The Genius of Opposites: Interview With Author Jennifer Kahnweiler


Last week I had the pleasure of hosting a guest post from Jennifer Kahnweiler for the launch of her new book, The Genius of Opposites.  The book is a practical guide that helps introverts and extroverts understand and appreciate each other’s wiring. Jennifer is an expert on introverts and extroverts and I was excited to speak with her about her book and her fascination with introverts and extroverts.

The following is the discussion that we had.

Chantal: What got you interested in the topic of Introverts and Extroverts?

Jennifer: I was working in companies as a leadership coach and consultant and I noticed that I often came across various leaders who felt overlooked and ignored. They felt frustrated that they couldn’t speak up and get their projects approved and accepted.  This sparked my curiosity, as I had a long standing interest in the topic of introverts, since first learning about the term in my twenties, after using the Meyers Briggs instrument.

Chantal: What does it mean to be called an Introvert or an Extrovert?

Jennifer: For me it is all about energy.  It is a concept that comes from Carl Yung and it is all about where you get your energy from. I like to think of it as a battery and how you go about charging your battery. Introverts are charged up by quiet time and from within themselves. Extroverts are charged from the outside – by being around others and external stimulus.  It is a spectrum and whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, most people tend to be somewhere near the middle.

Chantal: What are some of the fallacies that people believe about Introverts and Extroverts?

Jennifer: The fallacies that people often believe about introverts are that they are slow; that they are unemotional; that they don’t have energy, and lack enthusiasm.  People often believe that introverts take a while to make decisions – none of it is really true.  For extroverts people often believe that they don’t shut up; that extroverts talk and don’t listen, and that they are not good thinkers. Extroverts think by talking aloud.  Another fallacy that people think is that to be a leader you need to be an extrovert. A lot of good leaders are introverts.

Chantal: How can understanding how introverts and extroverts interact with others, help with team dynamics in the workplace?

Jennifer: It provides us with another lens to work with. When you are assessing how to approach someone else, it doesn’t type cast them, but it helps you to use the most appropriate approach. For example, when an approaching an introvert instead of bombarding them and talking through ideas, send them an email and give them a chance to respond. Vice versa with extroverts – let them talk and work out solutions out loud.  It provides you with a conscious approach, which is mindful of the different needs of the people around you. And for teams it helps to avoid disconnects and frustrations. We are not going to change others but our time is better spent and we are more productive.

The following is an excerpt taken from The Genius of Opposites, which explains the ABCDE process, re-printed with permission from Jennifer Kahnweiler. Each of the steps in the ABCDE process is an essential component of a strong partnership.

(Click on the picture for a downloadable page from Jennifer’s website.)

  1. Accept the Alien

    You can’t change your opposite, but you can understand them. Once you are able to accept this fact, you are in for much less stress.

  2. Bring on the Battles

    See disagreement as necessary to arriving at better outcomes because you challenge each other to come up with better solutions together than you would alone.

  3. Cast the Character

    Know each person’s role in a scenario and cat them so that you bring out your opposite’s best. Opposites share the credit no matter what role they take.

  4. Destroy the Dislike

    When you respect each other and act like friends, you can talk openly and have fun.

  5. Each Can’t Offer Everything

    Know that each one of you is incapable of offering everything, so for true diversity, you work in concert to provide the widest range of options to others.

Chantal: How can you use the ABCDE model described in The Genius of Opposites?

Jennifer: One way might be to take the quiz in the book yourself, to see where your strengths are and where you need improvement.  It can provide you with the opportunity to improve on weaker areas. For example, in a conflict scenario it provides you with a tool to become more self-aware. You can use it as a template to have a discussion with your opposite partner and then strengthen your relationship. You can assess where you are now and pick an area to focus on, and then take the quiz again a few months later to see how you are doing.  By approaching it in this way, you are focusing on how to get along instead of just focusing on differences.

If you are interested in learning more about The Genius of Opposites, you can read a sample chapter here.

About Jennifer Kahnweiler

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., CSP, is a global speaker and bestselling author hailed as a “Champion of Introverts.” Her books, The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength and Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference have sold over 60,000 copies and been translated into 14 languages. Her newest book is The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Create Extraordinary Results Together.

Jennifer has spoken at hundreds of organizations including GE, AT&T, NASA, Freddie Mac, Boeing, CNN, the CDC and the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam. She is a fourteen-year faculty member of the American Management Association and was the “Madrina” (Godmother) speaker at the Universidad Americana’s Commencement in Paraguay. Jennifer has also written for The Wall Street Journal and has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Bloomberg Business Week, the Wall Street Journal, and Time Magazine.

She is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), granted to only 8% of the National Speaker’s Association and has played leading roles in the the Berrett-Koehler Author’s Co-op.


Photo credit: Bigstock

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