Friday, July 01, 2011

Interpersonal Communication: Communication Styles, Introverts/Extroverts

This is a continuation of a series.  Check the dated archive to the right to find parts 3.1, 3.2, 3.3

Recognizing communication styles may just help you more than anything else in the work place.  Because of regional, cultural, and co-cultural backgrounds, we find that many of the people around us communicate like we do.  Certain “rules” and “norms” are just givens; we don’t even think about them, so we consider the “norms” right just because they are what we are used to.  But the more people you meet, the more communication styles you will find.  Our first response is to say, “That person doesn’t know how to communicate” or “that person has poor people skills.”  We evaluate before we recognize the behavior is part of an overall style.  We have one, too, and we might be very sensitive or defensive when it’s pointed out to us.  This is not to say that all aspects of all communication styles are effective—obviously they are not, but it’s not a question of morality. Some of them are personality based; some come from general tendencies in each gender; some are cultural, some are regional, and some come from training, even from patterns within a family.  A communication style is not a terminal disease; a person can develop a fuller repertoire of style for adaptability, and that’s really one of the main reasons for studying communication—to achieve sensitivity to know if your style will work or if it needs some adaptation to be effective.  On the other hand, some people might say, “That’s just the way I am,” but your communication style is not YOU.  It’s a behavior you have learned or adopted because it seemed to work for you in the setting you were in, or you just unconsciously do it.  Being asked to change your communication style is not unlike being asked to dress more appropriately for the work place; it’s just harder.

I’d like to present this subject in terms of a variety of categories that exist as opposites.

Extravert – introvert.  25% of the population test as introverts on inventories such as the Meyers Briggs or the MMPI, but that only indicates that 25% of those who take the test.  The likelihood that you are an introvert is great.  Introversion is not shyness, as the links below will indicate.  As Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig of the College of William and Mary state,”Introverts get their energy from themselves and are drained by people; extraverts get their energy from other people and are drained by being alone.”
Some Characteristics of Introverts:
· Are territorial - desire private space and time
· Are happy to be alone - they can be lonely in a crowd
· Become drained around large groups of people; dislike attending parties
· Need time alone to recharge
· Prefer to work on own rather than do group work
· Act cautiously in meeting people
· Are reserved, quiet and deliberate
· Do not enjoy being the center of attention
· Do not share private thoughts with just anyone
· Form a few deep attachments
· Think carefully before speaking (practice in my head before I speak)
· See personal reflection as very important
· Concentrate well and deeply
· Become absorbed in thoughts and ideas
· Limit their interests but explore deeply
· Communicate best one-on-one
· Get agitated and irritated without enough time alone or undisturbed
· Select activities carefully and thoughtfully

Some Characteristics of Extraverts
· Are social - they need other people
· Demonstrate high energy and noise
· Communicate with excitement and enthusiasm with almost anyone in the vicinity
· Draw energy from people; love parties
· Are lonely and restless when not with people
· Establish multiple fluid relationships
· Engage in lots of activities and have many interest areas
· Have many best friends and talk to them for long periods of time
· Are interested in external events not internal ones
· Prefer face-to-face verbal communication rather than written communication
· Share personal information easily
· Respond quickly

(Characteristics synthesized from: Hirsh & Kummerow, 1989; Keirsey & Bates, 1984; Lawrence, 1985; Myers & Myers, 1980.)
For a witty and entertaining look at this subject, go to
People in leadership are expected to be extraverts, but they all aren’t.  This is probably the first and most important of the factors affecting communication style.


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