Extroverts' survival guide

We all know the type. Twenty minutes into a train journey and they're fast friends with the person sitting opposite. They know the ins and outs of the local barista's love life, and they start smiling and schmoozing the minute they step into the lift at work.

Extroverts get their energy from being around others – but that doesn't mean the most extreme examples of the breed are always undiluted fun for others to be around, especially in an office environment.

So how should you strike a balance between being your own outgoing, exuberant self and not sending your more retiring colleagues running for cover?

You don't work for the circus
Getting out and about on company business is meat and drink to extroverts – new people to meet, flesh to press and backs to slap. Being friendly and outgoing does you and your organisation credit when you're at a conference or function. But being noticed for the wrong reasons can be less cool, especially if you're trying to impress those in the upper echelons. “Being strapped to the wall too scared to talk to anyone is not a good look, but then neither is swinging from the chandeliers,” said Nourish career coach Sally-Anne Blanshard. “Don't be remembered for the wrong things, especially if there is alcohol involved.”

Crossing the line … what line?
The division between private and public can be pretty blurry for extroverts. Some of the more extreme types don't even realise there is one. You saw it, you felt it, it happened to you – why shouldn't you talk about it at length in the tearoom? “Their life is an open book and they think everyone else's is too,” said consultant psychologist Jeff Roberts. “They make the assumption that others are equally comfortable and that's not always the case.”

Feel free to keep over-sharing if you want to, he advises – but don't be miffed if some colleagues choose not to return the compliment. And be aware that too much tongue flapping may damage your chances of climbing the ladder, if those above think you're likely to be just as chatty about sensitive company business.

Shut up already!
You're in a meeting and you've got lots to say. So you start saying it - and you don't stop till you're well and truly finished. “One of the main blind spots for extroverts is they don't know when to shut up,” Roberts said. “They can over-elaborate when asked for their opinion or volunteer it without even being asked. They're so keen to get their point of view across that they don't stop to listen for others. They dominate meetings and get people's backs up if they don't get the chance to have their say.”

The worst offenders need to work on some basic toddler-style turn taking skills and on being more aware of the way others are responding to their words of wisdom. “Look out for non-verbal cues and behaviours, like if people are rolling their eyes or looking frustrated and disengaged,” Roberts advised.

Just say no
You're at your peak when you're interacting with others and you have plenty to do. Extroverts tend to be highly sociable and energetic and enjoy feeling under the pump, said Inspirational Workplaces organisational psychologist Helen Crossing. But over-committing and under-delivering can be a problem for some – and a bigger problem for their teams, Crossing said.


“They can't do as many things in a day as they have promised and will either annoy people by reneging or leave others to pick up the pieces. They may be looking good but there are a lot of people behind them pedalling fast.” The solution, next time someone mentions yet another new project they'd love some input on? Channel your inner Nancy Reagan and just say no.

The devil's playground
But you're not over-committed at all. In fact you've got a little time on your hands. So you decide to wander round the floor and shoot the breeze with whoever lifts their eyes from their screen. While scurrying to keep up with a frantically busy extrovert is no picnic, having an under-occupied one on the team brings its own problems, Crossing said. “You do need to keep them busy. If they're not gainfully occupied they can walk around talking to and distracting others.”

What's your experience with extroverts in the office?


 Introverts' survival guide

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