I always want to know the inner thoughts of people, so on occasion I’ll ask my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) workshop attendees if they had their choice what they would prefer, introversion or extraversion.
Most of the participants enthusiastically say they’d prefer the latter. Usually these are the true extraverts or extravert wannabees–the introverts, secure in who they are, don’t volunteer their opinion quickly.
My next line of inquiry would be asking the group how extraverts are perceived by society. Usually the extraverts and wannabees are the first to speak. They each take turns extolling the characteristics of the extravert: fun…outgoing…full of energy…friendly…confident…they like to party…loud….
Fair enough. Now I ask the group how they perceive the introverts; again the ones who speak up first are usually the extraverts and wannabees who talk without giving it much thought: shy…quiet…secretive…withdrawn…boring…don’t say much….The introverts reserve their comments for a better time to speak.
I help the group to see a pattern; extraverts are described in more favorable terms, save for “loud”; while introverts are described in negative terms, save for “quiet.” Enough articles have dispelled the belief that introverts are shy, secretive, withdrawn, and boring; but society still sees them as the less desirable of the two…ergo my attendees’ desired preference for extraversion.
Here are some facts we learn about both dichotomies:
- Extraverts are talkers and learn best by bouncing ideas off one another; introverts prefer written communications and enjoy the process of researching on their own.
- Extraverts are great with small talk, the envy of introverts; but introverts are known for their capacity to listen.
- Extraverts feel confident in large groups, whereas introverts prefer smaller more intimate groups. This is not to say, however, that introverts can’t function in large groups–it takes more effort and getting outside their comfort zone.
- Extraverts are uncomfortable with silence, while introverts relish it. Introverts feel no need to fill empty space and need time to re-charge their batteries.
Perhaps because my workshop group trashes introverts, or because I’m an introvert, I feel the need to defend the less desired of the two. I stress that introverts can be outgoing and fun…for a certain amount of time. Then it’s time to recharge their battery. Read an article, 7 things extroverts should know about introverts (and visa versa), on how extraverts and introverts can better understand each other’s behavior.
It’s not that introverts are necessarily quiet, don’t talk, or are boring; they like to process information before speaking. What they say can be as brilliant as what extraverts say; introverts just say it when they’re ready. (Unfortunately we sometimes miss the window of opportunity.) The article mentioned above says it nicely, “If you want to hear what we have to say, give us time to say it. We don’t fight to be heard over other people. We just clam up.”
The final question I ask the group after we’ve discussed the accurate personality traits of both factors is, “What do you think I am, an introvert or extravert?”
Usually the extraverts and wannabees say without thinking, “Definitely extravert. How could you get up there and talk if you are an introvert?” Others who have been paying attention and shuck off the stereotypes say I’m an introvert who has the ability to demonstrate more “extravert” type tendencies. These are the introverts who speak up with conviction. And they’re correct.
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