It happens all the time. People learn a little about something new, think they understand, and make changes based on half-truths. That’s how you get problems such as those reported in the Atlantic article, Why Introverted Teachers are Burning Out. Those with a deep understanding of type aren’t surprised at the article–and worse, we know that over-focusing on the needs of Extraverts OR Introverts hurts everyone. Why? Here’s the real truth–and a sample of the real conversation I try to have with anyone looking to improve team dynamics, learning, collaboration, and more.
So you just gave a day-long presentation and are now at the networking reception. You must be an Extravert.
Nope, Introvert. I got up an hour early this morning for some alone time, reading on the treadmill, to charge up my energy banks for the day.
Golly. You know, I’ve been hearing stuff on introverts…
Kudos to everyone who has raised awareness that being introverted is a normal, valid way of being. That Introverts can be kickass leaders, teachers and trainers. That pondering before speaking up can be a really good idea. And that listening can be an active activity!!
Yeah, I guess, but I think I’m an ambivert. I’m fine with people and I need time alone.
Well, Introvert? Extravert? Ambivert? is really the wrong question. The better question is, “When do you need other people and when do you need to be in your head?” You see, the real truth is that we all NEED both—even the most obvious extraverts and introverts.[Although let’s get clear on one other thing. If you’re a big fan of “Five Factor” models of personality—the NEO-PI or Big 5 Inventory, you’re measuring how Extroverted you are. Introversion is seen as a lack of the trait of Extroversion, and some counselors may think you need to work on your “extroversion.” Fans of Jungian type theory—the MBTI®, etc., talk about preferences, not quantity, and that’s what we’re talking about here.]
Both!! But our staff developer told me that the MBTI® says I’m either one or the other.
Instead of starting with the theory, let’s try this out. Have you ever
- been crazy-excited about something in a meeting, and volunteered to lead some chunk of it, only to realize when you get in the car, Waaaait, I’d promised myself no more volunteering until next year. What possessed me to raise my hand?
- been mulling over some incident, easily seeing both sides of things, but when you start discussing it with someone else, you realize, I am REALLY upset about this!
Yeah, that first one happens to me all the time
Then let me guess that the last letter of your type code is P.
I thought we were talking E and I. What’s P and, that other one—J?—got to do with it?
That last letter tells you what you do when you’re out in the world acting and interacting. In each of these stories, a person switched worlds and switched processes.
- In the first one, you got all excited while perceiving in the external world—“What a cool new idea!!” Then you made a judgment when you retreated to the internal world. “No, I made a bad choice by volunteering!!”
- People who relate more to the second one were perceiving in the internal world and made the judgment when they engaged with the external world.
If you stay in only one world, you miss information (perceiving) or drawing conclusions about it (judging)
I thought our code had either a J or a P. You mean we do both of those, too?
Oh, I am SO sorry you were introduced to type without these concepts as a tool for balance and development. Normal people use all eight preferences, but we prefer four of them.
If we do them all, what’s the point in figuring out your type?
Because we don’t do them equally well. I can access extraversion and introversion but the first is draining and the second is energizing. For each of the preference pairs, understanding which you prefer clues you in on where your strengths are, the dangers of overusing those strengths, and any related blind spots.
But aren’t we better off concentrating on our strengths? Isn’t trying to lead from weaknesses a mistake?
If you ignore what type tells you about strengths, you may find that others see you as looking at only the forest or only the trees, or all head or all heart. And of course, to some extent, life requires us to do some of each, even though some are easier.
And here’s the kicker. If you only spend time alone or only spend time with other people, you’re either cutting yourself from gathering information or struggle to make decisions.
Think about how we define maturity. We complain, “She rushes to conclusions without thinking things through.” Or, “He can’t make up his mind about anything!” Either one—lack of perceptions or lack of judgment—can leave you living in your mom’s garage at age 30.
Well, then, don’t I want to be an ambivert?
If it helps you to think of it that way, let’s not argue too much about words. But the bigger deal is, are you spending enough time with others and alone in order to have psychological balance. Do you take in enough information and do you make good decisions? If not, you may need a different balance.
So how does this relate back to the Atlantic article on introverted teachers? If those students are to take in information and make decisions well, they all need E and I time. Thinking before and after collaborating, individual and group time, brainstorming alone and brainstorming together, making a choice and comparing it to those of others. Extraversion and Introversion are two sides of a polarity–equally valuable. Ignore one–as individuals, as teams, as leaders–and everyone loses. I’d love to converse more about it.