LightQuest Media

The Bad Rap of Being Shy

ExtrovertHow do you solve a problem like Maria?

First, surround her with seven precocious children.  Then, add a widowed Captain who needs dragged out of his reserved shell.  Splice in some singing because good harmony never hurt anyone.  Then watch Maria shine.

For Fraulein Maria in The Sound of Music, that story works because of one important fact about her personality: she was an extrovert.

“I can’t seem to stop singing wherever I am,” she admitted to Mother Abbess in her thick, blunt way from under her thick, blunt bangs. “And what’s worse, I can’t seem to stop saying things – anything and everything I think and feel.”

Yeah, she really couldn’t.  She was an extrovert and extroverts make great musical leads.

has anyone seen an introvert?  anyone?

Switch the main role from Maria to Captain Von Trapp, have us follow him around all day, instead, and the movie would have been called, “The Sound of Musings,” a dramatic tale of a man in his mind, played by Christopher Plummer and performed without dialogue.

Poor Captain Von Trapp was an introvert.  He enjoyed peace and order and whistles.  His children were managed efficiently, but distantly.  And, if he wanted to socialize, it would be with one of his two friends.

Life was good.  Life was calm.  Life was about to be upended by an extrovert.

when two star-crossed personalities collide

Accepting there are different types of people in the world is easy.  Understanding that those different types are different from you is hard.  Captain Von Trapp struggled with Maria’s outlandish ways and straight talk.  And Maria found herself on the opposite side of the Captain’s aloof instructions nearly constantly.

Yet, both wanted the same things: care for the children.  They had the same goal.  But they had to find a way to achieve that goal without screaming at each other from opposite sides of the temperament palette.  And how did they do it?

Well, they sang a lot.

when you need harmonious teamwork

However, a song and dance number will rarely work in the office.  When you have a group project, you generally have one general goal. (Just like the Captain and Maria.)  But, you also have a group.  And a group means different temperaments.

So who are introverts and extroverts?
Here’s the 411 on Maria.  She is people and activity oriented.  She loves being involved, being challenged by variety, and, according to Myer’s Briggs, Maria is a get’er done kind of girl. Throw caution to the wind and make clothes out of draperies!  For her, the words “problem solving” sound exactly like the words “talk out loud.”  When a solution is needed, she prefers sharing it with others and getting feedback.

Across the room, the Captain is silently disagreeing.  All that activity and talking and people put him on overload.  He prefers dealing with ideas and working them out inside his own head.  Myer’s Briggs advises giving the Captain time to reflect.  Let him ruminate on the problem, like from a balcony where he can get a good view of Maria.  Leave him alone for awhile so that he can get a clear idea how to act.  Then he’ll have a song of his own to sing.

With these temperaments being so wildly different, how do they ever get along?  According to research, and a romantic gazebo scene, quite well.

like two peas in opposing pods

In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain writes about an experiment by developmental psychologist Avril Thorne, a professor at the University of California, that was performed with 52 women – 26 introverts, 26 extroverts.

Each woman wquietas tasked with conversing for ten minutes with a woman with her temperament and another ten minutes with a woman of her opposite temperament.

“The introverts and extroverts participated about equally, showing that introverts don’t always talk less.  But the introvert pairs tended to focus on one or two serious subjects of conversation, while the extrovert pairs chose lighter-hearted and wider-ranging topics,” Cain said of the results.

The findings, however, held something surprising.  Both types regarded the other type with great appreciation.

“Introverts talking to extroverts chose cheerier topics, reported making conversation more easily, and described conversing with extroverts as a ‘breath of fresh air.’  In contrast, the extroverts felt that they could relax more with introvert partners and were freer to confide their problems. They didn’t feel pressure to be falsely upbeat,” explains Cain.

everyone is different and different is good

Teachers might label introverts as shy or unsociable, or even worse to have a disorder of some type, getting low marks for social skills.  But, it’s not really a world of extroverts are good and introverts are bad.  We are just…different.  Both personalities have strengths, and both also have weaknesses.

The Captain and Maria lived happily ever after once they got off the mountain.  Once they accepted each other’s unique traits, the appreciation came.  Usually followed by a duet.

Not everyone works the same.  Not everyone should.  But if you can recognize the differences, celebrate those differences, and create a culture with your employees and coworkers that appreciate the differences, you may have your own song to sing.