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free trait theory introvert entrepreneurs

Free Trait Theory for Introvert Entrepreneurs

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🐑 Are you a Sheep in Wolves clothing? 🐺

Yesterday I received a compliment and kind feedback, part of this said “You are the most extroverted introvert I know”.


I don't think I have ever been seen as an extrovert before but as I grow on my journey – especially with YouTube and now a Facebook Group, maybe this is how I come across?

This got me thinking about something I had heard in Susan Cains amazing book – Quiet.

“Free Trait Theory”….

A theory attributed to Dr Brian Little, partly through his own self discovery.

What is Free Trait Theory?

Free Trait Theory says that we are all born with certain personality traits such as introversion but that we can and do act out of character in the pursuit of what he calls “core personal projects.”

Basically, Little believes that introverts can act like extroverts when focused on:

↪️ Work they think is important

↪️ Family & people they love

↪️ Anything else they hold personal value in

For example, Bloggers / YouTubers, Marketers like yourself that are tying to build your business.

Stepping out of that COMFORT ZONE in pursuit of your goals – family, finance, freedom.

Professor Brian Little believes this is why people confuse him for an extrovert:

Even though I’m a classic introvert, when I give a lecture for my students I perform with great passion. Introverts, when they are ‘on,’ become pseudo-extraverts. Can you tell the difference between a born extravert and a pseudo-extravert? Usually you cannot.

These core personal projects can be trivial or extreme – from going to the gym on Wednesday night, to living debt free forever.

But they are all aspirations that we are invested in.

When we are invested, we are able to temporarily put on hold our natural desire (seek isolation in a good book) and do something less comfortable.

Attending a stag/hen party all weekend fills me with dread especially when i won't know 90% of the other people attending, but equally, if that person is a good friend then that is what I will do.

Is this pseudo extroversion healthy for us?

According to Cain, “The answer is that a free trait strategy can be effective when used judiciously, but disastrous if overdone.”

Both experts warn that prolonged “acting out of character” can potentially result in:

❌ Burnout

❌ Increased stress

❌ Cardiovascular disease

❌ Increased autonomic nervous system activity

So how do we manage this?

For me, I soak up the positives and try and make those experiences more rewarding.

I recently hosted my first Facebook live in my group (Digital Marketing for Introverts). I felt like I was going to pass out our throw up in anticipation.

But I got so much valued feedback that it really boosted me. It reduced that fear and gave me self confidence.

However it is also important that we find “restorative niches”.

What is a Restorative Niche?

Time that you can spend doing something to re balance your introversion, such as swimming, walking, reading, cooking.

In Dr Little's case his restorative niche would be to hide in a toilet cubicle.

Between lectures he wouldn't chat to the staff and students like other professors, instead he would find isolation and respite in a toilet – with his feet off the floor to avoid detection.

Another way is to ensure you have Free Trait Agreements (with yourself or others).

A Free Trait Agreement acknowledges that “we'll each act out of character some of the time—in exchange for being ourselves the rest of the time”

The Sheep in Wolves clothing 🐑

As a Digital Marketer this may be that I go live in the group once/twice a week rather than daily.

But this can mean many things depending on what is “out of character” for you.

My kids are young, they get invited to parties all the time, and because of their ages I will attend too.

Some parents will grab a large table, and sit sipping their coffee, laughing, joking, discussing each others live's.

Whilst 100's of children run around the playcenter – screaming, laughing and crying.


It is a cacophony of NOISE.

Some = Me. Will sit away from the group, reading a book, and generally looking antisocial and rude.

At times, and if it means more to my child, then I will join in and act pseudo extrovert, but my free trait agreement with myself is that this won't be at EVERY party.

Free Trait Theory Summarized

As introverts, building our own businesses, there are many times where we have to push our comfort zones and act out of character.

Sometimes this is down to imposter syndrome, fear of failure, self belief.

But sometimes it's because its “out of our introverted character.”

✔️ This is normal.

✔️ You are normal.

Find your restorative niches and keep in mind that agreement to yourself.

Use these to push forward and smash your goals, whether your in or out of character.


Jon Davis
Digital Marketing Introvert
  1. Your description of yourself at a kids party is totally me!!!! I am really struggling with diving into the whole networking and guest posting bit, but I know it’s need to help both myself and my blog grow. Arg! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey Kari, I really appreciate the feedback, yes, good things lie outside of that comfort zone 🙂 if you ever want a place to discuss your blog and business with other introverts then your always welcome in the Facebook group

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