Introverted entrepreneurs: Don’t drink coffee before you pitch

When you’re getting ready for an important pitch to investors or there is a time crunch at work and your deadline is around the corner, a cup of coffee should help amp you up, get your head in the game, right? Not necessarily, according to psychologist Brian Little. Not if you’re an introvert. Little shares […]

When you’re getting ready for an important pitch to investors or there is a time crunch at work and your deadline is around the corner, a cup of coffee should help amp you up, get your head in the game, right? Not necessarily, according to psychologist Brian Little.

Not if you’re an introvert.

Little shares this insight in his new book released last week Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being. In the book he explains that even just one cup of coffee is detrimental for the introvert, especially if those tasks include “rapid-fire discussion of budget projections, data analysis, or similar quantitative concerns.” 

The extroverts are the ones who get a boost from coffee in those situations, and as a result might out-perform those poor, clueless, caffeinated introverts.

New York Magazine’s Science of Us folks asked Little to elaborate on this seemingly counter-intuitive idea:

Why does coffee seem to have this effect on introverts?
This isn’t my own research, but it’s based on the theory of extraversion by Hans Eysenck and research by William Revelle of Northwestern University. It’s the idea that introverts and extraverts differ in the level of neocortical arousal in the brain — in other words, how alert or responsive you are to your environment. According to this theory, introverts are over the optimal level — that is, more easily stimulated — and extraverts under the optimal level.

It’s more complex than that, but this is a useful model because it allows us to make some predictions. This suggests that performance will be compromised for introverts if they are exposed to stimulating situations, or if they ingest a stimulant (such as caffeine),which pushes them even further away from the optimal level.

So when should introverts have their coffee, then?
Later in the day would be better; at any rate, they should try not to have caffeine right before something like an important meeting, as I say in the book.

Are there other foods or drinks that may have a similar effect on introverts?
Anything that is a central nervous system stimulant (including recreational stimulants). Being in a noisy, overloading place will create a similar effect.

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