Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Are you an Extrovert, Introvert, or Ambivert?

A few months ago, my book club read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. As an ambivert (someone who is in between an extrovert and introvert), I looked forward to reading the author’s argument on the value of introverts and how our society undervalues those characteristics. The common assumption might be that most successful entrepreneurs (who are often described as eccentric, direct, and sometimes crazy) are extroverts. After meeting with my book club, I question whether it is more beneficial as an entrepreneur to be an extrovert or an introvert. As with most things, there are benefits to both. Life is a set of tradeoffs.

Obviously, in any business, it is crucial to network and sell your product or service. If, as an introvert, you’re too timid or hesitant to present to a large group or find it difficult to present your elevator pitch, you may miss business opportunities.  In contrast, if as an extrovert, you bulldoze over others’ ideas or only listen to the loudest person in a meeting, you could be missing out on insightful comments from the introvert in the room. 

One story that resonated with me was about the author’s client, an introverted corporate lawyer. The corporate lawyer consulted the author for advice on how she should prepare for negotiating the terms of an endangered loan, while the senior lawyer on the deal was on vacation. As a junior associate, she had never negotiated by herself and was petrified to do so. 

So picture this – a scared, introverted corporate attorney sitting with her clients across the table from nine displeased investment bankers in expensive suits. The investment bankers’ counsel curtly professed that the corporate attorney’s clients should simply accept the bankers’ terms. The corporate attorney had no idea how to respond (something that would never happen to my introverted colleague and fellow entreVIEW author who handles many complex banking negotiations). She just sat there – staring blankly at the bankers’ counsel while awkward silence engulfed the room. 

Finally, the corporate attorney got her bearings and asked a few clarifying questions. She gradually became more confident with each question and began to push the bankers’ counsel for alternative solutions. After more negotiation and one banker who even stormed out of the room while throwing paper across the table, the two sides came to a deal. The bankers’ counsel was so impressed with the corporate attorney’s negotiation skills that she offered her a job the next day.

This story is a good lesson on the importance of staying true to your personality and strengths.  You should leverage these traits to increase your chances of being a successful entrepreneur.

Whether you are an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert (take a quick quiz here to find out!), this book is a fascinating read. 

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