Do People Who Speak Up Have Better Financial Outcomes in Life?

by Darwin on January 25, 2010

We were out to dinner Saturday night and we ordered the nachos as an appetizer at the same time as our kids’ dinner selection.  Several minutes later we placed our dinner orders (parents’ orders that is).  In fact, we always INTENTIONALLY refuse to place our dinner order with an appetizer order to avoid having our dinner dumped on top of our appetizer – it’s happened all too often.  Well, our appetizer came out with the kids’ dinners which was a good start.  Not so good – another guy (not our server – I always wonder if they do this intentionally when the server realizes they or the kitchen screwed up) drops off our dinner within a minute of our appetizer.  So, we each had 1 chip in between getting the kids situated and our dinner had arrived.

I Didn’t Care – And I Didn’t Speak Up

I’m pretty easy going and figured “what the heck, I’ll just eat nachos with my dinner – no big deal”.  I had no intention of actually complaining about it – it really wasn’t the biggest deal given how 3 kids under 5 pretty much ruin a dining experience anyway, not to mention the rumors of what the kitchen staff does to your food if you complain or send it back. I was munching along on both nachos and my burger when…

My Wife Cared – And Spoke Up – And Benefited Financially

My wife was annoyed and called over the server the next time she came by.  She said, “Look, we’ve eaten here before and never had any complaints.  I’m not the type to whine about trivial stuff when I go out to eat, but seriously, you dropped off the nachos and the kids’ dinners were cold, then our dinner came out right on top of it.  I find this to be really annoying and I’m disappointed in the service tonight.”  She didn’t personally insult the server and made legitimate points in a somewhat forceful, yet pragmatic fashion.  Well, the server seemed to know it was coming and replied immediately, “I’m so sorry; I did spread out the orders but the kitchen is crazy tonight.  I won’t charge you for the nachos, I’m truly sorry”.  We said it was OK and we appreciated the accommodation.  I don’t know that my wife was even planning on getting 8 bucks off our dinner but as a result of her willingness to speak up, it shaved 20% off our meal.

That got me thinking about how people fare that tend to speak up vs. those who don’t speak up over a lifetime – across thousands of routine interactions.

Introverts vs. Extroverts

In the business world, being an introvert is kind of like being called a Republican around election time last year.  I mean, there are plenty of them out there, but nobody wants to admit it – it’s not “in”.  After all, it’s the extroverts jumping up and volunteering to lead teams, deliver presentations, close that killer deal, right?  There’s much academic literature demonstrating that even though extroverts actually represent a small fraction of the workforce, they hold a disproportionate percentage of top jobs – and probably are better compensated at all levels – compared to their wallflower peers.  Well, call me a loser.  Aside from people I already know, I don’t go out of my way to talk to strangers or act like a cheerleader at work.  I’m not a total recluse that doesn’t talk to people, but I’m just not in the same galaxy as my wife.

While I’m a Project Manager and have to run several teams and meetings each week, I didn’t migrate to the job for that facet of the job – it was more the business/technical mix and my prior background that landed me there.  I’m probably closer to the middle than the end of the continuum, but my wife’s way over on the other side.  She talks to anyone.  She compliments women on their ring, how cute their kids are, on their clothes, asks who does their hair…total strangers!  I sometimes find myself getting annoyed and say to myself, “Why the heck are you talking to these random strangers we’re never going to see again?  You’re wasting time talking about insipid nonsense!”  But, is she?  My initial frustration quickly turns to admiration as she ends up exchanging some really useful information with a complete stranger as a result of her initial friendly comment.  Perhaps it’s some tidbit they shared on a mutual friend we have or a great deal we should go check out or a sports league we didn’t even know existed that we could still sign our kid up for today or whatever the beneficial tidbit is.

The best explanation I’ve ever heard about the difference between an introvert and and extrovert came from one of my MBA classes.  The professor said it simply:

  • If getting up and speaking in front of people makes you feel great – if you draw energy from the crowd – if you can’t wait to get up and do that every day – then, you are an extrovert.
  • If being the center of attention – giving speeches – striking up conversations drains your energy, you are an introvert.

There was no dilly-dallying.  No 40 questions, no red, yellow, green color schemes based on your answers or other social science type stuff – this was cut and dry.  I’m an introvert and my wife’s an extreme extrovert.  Opposites attract, right?

Extroverts Rule The World?

Earlier I alluded to research showing that extroverts tend hold their own better in the business world.  I also wonder about everyday interactions at lower levels and even in everyday life.

  • Is an extrovert more willing to complain and demand a discount on something?
  • Is an extrovert more comfortable haggling over everyday purchases?
  • Is an extrovert more likely to complain about a year-end appraisal or be more forward when negotiating salary at a new position?
  • Is an extrovert more willing to jump out and pursue more risky/rewarding opportunities rather than “play it safe”?
  • Is an extrovert more likely to benefit from nepotism in the workplace?

Extrovert vs. Introvert Studies:

I came across some interesting studies contrasting various traits and outcomes of extroverts vs. introverts.  It’s not clear what the data says about my questions in particular, but here were some interesting findings:

  • Extroverts tend to be happier than Introverts (study)
  • Extroverts tend to have higher self-esteem than Introverts (study)
  • The most introverted states in the United States are Maryland, New Hampshire, Alaska, Washington, and Vermont
  • This study found that many introverts actually lead US companies contrary to popular belief.  Meanwhile, this study showed a much stronger presence of extroverts in the upper ranks, clearly in a disproportionate showing compared to introverts.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Advantage Extrovert – Or it Doesn’t Matter?

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20 Cents from January 2010 | Balance Junkie
February 1, 2010 at 5:48 am

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 2 Cents @ Balance Junkie January 25, 2010 at 9:14 am

I think we need both introverts and extroverts in an ideal world. Your complimentary relationship with your wife is a great example. Unfortunately, there are probably some very talented introverts who should be in leadership positions (or at least consulted by leaders) who are not as a result of their personalities.

It would be interesting to see if the business and political realms could somehow harness this untapped resource. Thanks for a thought-provoking article!


2 Stephanie January 25, 2010 at 10:31 am

Look, I get your point about extroverts getting all sorts of advantages. We *do* get, it, all the time, from many different sources, in messages that are implicit (people gravitating towards extroverts) or explicit (like yours above). I am a grad student and a library programmer (the kind who works with groups of kids, not computers) and so there is more pressure on me than the average person to be outdoing. For heaven’s sake, my boss takes me to task if I don’t have coffee with her every day. But what’s it all for? Does it really better society if we’re all running around trying to be noticed all the time? There is only so much time and only so many resources, social and other, to go around, and the end result of this rush to be seen as alpha might result in ever-increasing numbers of non-alphas getting crushed. In my opinion, quite unnecessarily. The world would be better off if quieter, kinder people were treated better rather than constantly being sent the message that if they continue to be the way they are, they’re not so important.


3 Craig January 25, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I believe so, they are more aggressive and make their voice heard and usually it is a sign of more confidence as well. In business this is important.


4 BadBoysDriveAudi January 25, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Extroverts generally have an easier time being successful but an introvert can learn to mimic the behaviors of an extrovert and appear to be one of them. They’ll still feel drained if they have to speak publicly on a routine basis but they also can be comforted by the fact that they don’t have to be “on” all the time – meaning they can block out some time to just be alone and unwind.

When the introvert becomes successful at this practice, people ultimately can’t tell the difference. Even if the introvert fesses up, no one believes him/her.


5 Evan January 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm

While I generally agree that extroverts fare better, generally speaking of course, I am not sure I agree with your definitions. I don’t know you, I have no clue if you are an introvert or extrovert, but I believe I am an extrovert. I am loud, and could easily be called annoying when it comes to attention. That being said, I don’t think I would have complained about Nachos and their timeliness. I don’t think just because you choose not to bitch about the nachos defines you as an introvert or extrovert.

Just a thought.


6 Kyle C. January 25, 2010 at 12:54 pm

The thing about society is you can’t have a successful business without having both types of people. If everyone in a department, division, or corporation were extroverts they would constantly be working to upstage each other. Plus with all extroverts who would do the computer programming right? I think extroverts do have an advantage in things like salary negotiation and even job interviews. An extrovert will tend to come off possibly more presentable and less reserved and that kind of confidence can get you places.


7 FinEngr January 25, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Introversion does not equate to lack of intelligence or an unwillingness to jump into opportunities. Taking the snippets from your MBA class – it’s where you draw you’re energy from. Being extroverted (as I myself am – somewhat atypical engineer profile), will only expose you to more people, and therefore opportunities.

As far as complaining, that almost ties more into our cultural expectations. Too many people tip-toe around what is considered PC and are afraid of offend anyone. Haggling/Complaining have somehow fallen into this category.


8 Stephanie January 25, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Many good points were raised above and I’m glad that this is being intelligently debated. Mostly what I dislike is when people are dismissed or embraced because others buy into some stupid shallow stereotype about them. For instance I consider myself somewhat introverted, but I do different kinds of public speaking/working with the public just about every day, and I love it and like to think I’m quite good at it. But I do like my quiet time too. What’s the point of talking all the time, if you don’t have anything intelligent to say? And how can you have anything intelligent to say, if you don’t spend time reading and thinking?


9 Darwin January 25, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Hi Evan,
Funny you mention it. You do know me – we met at the Blogger event in NYC! Yeah, you’re an extrovert if memory serves me. I probably didn’t make an impression on you because I’m not. I was talking w Pinyo, Flexo and the Turbotax crew most of the night. You’re right that complaining doesn’t necessarily equal extrovert. It was one idea that led to the other for this article – and my wife tends to exhibit those behaviors rather routinely, and I don’t but correlation is not necessarily causation as you pointed out. However, I think there generally are at least some indirect relationships – i.e. someone who is introverted is less inclined to speak up in general – whether it’s a compliment or a complaint. Someone who is extroverted is more likely to speak in general – whether it’s a compliment or a complaint.

Fin Engr – similar point; thanks for pointing out as well.

Stephanie – correct, these stereotypes can be rather annoying. It’s a continuum, not black and white.


10 Evan January 25, 2010 at 10:17 pm

I do remember you, you were sitting on the same side of the table as I was, until I butted my way into your convo for a little bit! I didn’t want to presumption to assume you remembered me HAHAHAH

I think the reason I related so deeply with this post is that My Wife LOVES to complain, sometimes it works in my favor like, and sometimes I just get embarrassed


11 Personal Finance Student January 26, 2010 at 8:12 am

Am I an extrovert or the introvert one?? Well, thanks for the post Darwin.
You give me a good thought on this one. I’m starting to figure out myself which I am. 🙂

Good Luck!


12 Financial Uproar January 26, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Fascinating discussion!

While I’m a dominant introvert, I’ve been able to trick people into thinking I’m more outgoing. It all comes down to comfort level. I’m much better in small groups rather than big gatherings for example, and for that reason I avoid parties. So I think if an introvert recognizes their shortcomings, they can appear more outgoing.

Another thing to consider is the way technology has made an introvert’s life better. It’s much easier for me to fire off an email to someone who I’m not terribly comfortable talking to. I’m much more likely to complain about something over email. It’s just easier than dealing with a person face to face or over the phone.

I’m new to the blogging game, so if this is out of line I apologize, but I’d like to invite your readers to check out my brand new blog, Financial Uproar. Darwin, feel free to banish this comment forever if I have stepped over the line.


13 proudest February 18, 2010 at 10:05 am

There are also extraverts that lean toward chronic “foot-in-mouth” disease – the natural disposition for gab does not necessarily mean you only show your good side. Just thought I’d mention the downside, just for the sake of balance.
Also, I’m not sure if “extravert” equals “Type A dominant personality.” I think it might just refer to how comfortable you are with social interaction, which – I completely agree with you – definitely helps in life.


14 Marty February 23, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Extroverts complain, can be extremely aggressive, and do get their way until there are layoffs, etc. Then those of us who are introverts and great workers keep getting our paychecks. We also do not have the heart attacks as many divorces, etc.


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