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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