The Silicon Valley Voice

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The Introvert Is In

Do you like people?

That is the question, as Hamlet said, and I think you owe the Hamster an answer.

Despite the heavy reliance on all things technological in business today, bosses still put a lot of emphasis on “people skills.” Unless you are a people person, your career may suffer. (Hamlet was definitely not a people person — he talked funny — and look how his career ended.)

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There is a name for people who don’t play well with others. If you avoid dealing with people, you are considered an introvert. If you love dealing with people, you are considered a weirdo, aka an extrovert.

Introverts and extroverts are completely different, and never the twain shall meet, not if the introverts have anything to do with it.

Or so I believed until I read “Yes, Outgoing Introverts Do Exist — Are You One?” a post on The Muse by Jenn Granneman.

According to Granneman, who describes herself as an introvert and a highly sensitive person, “introversion and extroversion are not black and white. Think of it as a continuum with introversion at one end and extroversion at the other end. Some people fall closer to the introverted end, while others are near the middle.”

Those people in the middle are called “ambiverts,” and we don’t see many of them in our work lives. For the most part, they live in heavily forested areas of Brooklyn and come out only twice a year to demonstrate their skills at clog dancing.

Leaving the ambiverts to their clogging, the focus of my sermonette today is the folks who are on the extroverted end of introverted. In a word — OK, two words — “outgoing introverts.”

Could you be an outgoing introvert? Granneman offers a diagnostic test. Let’s take it, shall we?

If “your energy is closely tied to your environment,” you are likely to be an outgoing introvert,” she writes. “The ambiance of a bar or restaurant can either energize you or drain you, depending on if the place fits your preference.”

This is perfectly true, though, in your case, the most likely outcome is that you drain the bar.

As an outgoing introvert, “you can endure only so much socializing before you need downtime,” so “you feel the need to disappear and recharge by being alone with just one other person (a best friend, a trusted roommate, or your significant other).”

Since your significant other is Goldie McFinster III, your pet goldfish, the recharge rate may be even more rapid. Whatever Goldie needs from you, he’s keeping it to himself.

A classic outgoing introvert trait that often goes unnoticed is “how ‘in your head’ you really are.” Unfortunately, in your case, this trait is easily noticed, especially when your answer to every question in a staff meeting is “huh?”

When things at work get tough, an outgoing introvert gets going.

“When you’re feeling drained, like a true introvert, you go silent and hibernate at home.” This is often difficult to do when the work is flowing, your boss is hovering, and your co-workers, a bunch of totally annoying extroverts, are inter-relating like mad.

Because it is often difficult to go home to hibernate, be prepared by working in slippers and a bathrobe. And bring your goldfish to work. Yes, he may be eaten by the boss’s 25-pound Norwegian Forest cat. And, certainly, losing your best friend is sad. But can you think of a better reason to go home for six months of compassionate leave?

If you have identified yourself as an outgoing introvert, you can start disguising your introversion by acting like the social butterfly you’re not.

Unfortunately, by pretending to be more extroverted than you really are, a successful outgoing introvert can be “often confused for an extrovert.

Your co-workers “don’t buy that you’re an introvert because you’re just so social,” Granneman warns. In your case, this could be fatal to your career.

If you are perceived to be an extrovert, management will expect you not only to go to meetings and conferences but to actually participate. You’ll have to pretend to be warm and friendly, and act interested in what others have to say. Your annual review will be based 100 percent on your ability to schmooze. And, of course, you’ll get zero credit for your mad skills at clog dancing.

Still, you will be seen as a people person, popular and, probably, more successful. You will never respect yourself, but that’s OK. Goldie McFinster III will definitely understand.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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