I’ve been fascinated by type psychology since high school. In lieu of a guidance counselor (since I was homeschooled), my mother suggested I see if the library had any books about career testing or if I could find websites that offered free tests. That was when I first stumbled upon the MBTI and discovered my personality type. I know there are many people who don’t find value in personality types, either because the type method doesn’t fit them well or they just don’t care, but when I found out what my type was, I suddenly felt like I wasn’t alone in the universe. Apparently this is a typical reaction for INFJs, since it is the least common type.
Before this turns into a post about my personality type, I want to get on to my real topic. Last week, I came across this video via the blog Personality Junkie. If you have 19 minutes, I highly recommend watching it. Even if you’re not an introvert, she has an interesting perspective on culture and the contributions of both introverts and extroverts to society.
I read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, a few months ago. If you like this talk, you should check it out. Her research is extensive, and it’s presented in a reader-friendly, almost conversational format.
“Introverts … may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.” – Susan Cain
Even though I grew up in one of the most introvert-friendly environments you can find (homeschooled by supportive, introverted parents), I’ve long felt like there was “something wrong with me.” This is apparently common for introverts, especially in western culture where we are constantly presented with extroversion as a cultural ideal. Fun, outgoing, talkative people are surrounded by friends and happy — melancholy, lonely bookworms who stay home on Saturday night can only wish they were that “cool.”
By the time I was a couple years into my college studies, I’d become convinced that working alone was the best way for me to succeed. Writing my ideas was more productive than talking about them, working in groups just slowed me down. But even carrying a 3.98 GPA didn’t help much when favorite professors said, “You’d be the perfect student if only we could get you to talk more.” I was already talking more than I wanted — sometimes as much as once or twice per class to get those participation points I didn’t usually need, but was too contentious to just ignore.
Since reading Susan Cain’s book and another called Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life if Your Hidden Strength by Laurie Helgoe, I’ve started to feel more comfortable embracing my introvertedness. Ironically, this has helped me when I need (or want) to extrovert — it’s easier to talk to people when I’m more comfortable being myself.
“Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.” – Laurie Helgoe
About 50% of the world’s population is introverted, and research indicates we are born with a base personality type. Though socialization plays a role, we can’t help being introverted or extroverted. And there’s really no reason we should want to “help it.” Introverts have just as much to offer the world as extroverts. We just approach life a little differently.