Bold Fish, Timid Fish, Smart Fish, Dumb Fish: Introversion, Extroversion and Risk-taking


When Lee Dugatkin, Professor of Biology at the University of Louisville, placed guppies in a tank from which they could view predators in another tank, some of the fish swam up to the barricade to observe the predators; he named these “Bold” fish. Others – the “Timid” fish – swam the other direction.

When all the fish were placed directly in the tank with the predators, the Bold fish swam right up to the predators– and were eaten. Their survival rate at 36 hours was roughly half that of the Timid fish, and at 60 hours their survival rate was zero compared to 40% for the timid fish.

So, asked Psychologist Elaine Aron, why weren’t they called the Dumb Fish and the Smart Fish? What a great question. 

Possibly the answer lies in the fact that boldness is a much-admired trait in our society. Research shows that those step-forward, take charge, bold types of employees are much likelier to end up in leadership roles. As you go up the managerial hierarchy in corporate America, the ranks of the outgoing and bold swell as the quieter, more thoughtful and more risk-averse counterparts are left behind. 

Is this leaving corporate America at risk for hasty, poor decisions? I think so. In fact, I coached a client a few years ago who was in the last stages of collapse from stress, stress resulting from her repeated attempts to alert her manager to the need to do contingency planning for some of the crises a large corporation such as theirs might experience. He, in the meantime, scorned her contributions and gave her a bad performance review based on the fact that she didn’t participate easily in the games with which he warmed up for a meeting. 

Her health became so poor she went on leave, ultimately left the company to go into business for herself, and watched from afar as one of those very crises enveloped her former employer. 

Being watchful isn’t necessarily a sign of high intelligence, but it is often a trait associated with introversion.

Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: the Power of Introversion In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, has a chapter titled, “Why Did Wall Street Crash And Warren Buffet Prosper?” in which she says:

“Warren Buffet, the legendary investor and one of the wealthiest men in the world, has used exactly the attributes we’ve explored in this chapter — intellectual persistence, prudent thinking, and the ability to see and act on warning signs — to make billions of dollars for himself and the shareholders in his company, Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett is known for thinking carefully when those around him lose their heads. ‘Success in investing doesn’t correlate with IQ,’ he has said. ‘Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.’”

And that is the temperament of the introvert: watchful, careful, actually checking to see if there is a trampoline at the bottom of that cliff others are so determined to jump over.

Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based acclaimed national speaker, author, and executive coach with more than 30 years of experience in speaking and training. 

Author of The Confident Introvert,  and a life-long successful introvert, she believes that America is overlooking and even discouraging its intellectual treasure: the 51% of the population who are introverts, and who are highly representative of the gifted. 

In addition to helping quiet people thrive in a culture that idealizes extroversion, she gives leaders the tools to manage diverse groups in the same setting, and to develop the talent that is quietly under their noses. 

Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Bullying in the Workplace: Who Bullies Whom?

Over 40% of employees in the workplace have experienced bullying, a persistent pattern of behavior that intimidates, degrades or otherwise undermines the wellbeing of the target. Bullying is four times more prevalent than sexual abuse, and, according to a study at the University of Manitoba, the outcomes for victims of bullying are worse than are those for sexual abuse victims.

So who are the bullies? And who are the targets? It’s easy to envision a quiet, introverted person as the victim of an outgoing, brash person. But it’s not that simple.

According to Arlene Vernon, HRxaminer, targets are often the best and the brightest: the most technically skilled, empathic, kindest – but unlikely to fight back. Incivility and aggression are often fueled by individual differences, such as introversion and extroversion. That doesn’t necessarily mean that most cases involve extroverts bullying introverts. Actually we don’t know that, as there is little research on this area at this time.  

However, bullying is most often from supervisor to subordinate, where even a fairly confident employee is reluctant to fight back. Given that extroverts are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions in the U.S., there is a chance that the scales are tipped in that direction.

But according to Vernon, bullying doesn’t have to be overt hostility. It can be covert; an introvert leader would be in a position to deny training or promotions, apply different standards, or block leave or time off. It can also be an employee-to-employee situation, as in malicious gossip, making false accusations, and stealing credit.

And what are the outcomes of bullying? Known results include stress, anxiety, depression, anger, aggression, panic attacks, and even suicidal thoughts, all negatively affecting a company’s wellness program. Even onlookers of bullying may be negatively affected.  

But that’s not all. There is increasing evidence that bullying is affecting workplace productivity, perhaps massively. Inability to concentrate or make decisions and absenteeism take their toll on productivity. Royal & Sun Alliance, the largest commercial insurance company in the United Kingdom, has suggested that absenteeism alone due to this kind of distress may cost businesses approximately eight to 10% of a company’s profits.

Then there are the costs of employee turnover, estimated at costing at least one-half of the employee’s salary to replace him or her. An estimated 70% of bullied employees leave, while an estimated 20% of witnesses to bullying also do so.

Rehabilitation of stressed employees, as well as legal costs, all add up.

Finally, a company can find its reputation damaged. People talk to other people. An unhappy employee is probably seeking comfort from friends and family, who then talk to others, and so on.

If a company develops a bad reputation for bullying, it could conceivably affect sales to the public.

So what are the solutions?  

We should follow the example of Scandinavian countries and Canada, which have enacted legislation against workplace aggression, just as there is now against sexual abuse in the U.S., allowing victims to report incidents, go to the union and take legal action.  

Training employees to recognize bullying would help create a climate in which bullying is less invisible.

Most of all, companies should work to create an environment in which individual differences are not just tolerated but celebrated, creating a cooperative and positive environment for all.

Are you aware of workplace bullying?  Have you had an experience you’d care to share?

Arlene Vernon, PHR, HRxaminer, in a talk to the Minnesota Council of Non-profits
David Yamada, Psychology and Work
Janet Fowler, “Financial Effects of Workplace Bullying” on Investopedia   http://bit.ly/1Hwhfky


Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

The Yin, Yang and Dopamine in Relationships

Some people like to linger until the very end of a party; others like to leave early.

Unfortunately, they frequently marry each other.

They may very well have met and been attracted to each other because of these opposite qualities: one represents tranquility, stability, and caution, the other one represents excitement, change, and risk-taking.

Neurophysiology now suggests that these outgoing partiers (extroverts) have brains that are more sensitive to dopamine, the so-called “reward chemical” that actually excites the brain about a potential reward. They have what is called high “reward sensitivity” and they actively seek that buzz in a variety of ways from external sources, including social contacts, risk-taking, even extreme sports.

Low external reward-seekers (introverts) can be uncomfortable and even exhausted by that much buzz. Does that mean they are dull people? By no means; the interior landscape of an introvert can be loaded with exciting concepts. The ability to pursue an activity for its own sake and not for its reward value can lead to being in a state of what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow,” in which one is so engaged in an activity that hours can pass pleasurably as if they were minutes. A person in a state of flow can find energy rise even as work continues.

Here are some questions* to answer to determine if you, a colleague or a partner are reward-oriented:

  • When I get something I want, I feel excited and energized.
  • When I want something, I usually go all out to get it.
  • When I see an opportunity for something I like, I get excited right away.
  • When good things happen to me, it affects me strongly.
Notice that all of these questions refer to something external to the person. Why would you ask these questions? To recognize that individual needs differ, and to make sure that you and those around you are having these needs met in order that everyone may contribute his or her best to the partnership, whether it is a professional one or a personal one.An introvert, less motivated by external rewards,  can feel pleasure in doing something for the sake of doing it, without necessarily being offered a reward. Some are even embarrassed by public recognition of an achievement they did “just for the fun of it.”

We need risk-taking, change, tranquility, and caution in all of life. Too much of one endangers the other, as Enron, the company whose reckless business practices forced it to file for bankruptcy in 2001, discovered after it repeatedly ignored the warnings of a cautious senior level manager, saying, “We don’t need cops.”

To balance the yin and yang of introversion and extroversion, here are some suggestions.

  • Learn to be proud of who you are, even as you recognize others have the right to be proud of who they are.
  • Assert your own needs and recognize how to help other people in your presence meet their own needs.
  • Recognize and accept that some people need that external excitement to remain motivated; others need to avoid that external excitement in order to remain motivated.
  • Allow introvert employees and colleagues time to take in information and reflect on it before responding or acting.
The extrovert needs that buzz so let him or her have it: allow time and space for the extrovert to pursue that exciting activity (arrange separate transportation home from the party, if necessary), and try not to be a heavy anchor.The introvert absolutely requires a certain amount of quiet or solitude to remain psychologically healthy and to have a fulfilled life. Don’t urge him or her to be more sociable; help the person take time out to be reflective.

The combination of yin and yang, or introvert and extrovert, can be very powerful. Just think of Steve Jobs, the face of Apple, and Steve Wozniak, who single-handedly designed both the Apple I and Apple II computers in the late 1970s, contributing significantly to the microcomputer revolution.

*Susan Cain: Quiet: The Power of the Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking


Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Are Introverts just too quiet?

I hear it often – in person, from clients, on the internet – “I’m told I’m too quiet, and need to speak out more.” I’ve had more than one client whose job review included that feedback. And the client says to me, “But I only speak when I really have something to say – and then it’s overlooked or discounted. So why bother?”

Why indeed do introverts so often feel their ideas and offerings are swept aside by other, louder people? Is the ability to influence other people really based on the ability to speak louder than other people?

I don’t think so. Some of the most effective people I have known were soft-spoken but relentless. They didn’t give up on presenting their ideas, wants, or needs to others until they saw the light of comprehension in the other person’s eyes.

The introvert brain is a busy brain, and when we do produce an idea publicly we have probably looked at it from all angles, teased out the many objections and answered them. Blurting out an idea about an idea before it’s fully formed is not our style. Our mistake lies in the fact that we then communicate it in a kind of telegraphic style to the world.

Here’s the problem, and I’ve seen it over and over. Heck, I’ve done it over and over. We somehow think our neat summing up of a complex issue is immediately apparent to other people, who have not been a witness to all the rich thought that went into the production of that idea.

We just give them a compact package, and then feel hurt when they don’t respond with the excitement (or at least the respect) we think it deserves. We got to that point of excitement and belief through a process that we haven’t shared, then we blame the listener for not appreciating it.

We need to learn to lead others to our good ideas, to teach them how to understand us.

An unconfident introvert too often starts with, “This is just my opinion, but … ” or, “This may or may not be a good idea, but ….” Overwhelmed with the belief that it’s hopeless to inform this person or group anyway, the unconfident introvert subsides easily, feeling overlooked and a little bitter.

The confident introvert starts with, “I’ve thought this through carefully, and I’d like you to follow my reasoning here.” Another good sentence to use, which reflects a high-level introvert skill, is, “I’ve listened to the various thoughts you all have, and I’d like to add what I have concluded.” When interrupted, the confident introvert may say, “I’d like to finish; then I’d be happy to discuss your objections.”

Since you are very likely to have thought in advance, find an anecdote or punch line that illustrates what you are trying to say. Help your listeners make pictures in their heads that match the pictures in your head. They can’t see those. After all, if you just describe the tip of an iceberg to someone, it isn’t reasonable to get mad if the person doesn’t see the whole iceberg. Would you show someone a snapshot and expect them to understand the plot of an entire film?

Which one are you – the unconfident or confident introvert? You see, it’s not about introversion and/or extroversion, nor is it about becoming either a chatterbox or a loudmouth. It’s about having the confidence to communicate well when you do have something to say.

And when you are able to do that, you have earned the right to sit back and be quiet in a group. Even your quiet presence can be influencing to people, who recognize that you can be a powerhouse of thought and that your quiet listening skills really do pay off.

If  you are an introvert with a passion to share with the world and you need help communicating your dreams in speech or writing, I’m available to help you craft taglines, elevator speeches, sound bites and more.  I can help you overcome obstacles to delivering these communications, too.  Contact me at Lynette@CreativeLifeChanges.com


Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Two small steps towards speaking confidence

If you are one of those people who feels uncomfortable about speaking up in group settings, take heart. It is possible to learn to be a relaxed contributor.One of my early clients said, “Oh, I know what you’re going to say – just take a deep breath and force yourself.” Well, no, actually. That’s a little like telling someone the best way to learn to swim is to jump off the dock and hope some life-saving instincts kick in.

If you are an introvert (as I am), you have probably been blessed (or cursed) with an overly reactive nervous system. You may have learned, at an early age, to associate speaking up with fear – fear of confrontation, criticism, ridicule, or just simple blushing.

Unfortunately, we introverts learn those associations well: actually, too well.

There’s no longer a threat but the fear lingers, and lingers, and lingers, until it becomes a huge factor in not only silencing us, but in muddying our thinking. You can’t think clearly when you’re overcome by fear. My phrase, “Stress Makes You Stupid,” sums this all up.

So we may become anxious, confused onlookers in our lives instead of valued creative contributors.

If this sounds like you, here are two things you can do immediately to start changing that.

Get it straight!

Pay attention to your posture. Erect, proud posture looks and feels confident.

Research shows that in adults, a straight spine increases confidence, while “a slumped posture leads to more helpless behaviors,” writes Emma Seppala from the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford. Hunching or slouching can make you feel more stressed and more likely to give up in the face of challenge.

You don’t have to throw your shoulders back and assume the rigid posture we associate with the military. Instead, while sitting or standing, imagine a string coming from the front of your chest (just above the sternumand pulling gently upwards. At the same time, tuck your chin in just a bit and make sure your ears are directly over your shoulders.

You should feel relaxed and liberated, able to breathe more deeply and easily.

No huge risk-taking here, either: you can practice this skill by yourself, until it becomes automatic.

Slow down

Recently I went to a business meeting where attendees introduced themselves and their business. Almost without exception, they spoke too rapidly for anyone except the person sitting next to them to really understand what they were saying.

Nervous people are particularly apt to do this, as if they want to get the whole business of speaking publicly out of the way – fast.

You may know your name and the name of your business, but how is someone else supposed to decipher, “I’mJoanneBlowofDiversityEnterprisesandwehelppeople …mumble, mumble, mumble.”

If you saw the movie, The King’s Speech, you saw how King George VI, a lifelong stutterer, overcame his problem to give a moving speech to his people on the start of WWII. Using solemn music as a backdrop, he produced each word slowly and distinctly, giving what he was saying great importance.

You may not have powerful background music, but learn from this example.

To speak with authority, just spend a few minutes every day reading a paragraph or so aloud from the newspaper, a magazine, or a book. Notice your tendency to speed up.

Slowing down accomplishes two things: it makes what you’re saying seem more important, and it makes what you say memorable.

Isn’t that what you want for yourself? And you don’t have to be bold or dramatic to do it; just follow the above simple guidelines.

When you have mastered these two steps, you are well on your way to speaking comfortably in front of larger groups of people. Who knows where you will end up? Just start today.


Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

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