Introverts vs. Extroverts

A man with ginger hair and red-framed glasses peeking from behind a wooden desk.
Written by Sara James,

The idea of Introverts vs. Extroverts has fascinated us for a number of years, but do researchers really consider the personality traits that identify respondents during research sessions? Do we remember or know what signs to look out for? Or do we focus more on making sure our respondents ‘perform’ like we want them to?

Susan Cain, the author or The Sunday Times Bestseller, Quiet gives us some useful pointers in some of the key principles that are useful to consider and can be applied to the research environment.

Fundamentally it is key to remember that respondents are “rejection sensitive” meaning they will be warm and loving when they feel secure and hostile and controlling when they feel rejected.

We can also look out for useful observations within our group settings, to identify Introverts vs. Extroverts.

For example, Extroverts tend to:

  • Think out loud and on their feet
  • Do all the work of making conversation
  • Feel reassured by being part of a group
  • Easily gel with others in a group setting
  • Choose light-hearted and wide ranging topics of conversation
  • Feel more comfortable offering casual information about themselves
  • Be comfortable with conflict and happy to disagree with others by raising their voice

Whilst Introverts on the other hand, tend to:

  • Be private individuals
  • Prefer sincere and meaningful conversations
  • Go quiet and flat, taking a distant manner when they disagree with an Extrovert
  • Work slower and deliberately like to focus on one task at a time
  • Focus on one or two serious topics of conversation
  • Be happier discussing problems and conflicts in their life

But ultimately, a group session will work well with both present. Susan Cain argues that Introverts are happier to be pulled in to a light-hearted pace whilst helping Extroverts to feel safe to get into more serious conversation.

So what does this mean for moderating research sessions? Rather than focusing on controlling the group and identifying the quiet/loud/bossy respondents early on, look out for the signs of whether they are an Extrovert or Introvert and play to this – introduce a range of different exercises as a whole group, in pairs and individual tasks to cater for all respondents and give them a forum to be heard.

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