Doing Life Together


My boss is an introvert. I am an extrovert. We are very different in our approaches to problems and life. For example, when there is conflict, I want to work it out immediately. I want to turn up the volume on the issue and get it resolved relationally. My introvert boss wants to turn down the volume and have time to think. He doesn’t like conflict. He goes internal and wants time to process the issue. Often, I need to remind him to come back to the issue. It’s not that he doesn’t want to resolve it, rather he is more uncomfortable talking to me as I process things out loud. Eventually, we get to the problem, but not as fast as I would like.

Introverts are quiet and I used to think that meant they are disengaged. I now realize that introverts take time to process their thoughts alone. This doesn’t mean they are not interested. They engage in a different way.

One of the biggest differences I notice is how introverts and extroverts energize themselves. Introverts want personal space. They need time to process what you are saying and think. This means I often pause and give them time before filling empty spaces with my words. I will admit, it is harder to figure out when an introvert is processing or if the person might be mad and avoiding conflict. It helps to pay attention to body language. If the arms are crossed or the brow goes down, it might mean the introvert has discomfort with conflict. On the other hand, he could be thinking. The point is to give time for reactions to occur.

Introverts need time alone to regroup, whereas the extrovert regroups with people. I like small talk and getting to know people. I meet strangers and engage in conversations. My introvert friends have little interest in either small talk or engaging strangers. They want personal space. I am energized by people. We recharge in different ways.

As an extrovert, I say what I think and struggle when an introvert does not. I can’t mind read and need the introvert to tell me what he or she is thinking. And my asking what the introvert is thinking is not aggression. It is an honest need to understand the person. And here is another difference. My introverted boss doesn’t like to be interrupted and doesn’t like unplanned activities or visits. Good to know, as I have no issue with interruptions during my day. My door is always open.

Please understand that one of these personality styles is not better than another. However, you can see how the differences affect interpersonal relationships. When an introvert and extrovert date, marry or work together, it helps to understand how these differences impact communication and relationships.