Talking can be hard for introverts. Get us in just the right setting and you might have trouble making us shut up, but in most everyday conversations we struggle to come up with anything to talk about. As I wrote about last week, many introverts struggle to talk about personal things. Beyond that, we struggle with knowing what to talk about at all.
We often assume most people don’t want to hear about the things we care about. We think it sounds boring to answer, “What did you do last weekend?” by saying “Stayed home with my cat and watched Netflix.” Or we worry that we sound uninteresting if we answer, “What do you like to do?” with “Read, contemplate life, hide in a blanket fort … you know, exciting stuff like that.”
The Kind Of Talking We Don’t Like
About 50% of the population is introverted so there’s actually a good chance of you finding other people who think what you enjoy is perfectly normal because they also enjoy similar things. But for those of us in the United States, and other cultures that tend to have more “extroverted” values, we might still feel pressure to not be “weird” and stick with “normal” topics of conversation. Read more →
If you’re an introvert, do you enjoy talking about yourself? Many of us don’t. We don’t want to share personal details. We’re also hesitant to ask other people personal questions. If they want to share that’s okay, but asking them feels like prying. We don’t particularly want to be pried into so we assume other people don’t either.
But whether we like to admit it or not, sharing personal details and stories is key to building connections with people. Whether we want to have a good business relationship, keep in touch with acquaintances, develop a friendship, or enter a relationship with someone we have to be able to talk about ourselves and ask questions about the other person.
Learning to talk about ourselves and engaging with others on a personal level can be a challenge for introverts. This also means it’s a wonderful opportunity for personal growth. I don’t know about you, but I would love to be a better conversationalist. I don’t want to become “more extroverted” per se, but I do want to learn to communicate well as an introvert. Read more →
I love ice skating. The graceful sweep of a skater’s arms and legs as they glide along the ice. The crunching swish as ice flies up when they come to a stop. The romance of sweeping over a frozen lake with glittering stars overhead.
But I only liked skating from a distance. Figure skating is the only winter sport I ever follow or watch, even during the Olympics. I’ve even been to see the Smucker’s Stars On Ice Tour (just once — my grandmother had tickets. I loved it). I’ll watch YouTube videos of figure skating much the same way I watch Dancing With The Stars routines. And I didn’t try it myself.
This past Saturday evening, though, I actually strapped on skates went out on the ice. I spent the weekend visiting my boyfriend and when he learned I’d never actually been ice skating he pulled out his phone and found out when the rinks were open. Which is something I never really thought about trying. I haven’t even looked for local ice skating rinks or thought about signing up for lessons or tried to find out if friends with frozen ponds had skates I could borrow.
Many INFJs struggle with translating what’s in our heads into the outer world. We have a hard time turning our dreams into reality. And that’s only if we get to the point where we think about making them real at all. Often, we don’t get past the daydreaming phase before getting distracted by yet another idea that’s probably going to stay in our heads as well.
Another thing many (though not all) INFJs deal with is a lack of affinity for sports. Many of us don’t watch them and we certainly don’t play them. It requires far too much coordination and balance and teamwork.
But even though I don’t think of myself as balanced or coordinated, I’m on a dance team at church and I’ve even started teaching dance. I love it. And I’m pretty good at it. So there’s no reason those skills shouldn’t translate into similar activities like ice skating.
I wonder if perhaps we INFJs might be missing out on things we’d actually enjoy because we assume we won’t be good at it. Just because Extroverted Sensing is our weak spot doesn’t mean we can’t work on befriending that function and give ourselves a chance to enjoy physical activities.
Even though many INFJs struggle with outer-world activities, it’s good for us to actually try the things we’ve been daydreaming about. When I tried ice skating, I was sure I’d fall over before I even made it to the ice. But I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t fall at all. It turns out I like skating even though I was nervous and cautious and wobbly. It was so much fun. There were even moments (brief ones) where I felt like I was starting to figure out what I was doing and could just skate instead of thinking about how to stay upright. And I’m planing to try it again, hopefully fairly soon.
INFJs place a high value on interpersonal harmony. Often, that manifests (especially in less mature/confident INFJs) as an unwillingness to just flat-out turn someone down. We’d much rather use “maybe,” “someday,” and “that might be nice” rather than “no,” “never,” and “I don’t think so.”
But that can back-fire on us and create discord in friendships. Other types can interpret our “maybes” as commitments, then get upset at us for breaking our word. Or they might recognize that we’re brushing them off and become frustrated by our refusal to give them a direct answer. Our attempts to avoid conflict can actually make things worse.
Last week, we talked about one problem that can plague INFJ friendships — the fact that we have a tendency drop out of contact with our friends. It’s fairly easily explained from the INFJ’s perspective, but it can have an unintentional affect of hurting the people around us. Another similar (and in some ways related) problem is our temptation to noncommittally agree with what we think people want to hear, then ignore them and hope they forget about it. Read more →
I’ve written before about how other types can be friends with an INFJ. But there’s another side to that dynamic: what INFJs are like as friends. We can be fantastic friends — fun, engaging, good listeners, intensely loyal. But sometimes we’re not the best sort of friends and often, that’s the INFJ’s fault.
There are some things I love about being an INFJ personality type. And then there are other aspects which aren’t so nice, and some of those can negatively impact our friendships if we’re not careful. Today, I’m speaking of our tendency to drop out of contact with people.
Unique Mental Wiring
INFJs are a curious mix of mental processes. We’re most comfortable using Introverted Intuition (also called “Perspectives”). This is focused on collecting information about how the world works, processing it internally, and making speculative leaps about what it means. Basically, it’s advanced pattern recognition.
That’s paired with Extroverted Feeling (aka “Harmony”). This mental process is in-tune with other people’s feelings and wants to make sure their needs get met. It’s generally the first mental place INFJs go when trying to make a decision, asking, “How will this affect other people and my relationship with them?” When well-developed in an INFJ, they can be so outgoing and social that they seem like extroverts.
But we might also skip this process and spend more time in our tertiary Introverted Thinking (aka “Accuracy”). That one’s more about analyzing of facts, trying to make things “make sense to me.” It’s also impersonal. When INFJs spend more time inside their heads than on developing our extroverted side, we can stay in an introverted Intuition-Thinking loop.
Distracted By The Inner World
Using our Intuitive and Thinking process together isn’t always a bad thing for the INFJ. Our Extroverted Feeling side is important to develop so we can make decisions more easily, maintain friendships, and experience personal growth. But we to also need alone time to re-charge and it can be a good way to process data. It only becomes a problem sometimes when we get “stuck” in our introverted side. Read more →
Once again, I failed to introduce myself to someone. I’m 27 years old — by now I should have mastered the incredibly complicated art of walking up to someone visiting my own church group and simply saying, “Hi, I’m Marissa. Welcome. What’s your name?”
It would probably come out more as a squeaky “Hi” followed by awkward silence as I frantically tried to come up with words resembling normal small talk.
*sigh* So much for INFJs being “the most extroverted introvert.” Perhaps some INFJs are, but I’m not. I’m shy. I thought it was getting better, but apparently I still need more work battling my social anxiety.
Introversion is healthy for introverts. Shyness … not so much
Despite Google’s antiquated definition of introvert as “a shy, reticent person,” shyness and introversion are far from the same thing. “Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments” (quote from “Are You Shy, Introverted, Both, or Neither (and Why Does It Matter)?” by Susan Cain). Shyness produces anxiety in social situations, while introversion means you lose energy when around other people. The traits often go together, but extroverts can also be shy.
Introverts who aren’t shy still prefer the inner world of thoughts and ideas to the outer world of people and things, but they’re capable of socializing and even enjoy it. Extroverts who are shy want to spend their time in the outer world, but they’re scared of people.
One of the most genuinely friendly extroverted women I know was once shy. For her, the turning point from shy to social was when she realized her fear of talking was rooted in self-focus. It was about “I’m scared to talk with people,” or “Socializing makes me nervous,” or “What if they don’t like me?” Read more →