you require less need to read more often.

So, the question here is, being an extrovert or introvert is neither here nor there and has nothing to do with whether you’re a social outcast or miscreant, but –

– to do with the amount of stimulation you require to feel satisfied.

What about the middle person?

This too is the degree by which you require the amount of stimulation. On one end of the scale the extrovert requires greater degrees of stimulation than the introvert and more often. Therefore, it is about where you are on the continuum scale and how often.

As someone who trains, I would guess that most of the people that have been on my courses and even my friends would say that I’m an extrovert or at least lean towards this side. I would suggest they see me as someone who is outgoing, plays to the crowd, is upbeat, socialises a lot, laughs loudly and in merriment and enjoys meeting new people.

Did I get a SHOCK when I found out

When I did the test, I was off the scale as an introvert!

My mouth would not stop watering and I mean really watering. Even thinking about it while writing this stimulates those senses, however…

…considering the type of role, I have as a trainer, one of the other roles is that part of the training is taking people through life changing sessions as demonstrations. This requires a keenness of skill to pick up and modify my responses and strategies in response to their non-verbal changes.

It’s therefore important given this context to have low thresholds to minute changes in skin colouration and muscle tone. Because you need to know if something has changed at the non-verbal level and as such requires a shift of attention to drive the coaching/training.

What this means to you

As a presenter, if you’re presenting to what appears to be a group of extroverts that require high stimulation and you’re score chart is that of an introvert, then you’ll wish to think about making your presentation more active and involved.

You don’t have to speak louder or be gregarious, rather think about how you can involve your audience in your presentation. Think about debates, question sections, use products to stimulate their senses, have ‘training aids’ on the table like Rubik’s cubes, plastic squeezy figures.

If your audience is bent more towards the introvert side, then reduce the stimulation down (if it’s high because you’re an extrovert). Keep questions to a minimum, don’t ask the audience questions and expect answers, they may just be reflecting on what you said.

What if you have both in the audience?

Cater to both parties by having stimulating sections and other sections that require thought and inactivity.

If you’ve ever wondered why some people don’t talk or answer it’s probably because they’re just introverted and don’t need to ask questions every 30 seconds.

And if you have the louder person in the room, it’s just because there’s not enough stimulation. Give them something to do.

In summary

Just because you prefer silence doesn’t mean you don’t love a good ol’ rock concert.

Introverts and extroverts do however have certain preferences and are better at certain roles than their opposite. We are on an ever-changing scale but we generally lean to one side more often than the other. Environment, circumstances and motivation requirements can lead us to swap from our dominant side to the other and back again.

After all this are you an introvert or an extrovert?

I think the case here is not whether you are one of the other or in the middle, rather when is it most useful to have the strengths of each given the presenting situation and how do you switch from one to the other in order to help you achieve what it is you most want.

So, stop thinking whether an Introvert or an Extrovert is good rather what can you do to make sure you have the right amount and kind of stimulation that makes you and your audience happy.

 


Rob Ballentine
Rob Ballentine

Rob's the Owner and Founder of PResult. Preferring a Scotch over a beer, you can find him perusing the strings of his guitar playing the likes of Steve Vai to Blue Gras chops. He loves a movie as much as playing the XBox or reading some sci-fi or personal development books, when time affords it!

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