Extraversion and Introversion in Conflict

Ah, conflict… It’s a word that brings joy to the hearts of those who enjoy a good debate and the urge to flee, or even dive under the bed, to those who crave harmony. Whichever camp you fall into, or even if you fall somewhere in the middle, conflict is a part of life that we must all face, at least from time to time.

If you are someone who has studied Myers-Briggs® to any degree, you may now notice that some of your arguments seem to be based on type differences. While not all fights are type related, knowledge of types and preferences can increase the understanding of conflict habits and conflicts for different people, and that knowledge can aid in balancing communication to either decrease conflict or make it more productive.

Each set of preferences makes its own contribution to the style and catalysts for conflict, and Extraversion and Introversion are no exception.

Conflict Style

Extraversion

  • Typically wants to begin by talking a conflict out and take immediate action to solve the problem with the person
  • May be seen as intrusive or attacking by others involved in the conflict, especially those preferring Introversion

Introversion

  • Typically wants to begin by leaving the problem, and the person, in an effort to sort out thoughts, feelings, and components of the conflict
  • May be seen as uncaring, shut down, or even in agreement on the issue by others involved in the conflict, especially those preferring Extraversion

Conflict Catalysts

Coming Home

Often, people who prefer Extraversion will come home and immediately want to discuss the day, while those preferring Introversion generally “need a minute” to shake off the day and the commute before engaging in conversation. This may also be true in the morning.

To avoid conflict, you may try discussing an appropriate amount of quiet time that is to be followed by a good discussion of the day with full attention paid.

Spending Time Together

Sound like a no-brainer? Maybe not… Usually Extraverts define spending time together as interacting with each other, either one-on-one or in groups (social gatherings, etc.), while Introverts often assume the phrase means one-on-one time that is either interactive or involves doing solitary activities in the room with their mates, friends, etc.. This could be one person perusing the internet as the other reads.

This is another area where neither side is wrong, and discussing and defining the craved variety of spending time together to that each party gets what they are after.

Socializing

It’s common for Extraverts and Introverts to have drastically different social needs, due to their opposite sources of gaining energy, and this can sometimes lead to big arguments. Some Extraverts enjoy weekends of non-stop, or at least daily, social activities, while some Introverts may prefer to socialize one day and be a hermit the next.

It’s important to remember that differing social needs are not inherently evil. They are not meant as a rejection or to harm anyone. It’s just a different need and style. Of course, this understanding may result in one person staying home and one going out. This usually works out well as long as trust is there. If not, that’s an issue outside of type.

The Dreaded Door

This one is a biggie! Funny as it may sound, to many individuals, a door is not just a door! In offices and homes across the land, many Extraverts see a closed-door as a way to block out communication due to anger, dislike, or disinterest. While it may occasionally be for those reasons, Introverts often close doors for no other reason than to limit noise and other distractions so that they can get in the zone to work, read, or do some other task they find difficult to do in the presence of others. It doesn’t mean the Introvert is upset. If this is a problem in your life, I would encourage you to discuss before assuming. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Meetings and Group Conversations

Frequently, in working with teams, I hear requests from individuals who prefer Extraversion to hear more input in meetings from individuals who prefer Introversion. Almost always, the individuals who prefer Introversion respond by asking for space to talk.

If this is an issue in your group, you may want to ensure that the meeting structure is conducive to both types by having normal discussion, followed by space at the end of each topic and/or each meeting for individuals who have not yet spoken up to do so, without putting people on the spot. It also wouldn’t hurt to provide a way for additional feedback to be given after the meeting, via email or a Google doc, as this will include valuable information gained by having time to ponder or brainstorm after the initial discussion.

New Tasks and Ideas

When Extraverts learn a new task or concept that they are interested, they are often eager to dive in and try it out, while Introverts usually need some time to mull over how the idea/task will work for them and fit into their way of being and accomplishing.

Allowing the types to work in the preferred styles will probably create better work and understanding in these cases, so embracing the differences, whenever possible, may be the best bet.

Trainings or School

Spending all day performing solitary activities will usually exhaust an Extravert and cause him to disengage, while spending all day being forced to interact will send an Introvert straight to the land of exhaustion.

If you are planning a long training or school day, try to mix it up a bit with sessions of interaction and solitary activity alternating. This may be the key to keep half of the room from becoming ornery and disinterested.

Projects

Imagine that you are an Introvert who brings a project idea to an Extravert. As an Introvert, you have likely thought the project idea through 15 different ways and eliminated a lot of the thoughts you have had that don’t seem to work. What does that Extravert do when receiving the project idea? She begins to talk through all of the points you have already eliminated through your process of deep thought, and the voice in your head screams that you have already done all of this work. It is frustrating, but the Extravert does not know that you have completed this process and is talking it through in her normal fashion.

In this situation, the Extravert may help the situation by asking what work has been done on the project idea, while the Introvert may introduce idea with some sort of description of the amount of work that has already been put into it. As humans, we tend to assume that all people operate as we do, at least in many instances, so pointing out the process is key to avoiding misunderstandings.

This is just a handful of conflict areas that may be related to Extraversion and Introversion, but you may have noticed a theme in the tips for dealing with these issues. Ultimately, it’s best not to make assumptions and to respectfully communicate your needs with the people in your life.

As an additional tip, it’s also not a bad idea to remember that we can still fall into these traps, even if we share a preference with the person we are interacting with. If you are interested in learning more about Myers-Briggs and conflict, check out Sondra VanSant’s great book, Wired for Conflict: The Role of Personality in Resolving Differences, which was used as a reference for this article. As always, thanks for reading!

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  1. Pingback: Sensing and Intuition in Conflict | Personality Playbook

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