Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
If you’re an introvert, you’re trendy right now. There is a lot of media buzz about introversion and their inner strengths in a primarily extrovert world.
One In Four…
At least one in four people tends to listen more than they speak, often feels alone in large groups, and requires a lot of private time to restore their energy. They are introverts says author, researcher, educator and psychotherapist Dr. Marti Olsen Laney.
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, nearly one-third to one-half of Americans are introverts. Cain got her data from Rowan Bayne who wrote The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: A Critical Review and Practical Guide.
The Brain Science Of Extroverts And Introverts
I personally have always been skeptical about labels such as introverts and extroverts as well as personality tests. I feel that labels are a way for people to categorize and departmentalize others.
Then I started reading the work of American geneticist Dr. Dean Hamer regarding the gene D4DR and how it influences our temperament and neurochemistry. Hamer highlighted how neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, noradrenalin, acetylcholine and endorphins follow certain pathways in the brain. They direct where the blood circulates and regulate how much of it flows to various brain centers. In short, these neurotransmitters are responsible for our energy levels, excitement, motivation and learning. Thus, our response to our environment and how we behave is directly related to which parts of brain and central nervous systems are “turned on.”
Short Or Long D4DR
Dr. Laney took Hamer’s research one step further and applied it to her work on extroverts and introverts. While identifying whether you’re an introvert or extrovert is more complex than the Myers-Briggs test indicates, the brain science of extroverts and introverts is fascinating.
Extroverts have a long D4DR gene that is less sensitive to dopamine. They actually require adrenaline for their brains to create dopamine which motivates us. They also have less blood flow to the brain and have shorter pathways in their nervous system so they often bypass the area of the brain where contemplation takes place. Therefore, extroverts intentionally seek adventurous and thrilling experiences that provide higher levels of dopamine. They crave the spotlight.
Introverts have a short D4DR gene that is highly sensitive to dopamine. Too much external stimulation short circuits their thinking and exhausts them. Their nervous system pathways are longer and they find pleasure in slower-paced, orderly, low-risk activities. They receive a buzz through more quiet and reflective activities that are focused in the frontal lobe of the brain. While extroverts crave the Broadway spotlight; introverts enjoy natural light through a window.
Tips To Help Introverts Make The Most Of Your Event
As a meeting professional, it’s our job to ensure that we provide event experiences that apply to both high-novelty seeking extroverts and low-novelty seeking introverts. Unfortunately, the typical conference or event experience is usually designed for the extrovert. Here are some tips to help introverts succeed at your next event.
1. Focus conference conversations on meaningful stuff.
It’s a myth that introverts don’t like to talk. They love to talk about their passions, challenges and hobbies. During conference education sessions, use questions that give introverts the ability to discuss their enthusiasms as they are the thinkers of tomorrow.
2. Start learning exercises with individual reflection first.
During education sessions, ask individuals to write down their response to a provocative question or challenge regarding the content. A great question presenters can use is, “How do you respond to the content I’ve shared so far?” Extend that question with query’s like what works for you, what can you apply, what concerns you, what do you need more information on, etc. Spend one to two minutes allowing individual to reflect on their responses before sharing.
3. Collaborative work is beneficial for introverts and best in pairs or threesomes.
During conference education sessions, instead of asking introverts to talk in groups of six, nine, ten, twelve or more, have them talk to a peer in pairs or threesomes. The smaller the group the better. Try pair sharing and “pair-squared” techniques to get introverts fully engaged. These are low-stakes methods to encourage participation with one other person. After working with a partner, introverts are often more willing to transition to groups or speak aloud to the entire session.