According to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality survey, I’m an ISTJ. That “I” means I have a preference for introversion. So I appreciated a blog post titled “10 Myths About Introverts” which I excerpted below.
Whether you consider yourself “introverted” or “extroverted,” there’s a high likelihood that you have forgotten (or never knew) what that label means (sidebar: if you’re using it as a label for yourself or others, shame on you!). This can lead to miscommunication (or, taken to the extreme, ostracism) between introverts and extroverts or a shame about being an introvert. The comics shown here depict two outcomes of that misconception. While I don’t define myself by my introversion, I identify strongly with it and the tendencies that come with that personality preference.
Let me take a minute to educate you on the history of the survey and what introversion and extroversion really mean.
The original developers of the MBTI, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, created it during World War II to help women entering the workforce for the first time identify with which jobs they would best fit. They based the survey on the psychological theories of Carl Jung which stated the people had essentially two dichotomous pairs of cognitive functions: “rational” functions were expressed as either thinking (using your head) or feeling (using your heart) while “irrational” functions were expressed as sensing (trusting your senses) or intuiting (trusting your gut).
Jung also suggested that these functions are expressed as either “outward-turning” or “inward-turning.” If the function was turned outward, operating in the external world of behavior, action, people, and things, it’s called extraversion. If it’s turned inward to the internal world of ideas and reflection, it’s called introversion. People with a preference for extraversion draw energy from action: they tend to act, then reflect, then act further. To rebuild their energy, extraverts need breaks from time spent in reflection. Conversely, those with a preference for introversion expend energy through action: they prefer to reflect, then act, then reflect again. To rebuild their energy, introverts need quiet time alone, away from activity.
And so it was with much head-nodding that I read through the 10 Myths About Introverts:
- Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk. This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.
- Myth #2 – Introverts are shy. Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.
- Myth #3 – Introverts are rude. Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.
- Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people. On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.
- Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public. Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.
- Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone. Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.
- Myth #7 – Introverts are weird. Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.
- Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds. Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.
- Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun. Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.
- Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts. A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.
Question for you: Which of these do/did you believe is true of someone with a preference for introversion? How does learning the truth about introversion impact how you view or interact with introverts?