Introvert, Party of One
Based on a tool that's about as scientific as a newspaper horoscope, all of a sudden introversion is a thing, and not only is it a thing, it requires remediation in a world that is largely extroverted. I'm not completely sure why Myers and Briggs and their ilk decided to use the words introvert and extrovert to describe the preferences in their instrument that represent people's energizing patterns. They might as well have used proton and electron. I won't go into the history or the ongoing controversy around the Myers Briggs and other "type" indicators. But I would like to challenge some assumptions that are made based on these less than reliable tools.
The first time I took the Myers Briggs I didn't score any extroversion points. Nada. Nil. Zero. The therapist who "administered" the process was dumbfounded. She'd never seen anyone who was a complete anything on the test. She looked at me with a kind of puzzled freakish look that suggested that I may have cheated. Every time that I've taken it since, I've scored mostly as an introvert. Not one person, except for maybe my wife, can believe that I'm not an extrovert. "You're so comfortable around people!", "How do you get on stage?", "You're the least shy person I know!"
These kinds of statements reveal some fundamental misunderstandings about introversion that I'd like to clear up once and for all. If this makes sense to you please share. First let me tell you what introversion ISN'T:
1: Introversion doesn't mean shyness. If you spend any time around me at all, the first thing you'll notice is that I love a good conversation. I have no uneasiness around people. There may be shy introverts, but I've met some shy extroverts, too. Shyness has more to do with social anxiety than introversion.
2: Introversion has nothing to do with confidence. Confidence doesn't come from my personality, it comes from my experience. I'm not afraid to try things, and I don't have a shortage of courage. Again, you'll find a pile or two of extroverts that struggle with self confidence.
3: Introversion isn't a disability. Introverts don't need conversion therapy to become extroverts. We're doing fine the way we are. Just understand that when I get home from the party I'll need to be alone for awhile. I'm not ready to talk just yet.
4: Introverts don't need to become extroverted to be in public. We can sell cars as well as any extrovert. We can give speeches. In fact, we may feel more comfortable speaking to a large group than schmoozing in a cocktail party. We often have important things to say.
Here are some things that are true about me that might challenge what people assume about introverts:
1: I love to have meaningful conversations. It's the small talk that I tend to dislike. If you can get an introvert off to the side at a party and you have the time for some details, you'll probably find them to be competent and interesting conversationalists.
2: I can be susceptible to sensory overload in noisy and crowded situations. I spent a week in Hell at Disney World once. I was never so glad to see a motel room. At the same time the silver lining is that I've met some of my closest friends in out of the way places during busy, loud schmoozefests. Here's one story about such an encounter.
3: I observe, think and feel deeply. So deeply that it's sometimes not easy to articulate my inner world. Ask a specific question and I may not shut up. Ask me to share my thoughts and I'll probably be puzzled. There are too many to sort out.
4: I love people. I relish relationships. I love to be involved and invited, though there are some times that I really do need to stay home for awhile.
I'd like to make a request to my friends in the coaching and personal development biz. Please start targeting extroverts with your wares. We introverts just need a room with a door, and a book.