Have you ever passed a test and being labelled as introvert or extrovert? Have you ever been in a team workshop and you need to nominate a “leader” and someone said we need an extrovert here!

The situations are endless where we use these labels both at work and in private. Often, we reduce the meaning of these adjectives to being either outgoing or shy. Myself I have done several tests where I got either a label or some indicator on the introvert/extrovert scale. I always came out of these tests intrigued: is this true? I often felt put in a small box that prevented me to display my true self. One time I got the label introvert and the following day I was giving a training and enjoying myself so much that I wondered how is that related to being an introvert. Or another time, I got the label extrovert and then I had a networking event and felt so drained after having to do small talks for hours.

I have been continuously searching what was the right label for me.

At one point, after working with different tools and having to debrief with my clients on this topic I decided I wanted to learn more about it. What lies beyond these labels?

I had a great AHA moment. Introversion and extroversion was going far beyond outgoing vs. shy, it is more related to energy creation and usage. Or how you charge and discharge your batteries.

Some research showed that brains of extrovert and introvert function differently:

  • Level of arousal – an extrovert tends to need a higher level of arousal to get going whereas an introvert could be overwhelmed faster as his/her sensibility to the arousal is lower
  • Stimulation pathway – the pathway a stimulation takes for an extrovert is much shorter and goes through the amygdala and limbic system where intuitive and physical sensations elements like taste, touch, visual, are present. On the other end the pathway in an introvert’s brain is longer and goes through the part of the brain linked with strategy, thinking and problem solving (prefrontal cortex).

It’s also true that there is no such 100% introvert or 100% extrovert, we are all somewhere in between.

So instead of focusing on being outgoing and/or shy, or blaming myself to be incompetent to have small-talk conversations but enjoying facilitating workshops, I started to analyse when I felt energised and when I felt completely “empty”.

I observed and journaled how I felt after activities – energised or empty? What did the activities that left me energised have in common? What was the environment (place, people, time of the day, mood of others, etc.), what kind of behaviours it required from me, what was more natural for me, etc. And same with energy consuming activities.

I learnt that I could easily connect with others in a social gathering when my batteries were full if I also had more meaningful conversation during the event that helped me recharged on the spot. Another point is that I need to have activities “with myself” – learning, writing, reflecting combined with social activities with other to share and get excited. What about you? Beyond the label, have you ever reflected on what charges and discharges your battery?

How could you use this information to help you structure your day and ensure you get at the end with still some energy? What could be signs for you to notice, now is the time to recharge and what can you do even just for 5 minutes to continue your day feeling full of energy and ready for the next adventure?

As Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project, wrote: “Manage your energy, not your time”.

I would be very interested to hear from your on how you are managing your energy?