Dealing with introverts and extraverts

There are many typologies and taxonomies that may help us understand why certain people respond to specific situations the way they do. The dichotomy between introversion and extraversion is one of them. If you to want build a good rapport with your audience and get your message across, you need to understand your speaking/listening partners’ personality, anticipate that they may react differently to what you say, show and do, and adapt your interaction style to their needs.

In two older blog posts, I introduced a power quadrant and an influencer quadrant as tools to characterize your audience, and to adapt your content and presentation style to their anticipated behavior. Recently a came across a document that introduces a 3rd – complementary – matrix that takes your listeners’ introversion and extraversion into account.


Introverts care more about information than about interaction. They value exact data, facts and figures to learn, apply and reuse. As they need some time to think before formulating a response, don’t be surprised if they appreciate the handouts of your presentation more than your narrative. You may even consider to provide them upfront with a copy of your slides, so they have ample opportunity to prepare, annotate and digest.

  • Listeners. When what’s being presented is either uninteresting or irrelevant for them, introverts may just limit their participation to passive listening. So, make sure you supply them with ample (oral or written) information to take home and share with their management and colleagues.
  • Participators. Even when the content is relevant, don’t expect introverted people to be enthusiastic about what you say or to explicitly show their appreciation. Be ready to answer many questions about details – if not during the public presentation itself, probably in a tête-a-tête afterward.

Extraverts tend to think while they speak; they appreciate a good story (which they can retell) and are in for a good conversation. Surprise them, challenge them and acknowledge their thinking with your words and images.  Expect them to interrupt your speech from time to time, and prepare for an inspiring discussion after your presentation.

  • Discussers. As extroverts tap their energy from interaction with other people, they may (intentionally or unintentionally) hijack your presentation by starting a discussion – with the rest of your audience – about their own vision, project or experience.  It’s good to have them in the room, but make sure you stay in control of your speaking slot.
  • Conversators. A problem with many extroverted people is that they like to talk about (almost) everything, just for sociability. Don’t allow them to deviate you from your topic – ands end up in a “rest room conversation”.

Of course, Introversion vs. Extraversion is not the only dimension of human personality. There are other models, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI, that introduce (and combine) other typologies, e.g.:

  • How does someone take in information (Sensing vs. iNtuition)
  • How does someone make decisions (Thinking vs. Feeling)
  • How does someone orient himself/herself to the external world (Judging vs. Perceiving)

By the way, my MBTI personality is E-N-T-P. I invite the readers of this post to figure out what this means, and how you’d get me warm for your presentation.

Other articles about characterizing and dealing with your audience that may be worth reading:

Do the test

“Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once.”
 Michelle Dubois in ‘Allo ‘Allo

According to the International Listening Association, people only remember 20% of what they hear. Even when the content is fully spelled out on paper (or on a web page), you’ll probably recall only a small portion of what was presented (or written).

Let’s do the test. What did you retain from my previous post – which I published only a few days ago? If you haven’t gone over it yet, please stop reading this page, take a trip down memory lane with me first, and come back here in a day or two…

  • Do you remember the processor speed of my first home computer ever?
  • What was the name of the radio station I ‘downloaded’ software from?
  • How old are my children? (Did I actually give you this level of personal detail?)

Even if you scored only 0 or 1 out of 3, this doesn’t mean you are a poor reader. The numbers that I mentioned in my article weren’t exactly the kind of catchy facts that stick into your brain.


As I tried to prove in another blog post titled “a body has no true ideals”, people may forget what you said (or wrote), but they will never forget how you made them feel.

So, if you did not remember the facts, tell me what you did remember (if anything) from my earlier post(s). And let me know through the Leave a Reply field below…