Introverts and extroverts, it seems obvious which camp you are in by simple observation. Do you walk into a social situation and seek out others for conversation, enjoying the back and forth of friendly discussion? Or do you enter the room more cautiously, perhaps having a conversation with one or two others after some feelings of awkwardness? Let’s be careful not to stereotype, remembering that many of us exhibit qualities of both depending on the situation. Still, there is some basic truth that each of us belong more in one camp than the other, but how important is this?
One of the most common questions I get regarding the Communication Styles Framework is this: If you are an introvert does that mean you have a stronger intrapersonal component to your communication style, and if you are an extravert are you more interpersonally oriented? Of course, this is a logical question and one that I pondered during the early years when fleshing out the details of the CS Framework. However, the simple answer came to me because of my own style and behavior. In most social situations, I am very cautious and feel awkward (internally). I don’t know how transparent this is, but clearly I will take the “emotional temperature” of the room and eventually gravitate to one person for an in-depth conversation. This might be construed as shyness or being reserved or being socially awkward.
Without a doubt, I am highly interpersonally oriented. To anyone who knows me this is obvious. I think out loud with others a lot. I get energy from externally clarifying my thoughts and feelings, as well as naturally tuning into the other person. Seeking engagement in this manner is the hallmark of the interpersonal nature.
Those with an intrapersonal nature seek inward clarity first, wanting and needing to understand feelings, thoughts, motivations, and goals based in their experience before meaningful engagement. Socially, one can be comfortable as an extrovert, while their intrapersonal nature stays tucked in. So, although they may seem to be more interpersonally driven, they are not. They simply enjoy the social give and take and are comfortable in group situations. Conversely, one who is more cautious in social situations can have a very strong interpersonal nature, which (because they are socially reserved) might be surprising if they are only observed in group situations.
Finally, one can be an introvert and have a strong intrapersonal nature or be an extrovert and have a strong interpersonal nature. In other words, the interpersonal, intrapersonal, introversion, and extroversion factors can configure in any combination.
Remember, the CS Framework is rooted in processing styles—how we absorb information and how we express ourselves in the human relational world. You can be an introvert or extrovert and have a strong interpersonal or intrapersonal component to your personal communication style. The details really are important and, of course as always, we must be careful about stereotyping.