Success in relationships, careers and family life isn't about having the "right" personality. It's about understanding your individual traits and how these support, or undermine, success. When it comes to extraverts, demonstrating that you're not a shallow, loud-mouthed party animal is essential to overcoming the blanket stereotypes that follow you around like a shadow.
Unfortunately, extraverts occasionally act in ways that reinforce these stereotypes. Here are the top ten mistakes that extraverts unwittingly make, and what you can do to play down the extremes of your extraversion.
1. Thinking every silence is awkward
It's not so much that extraverts like to talk, it's just that they get antsy when the conversation hits an awkward silence. That's because, in the eyes of an extravert, silence is an acronym for social rejection. Jumping in to fill every silence can have negative consequences, however. A natural pause may indicate that your conversation partner is simply taking a break to think through what they will say next -- taking over will seem rude.
Action point: Be honest. You know when you're talking like a runaway train. You know when you've crossed a line. Practice holding your tongue, pay attention to the way that other people speak and learn to spot natural pauses in their conversation.
2. Not taking the time to recharge and reflect
An extravert's recharge is faster than an introvert's recharge, but it still exists. Even the most fluttery of social butterflies needs time to break away and reflect on their conversations. Lying low for a few minutes may not be your dominant method of recharging, but it will give you the opportunity to focus and remember important highlights from your conversations. Without this personal time, you risk forgetting who you met and what was said.
Action point: Understand the importance of downtime and take time away for focus and reflection. Bonus points if you capture details of your social interactions for future reference.
3. Speaking it when you think it
Extraverts are more prone than introverts to putting their foot in their mouth. This does not mean that they are loud, shallow or thoughtless; for an extravert, it takes real effort to pause when they think of something and make a conscious decision on whether the thought should come out of their mouth.
Action point: In situations where it counts, don't forego the contemplation. Take a breath, pause, and make an effort to consider your thoughts before putting them out there. Other skills include nodding and making eye contact. You don't need to use your mouth to show that you are actively engaged in the conversation.
4. Being lax on loyalty
Whereas introverts invest their energies in a handful of close friends, extraverts are likely to be interested in several people at one time. They might invest the majority of their emotional capital in a few lucky individuals, but chances are, they keep a bajillion back-ups just in case. Problem is, some of your (introverted) friends might think that you aren't invested in them on a deeply personal level.
Action point: Having lots of friends does not mean that your friendships are shallow or not connected -- but that might be the perception. Make a special effort to show that you value all your friendships, even the casual ones, and you're golden.
5. Stomping on people's feelings
OK, the word "stomping" is harsh, but extraverts do have a tendency to overlook the inner feelings of others without realizing it. When they have a problem, they might yell it from the rooftops. Airing things out might be good for the extravert's soul, but other people might view their ranting as a breach of confidence or even a personal attack.
Action point: Everyone, and not just extraverts, could work on being more sensitive to other people's needs. Read up on empathy, and see if you can put aside some of your personal feelings and see things from the other person's point of view.
6. Not delving deeper
It's no secret that extraverts take a keen interest in others. You are likely to be bubbly, talkative, and comfortable with small talk. This is important when establishing rapport and trust with your conversation partner. Be aware, however, that introverts are not naturally inclined towards social chit-chat. They find dumb jokes unnerving. There will also be situations where it is important to focus on the important topics, such as in a business meeting or job interview. Being chatty in these situations may be interpreted as not being serious enough.
Action point: Challenge yourself to take conversations to a deeper level. There's no foolproof way to do this on demand, but asking lots of "why" questions and practicing active listening should pave the way to deeper engagement.
7. Not demonstrating your self-sufficiency
Extraverts generally select people-focused activities over solitary endeavors, and may seek to work collaboratively wherever possible. This is important for many jobs. However, there will be situations where you are expected to show independence and self-reliance. As you move up the career ladder, for example, you will be expected to assume responsibility and make your own decisions on behalf of yourself and others. And in relationships, you might come across as "needy" if you are always trying to connect with someone.
Action point: Take a leaf from the introvert's playbook and practice inward-orientedness every now and again. Occasionally reflecting in solitude will give you an opportunity to unpick your thoughts and opinions from the thought and opinions of others, and come up with action plans that are entirely your own creation.
8. Winging it
Charm and charisma are desirable traits that will give you leverage in many social situations. But don't wing it all the time. Some situations call for some introvert-style planning, especially when it comes to job interviews or delivering a best man's speech at your brother's wedding. Don't believe us? Think back to a time when you operated on the fly and things didn't work out as well as they could have. People make mistakes when they're underprepared regardless of whether they're extraverts or introverts.
Action point: When the stakes are high, add the introverted pre-planning with your extraverted charisma and you'll never get booed off the stage.
9. Not listening enough
An extravert who senses that they're not making a great impression is likely to lay it on thick to show how great they are. This may result in a situation where you NEVER. STOP. TALKING. Paradoxically, turning on the salesman charm will turn off your conversation partner, since most people really do love to get a word in edgewise.
Action point: Practice taking a back seat during the conversation. There's an advantage in finding the balance between charm and bluster, but at the same time listening carefully and showing genuine interest in what the other person has to say.
10. Not showing your vulnerability
Guess what? Extraverts get sad. They get embarrassed. They lay awake at night, worrying about all the awkwardly awful things they did that day. And then they might wake up, paint on the happy-go-lucky face, and go back to being shiny and pretty and fun. Problem is, if people come to know you as a good-time Charlie, they will be shocked or even offended when you're having a bad day.
Action point: If you're hurt, say you're hurt. If you're angry, say you're angry. By admitting your vulnerabilities, you're putting your trust in people to do right by you. And that can pave the way for some truly deep and authentic relationships.
If you aren't sure whether you are an extravert or an introvert, head over to our personality assessment page and gain insight into your preferences. Then tell us, what mistakes have you unwittingly made that reinforce the personality stereotypes?