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November 9th, 2005:

[AYE] Introverts and Extroverts

I’m at the “AYE”:http://www.ayeconference.com/ with a number of friends and colleagues, such as “Duncan Pierce”:http://duncanpierce.org/, “Alan Francis”:http://www.alancfrancis.com/, and “J. B. Rainsberger”:http://www.diasparsoftware.com/template.php?content=speaking.

The first session I went to was about how introverts and extroverts interact (badly) and how to mitigate that; of course, the IT industry is heavily biased towards introversion. It turns out that introverts and extroverts are actually wired differently in the brain, so it’s not just a matter of style. The very short version is that introverts prefer to sort things out in their head before speaking, whereas extroverts sort out their ideas by talking.

One of the better parts of the session was a pair of fishbowls where each side discussed in public their experience of interacting across the divide (of course, the extroverts interrupted more). What this made explicit was that the usual result of a conversation is that extroverts wonder if there’s anyone home since they don’t seem to get any feedback, whereas introverts want the extroverts to please _shut up_ while they think things through. Also, extroverts tend to view interruptions as a sign of participation, whereas introverts view them as just rude. The possibilities for misunderstanding are endless.

During the initial discussion, I noticed that a lot of people talked in terms of their relationship with their spouse, so we took a show of hands and a good 3/4 of the group were hooked up with someone from the other side of the divide. This seems like a fundamental division to me.