Sunday, September 25, 2016

Extrovert Advantage For Presidential Candidates, Introvert Advantages For President

Lots of factors that affect who gets elected president in the United States.  One, that seems to have a disproportionate impact, is the introversion/extroversion factor.  It's no surprise to anyone if I say that Hillary Clinton is much more introverted than Donald Trump.

And it's an issue important enough that a Rasmussen Reports survey actually asks people which candidate they'd rather have a beer with.  And it's not surprising that Trump comes out ahead.  (The large lead with men overcomes the small lead Clinton has with women on this question.)

Reading below, keep in mind that all bifurcations can grossly oversimplify and that people fall somewhere on a continuum from very introverted to very extroverted.  And I've just picked a list of characteristics I found online that seemed consistent with other things I've read on this.  The list was aimed at introversion and extroversion advantages at work.

As you go through the list, you'll probably quibble about the description as it applies to either Trump or Clinton.  For instance, in the Extroverts column, "have excellent communication and verbal skills.' I would say that Trump is very fluid and quick on his feet when talking, though I'm not sure that always translates to 'excellent communication.'

Basically, the extrovert sounds more comfortable speaking to strangers and crowds.  And for many, that translates into more honest, more genuine.  They are more comfortable coming up to strangers and talking because they can talk at that superficial level that one uses until you get a better comfort level with someone.  Introverts tend to hate 'small-talk."  They want to talk about serious stuff.  And, at least theoretically, people think more of people who think deeply.  I get lots of hits still on a 2011 post about the Eleanor Roosevelt quote "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people."

For the extrovert, talking is about connecting with other people more than about the content.

For the introvert, talking is about the content more than connecting with other people.  

So here's the list I got from My Star Job:

Introverts Extroverts
  • Care about their job and their organisation 
  • Concentrate well in quiet atmospheres 
  • May know more than they reveal 
  • Have very good attention to details 
  • Love to handle long and complex problems 
  • May seem aloof and quiet 
  • Dislike interruptions and intrusions 
  • Work well with little supervision 
  • Always think and reflect before taking action 
  • Do not like to attract attention to themselves
  • Always keep abreast of what is happening at work 
  • Formulate good ideas through discussions and interactions 
  • Socialise and network well 
  • Have excellent communication and verbal skills 
  • Love to be a part of everything 
  • Get bored and impatient when work gets slow and repetitive
  • Are fantastic at marketing themselves and their organisation 
  • Thrive on attention · Are good at multi-tasking 
  • Respond quickly to requests and always aim to find quick solutions

I think the best candidate AND the best president is balanced enough to be able to at least act as an extrovert and as an introvert as the occasion warrants.  But I also think most people are more comfortable with extroverts than with introverts.  And that seems to be the consensus.

Susan Cain's book Quiet:The Power of Introverts, reports her research on the topic.  Cain identifies many ways that our society encourages extroversion over introversion.  One example she gives is being pressured to put away her book and join the group activities at summer camp.  Our society is biased to favor extroverts.  From Ted Talks blog:
"That bias, she claims, is everyone’s loss. While the world certainly need extroverts, it also needs introverts doing what they do best. It’s a bias that has no name. To understand it, we need to understand that introversion isn’t about not being social, it’s not being shy, it’s about how someone responds to stimulation. While extroverts crave social interaction, introverts are much more alive while they’re alone. Cain brings in her thesis with the insight that, 'The key to maximizing talents is to put yourself into the zone of stimulation that’s right for you.'”
When we consider our current presidential campaign and the debates, I'd suggest we include in our discussions of the candidates, this factor of introversion and extroversion.

Clearly Trump is a raging extrovert - so much so that it's something of a problem.  But Clinton is definitely an introvert who, as a candidate, is forced to act in an extrovert role.  That's why she doesn't seem genuine, because she can't be her natural self while campaigning.  And all the time in front of crowds of people surely is taking its toll on her energy level.  As an introvert, she needs quiet alone time to recharge.  So our American bias against introverts hurts people's perception of Clinton.  It's even worse than it was for someone like Romney (also an introvert) because women are expected to be extroverts more than men are.

For those struggling to understand how Trump is still statistically in the presidential race, this is clearly a factor, and one we should be talking about.

(Though the years of right wing media attacks and congressional hearings on Benghazi and on emails have also had their effect in making people feel Clinton is more dishonest than past candidates for president. )

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