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Are you an extrovert or introvert? To what extent does your personality type affect the way that you run your training business? Do you believe that the extroverts among us have a natural advantage as freelance trainers or do you think that introverts bring valuable skills to the table?
What do we mean by an extrovert or introvert?
Common stereotypes convey the loud, ‘party animal’ extrovert against the shy, bookish introvert, but extroversion versus introversion isn’t this black and white. It’s not about shyness, confidence or whether you love the company of others. In fact, when we talk about being an extrovert or introvert, what we’re really talking about is where you get your energy from.
Broadly speaking, an extrovert is defined as someone who receives their energy from their outer world by interacting with other people and taking action. Extroverts thrive on communicating by talking and learning by doing; their energy may be sapped by spending too much time alone.
An introvert, on the other hand, is defined as someone who receives their energy from their inner world, by reflecting on their thoughts, memories, and feelings. They may prefer to communicate in writing, reflect on ideas, and learn through mental practice. An introvert gives away energy in social situations, especially in large groups.
Most of us occupy various points on the spectrum of introversion and extroversion, and while we may dwell towards one end or the other, no-one is fully extroverted or fully introverted. As Carl Jung once said, “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum”.
What we must remember is that we’re talking about how we each get our energy, i.e. what we need to do to recharge our batteries and take care of ourselves. If we understand that, we can better avoid burning out and becoming physically and emotionally depleted.
The challenges faced by extroverted trainers
We could assume that extroverts will have the easiest time as freelance trainers. After all, they receive energy from positive social interactions, so chatting to trainees over lunch or running a particularly energetic workshop can leave extrovert trainers feeling energised. In addition, many work spaces, classrooms and training rooms lend themselves to the group work, open plan layouts, and bustling atmospheres preferred by extroverts.
However, being an extrovert trainer is not without its challenges. It can be hard for people with extroverted personality types to spend long periods of time working alone or without the support of a team, so downtime between training contracts can be unsettling. If you’re a self-employed extrovert, you may need to earmark time for face-to-face networking and meetings to boost your energy.
According to diversity trainer and public speaker, Jim Lew, introverts often describe extroverts as “aggressive, egotistical, unaware, rude and socially needy”, so extrovert trainers may come up against these prejudices, especially if there are a large number of introverts in a training session.
Can you really be an introverted trainer?
On the flipside, Jim Lew says extroverts often describe introverts as “unsocial, inadequate, shy, secretive and aloof non-contributors” so the judgements about personality type can run both ways, and may present a challenge for introverted trainers.
People often wonder how it’s possible for an introvert to train groups of people as a full-time job. Can you really spend 10 to 20 days per month in a busy training room and not feel completely depleted?
With an estimated 25% of the population showing a strong preference towards introversion, it would be foolish to write such a large group of people off or to assume that they can’t or won’t be able to succeed in a people-facing role. I believe that it is absolutely possible to be an introverted trainer and that some of the most talented, engaging trainers I’ve ever known have had introverted personality types.
In my experience, an introvert may need to schedule time outside of their training commitments to refresh and recharge with their own company. An introvert may walk away from a successful and rewarding training session feeling completed exhausted. Of course, this can be the case for extrovert trainers too and may simply be a by-product of spending the day fully engaged with an audience but, for an introvert, it will be essential to earmark some time to process the experience. Whether this means a trip to the gym after work, writing notes about the training, or meeting with a close friend for a one-to-one chat will depend on the individual.
Let’s not forget ambiverts
In reality, many people occupy the middle ground of the ambivert, which is the name given to those of us who have both extroverted and introverted tendencies. Generally speaking, ambiverts enjoy being around people, but it will eventually start to drain them. Similarly, ambiverts love peace and quiet, but will crave the company of others eventually. Ambiverts can feel energised by social interactions or alone time, usually dependent on the situation and with an eye on balance.
Apparently, ambiverts make the best sales people, closing 24% more sales than introverts or extroverts!
Extroverted vs. introverted trainees
One challenge both introverted and extroverted freelance trainers face is providing training to a mixed cohort of introverts and extroverts. I’m sure you’ve already experienced this first-hand.
When you ask whether anyone has any questions at the end of a workshop or training session, you may notice that half of the trainees – the introverts in the group – shift uncomfortably or avert their gaze. It’s not that they haven’t been listening but, as introverts, they will need time to process everything they’ve covered in the session and may prefer to discuss their questions in a smaller group or one-to-one. Introvert trainees may also find it helpful to be able to ask questions via email in the days following the training and to provide feedback once they’re reviewed everything they’ve learnt. Extroverts, on the other hand, may ask questions straight away and bounce around ideas before they’re fully formed.
Introvert trainees will probably appreciate receiving an itinerary of their training in advance or being given an opportunity to observe an example training activity before they’re put on the spot in front of their peers. They will also appreciate time to think and being given the opportunity to speak without interruption.
Extrovert trainees will value the opportunity to explore and talk their ideas through. They may like to have a choice of activities and may want to dive straight in so that they can learn as they do. They are likely to enjoy being complimented in the presence of others and will gain energy from group discussions.
You might decide to offer your training material in different formats or create a business model that allows for one-to-one mentoring, small training groups or large workshops so that trainees can choose the approach that best suits their preference towards introversion or extroversion. Online training is often ideal for introverts, while extroverts may crave team activities and discussions.
While it’s important to recognise where you draw energy from, as well as the introvert/extrovert traits of your trainees, it doesn’t need to define you. Introvert and extrovert trainers can both run incredibly successful training businesses – the key is to play to your strengths and the strengths of those around you.