There has been a big push surrounding introversion lately. Introverts are coming out of the closet, happy to know why they’re different, and determined to be proud of their differences. And that’s great. But it often comes with a backlash against extroverts. Both extroverts and introverts are necessary in business, and in the world as a whole. Between these two types of people, there can exist a natural balance that is necessary for good functioning and productivity.

The words introvert and extroverts are labels, and there are always problems with labels. They have the effect of trapping people into behavioral and personal expectations that can be detrimental to their growth and functioning. However, if used correctly, they can also be helpful. For example, these labels don’t necessarily refer to strict behavioral rules. Instead, they’re about the energy guidelines and focus of the individuals.

 

Introverts get their energy by being alone, whereas extroverts get their energy by doing things in the external world, either by talking to others or completing tasks. The focus is different for these two personality types as well. Introverts are typically internally focused, their "real world" is inside their head, whereas extroverts live primarily in the external world. These differences have a number of implications for functioning and for business.

So, where do introverts and extroverts function best in business? And how can you make use of their unique skills in your business? Here’s a primer.

Fast and slow thinking

There is a fair amount of evidence that introverts and extroverts think differently. Extroverts tend to think out loud and quickly, whereas introverts think more slowly and quietly, in the privacy of their own heads. This is not a hard and fast rule, of course; nothing is with humans, but there is strong evidence to support this view.

This difference may be due to structural differences in the brain as well as to differences in personality and personal preferences. For example, a Harvard study carried out in 2012 found that introverts tended to have a more developed prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with deep thinking and abstract thought. In contrast, the prefrontal cortexes of extroverts were less thick and developed, which indicates a difference in the way they use their minds.