Must you be pushy to succeed as a woman over 60?

Books and articles on becoming successful often emphasize personality over character. They urge natural introverts to become more like extroverts. Au contraire!

Former Wall Street lawyer Susan Cain defends introverts like herself in her best-selling, widely enthusiastically reviewed book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Introverts make up nearly half the population and a large percentage are women. So what is the power women with an introvert personality have?

What Is the Difference Between an Extrovert and Introvert?

Children who are more sensitive than average to their surroundings, parents, and peers tend to become introverts as adults. They seek quiet rather than noise, calm rather than activity. They like being alone. Such sensitive children become more considerate and agreeable than most. They often prefer individual achievement to group endeavors.

Introverts are unusually sensitive and empathetic. They speak more softly and like to be spoken to softly. They laugh more than do extroverts, yet prefer more serious topics. Introverts are more sensitive to loss, being cautious and risk-averse. They tend to avoid controversy.

Extroverts are more attuned to gain and risk-seeking. Extroverts enjoy competition and sometimes even relish controversy. Stereotypically, they are viewed as leaders. Acting like an extrovert, including when socializing, is an effort for introverts, but many can do it, sometimes convincingly.

Which type are you? You can investigate by taking the widely-used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator online here. Most people are not “purely” one type or the other, instead lying somewhere between the extremes.

How Introverts Operate at Work and Play

Working alone or in small groups, introverts succeed by giving greater thought to their endeavors. They work diligently, and use their natural tendency to be empathetic to form close relationships with a few others. Steve Wozniak who was Steve Jobs’ co-developer of the Apple Computer, much preferred working out problems on his own rather than in a group setting. This is true of many successful inventors and artists.

Although those who speak fluently and forcefully are stereotypically perceived as having greater leadership ability and as being brighter than their quieter peers, neither of these seem to be true.

At work, action-oriented extroverts are reward-sensitive, more likely to leap before they look. Introverts are loss-sensitive and tend to look before they leap. Wall Street extrovert bulls may fuel rising markets. Introvert bears play it safe, lessening their losses on the downturns.

At play, introverts prefer socializing with fewer people in quieter and more intimate settings than do their more outgoing, extrovert friends. A “mixed” introvert-extrovert couple will need to recognize this and seek settings and events that are compromises. Alternatively, they can decide to create schedules that alternate between their preferred styles.

Do Extroverts Talk too Much?

In Susan Cain’s book she talks about the “power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” She talks about how extroverts can often hog a conversation, making introverts hardly heard. Her suggestion is that both should be able to contribute and that conversation should be a form of exchange, a trade.

introverts are generally good listeners since they are not engrossed in framing what they will say next. Whether in school or at work, such quiet ones need to have their opinions solicited, preferably with plenty of advance notice. They don’t like surprises and may do better by writing out beforehand what they intend to say.

How Introverts Can Thrive in an Extrovert Dominated World

Introverts can flourish in an extrovert-dominated world. By focusing on their talents and natural empathy they can push themselves to be more outgoing. They can add value by recognizing their talents and developing techniques to create confidence alongside their extrovert colleagues. As Nobel physicist Stephen Hawking noted, “Quiet people have the loudest minds.”

Are you more an introvert or extrovert? In which situations, in solitude or in a group, do you do your best work? How have you adapted your style on occasion? Please join the conversation.

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