Introvert Extravert?

I was just talking to my eldest daughter, who is at a conference in Sydney for Pete Godfrey’s Crocodile Marketing. I’d have loved to be there as well but another project kept me away. However, Lesleigh was talking about how tired she is after two days of constant interaction with others, and gets the distinction that she is an introvert.

Now, anyone who knows her would be completely shocked to think that’s one trait of her personality, because she can talk to anyone about anything. As her dad says, even underwater with a mouth full of cement 🙂 She is very much “outgoing”.

And yet, she gets worn out by it. And this is where it’s very helpful to understand what introvert and extravert really mean.

Developed by Carl Jung in his book Psychological Types, and taken into the world by Isabel Briggs-Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), introversion and extraversion are perhaps amongst the most misunderstood words in the English language. Since then a bunch of other typologies have used Jung’s work as their basis, so it’s well-used language.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I got the distinction though, and it’s worth discussing. When I got it, it was a major ah-hah for me, and brought me considerable peace! I studied the MBTI for the best part of a semester – though I in no way consider myself an expert in this – and it was only in the last stages of the course that I really got comfortable with my type, which is INTJ. I also can talk about anything to anyone (though am a little more reserved than Lesleigh is!). I am equally comfortable talking to hundreds of people from a stage as talking to one person. When my type consistently came up as an I (for introvert) I disputed it again and again. “Let’s keep going”, said the lecturer, “and see what that means.” So we kept going, week after week, testing ourselves and one another against the findings of yet another test. Because of course most personality tests will give a different result from one day to the next, as they are mostly subjective and very influenced by your mood. Doing any test several times over several weeks is probably the best way to go. Carol Tuttle’s Energy Types is probably the one exception I know of, because it’s less subjective.

Anyway – what I began to understand as the weeks went by is that the extraversion I’m so comfortable with is attached to my thinking processes – I have a minor e attached to my T. Funny 🙂 That’s when I had my ah-hah and literally saw a whole bunch of incidents and times in my life in a completely new way!

Introversion is usually thought to mean reserved, perhaps shy, and often not very sociable. Extraversion is usually taken to mean assertive, outgoing, very sociable, and interested in seeking out excitement. If you see a line with introversion at one end and extraversion at the other, everyone’s behaviour is somewhere along that line.

What I came to understand though, was that the line itself is about where you get your energy from rather than how sociable you are. So in this context, introversion means you recharge your batteries by spending time on your own, and extraversion means you recharge by being with others.

For me, this translates as at the end of a day with clients, I am truly flat (which is one reason I love EFT, it seems to maintain my energy). I always enjoy a quiet evening and usually work on my own for at least part of the next day. My good friend Wendy, on the other hand, is a trainer who bounces off the walls after a day of training; that energy recharge sustains her in the days following when she is working alone on new tenders and new programs.

And Lesleigh knows that’s what she’s experiencing as well – after two days in a group she needs some alone-time to recharge.That’s all, just a battery recharge.

I wish I’d known that at 24, I’d have pushed myself much less hard, and criticised myself much less. Probably 🙂

1 Comment

  1. Anne on 20 August 2009 at 5:53 AM

    good article – as an extreme introvert myself I completely relate. I find long Guide camps exhausting for just this reason 🙂

    Hope all is good with you guys 🙂

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