How To Communicate More Comfortably As An Introvert

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

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The Importance of Living Authentically As An INFJ

As an INFJ, you’re good at picking up on other people’s emotions. And when you pick up on what other people feel you also start to get a good feel for their expectations. For some of us, that seems like a good thing. We know what’s expected of us in different social settings and from different friend groups. We understand who we need to be so we can fit in.

But is that really a good thing for us? Does being able to fit in help an INFJ?

We call it the chameleon effect when an INFJ leverages their unique combination of mental processes to blend in with different groups of people. Chameleon INFJs might even appear as if they’re a different personality type in different situations because they’re automatically shifting toward being extroverted around the extroverts, logical around the thinkers, and interested in the real world around the sensors.

Blending in feels like an advantage at times. That’s why we do it. Fitting in feels safe. It seems like a way to protect ourselves from negative attention. But in reality, using our gifts in this way doesn’t just protect us from bad things. It also blocks us from really being seen and appreciated as ourselves. Read more

How Full Is Your Marble Jar?

I have issues with trust. I knew this to a certain extent, but being in a relationship has brought it to the forefront of my attention. My boyfriend wants to build the kind of trust that I’ve always wanted in a relationship, which is fantastic. But it’s harder to get there than I was expecting and that’s frustrating for both of us. I probably feel safer with him than anyone else who I haven’t known a minimum of 10 years and yet I still feel nervous opening up to him and being “me” around him.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I love Brené Brown’s TED talks. Since writing that post, I’ve read her book The Gifts of Imperfection and I’m halfway through Daring Greatly. Since I’ve been confronting some deep-seated fear issues as well as this trust thing, they’ve been really good books for me. They’re tough, though. For example, she has a list of 10 things that “Wholehearted” people who believe in their worthiness do. I’ve only got one down pretty good and maybe half of two others. And that’s even though all 10 points on the list are things that, in theory, I agree are good and which I’ve considered worth pursuing for quite some time.

How Full Is Your Marble Jar? | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: timlewisnm CC BY-SA via Flickr

The Anatomy Of Trust

Earlier this year, Brené Brown gave a talk called “The Anatomy of Trust.” In this talk, she tells a story that she also relates in Daring Greatly about her daughter experiencing a betrayal of trust at school. You can click here to read the full story or just watch the video below, but in short summary the situation got so bad that the teacher took marbles out of the Marble Jar (marbles go in when the kids are making good choices and come out if they’re breaking rules, acting out, etc.). Read more

Living With INFJ Guilt And Overcoming Cycles of Shame

Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.

INFJ personality types* often live with ridiculous amounts of guilt. We feel guilty about things we did and didn’t say or do. We feel guilty about how the people around us feel and how they react to us, about our own short comings, and even about our successes.

Everyone experiences a certain amount of guilt. But it does seem like one of the more common struggles for INFJs. Most people attribute this propensity for guilt to INFJ perfectionism, saying that if we fail to make something “perfect” we’ll feel guilty about it. But it’s a bit more complex than that (a fact which, I’m sure, will surprise no one familiar with INFJs).

Living With INFJ Guilt And Overcoming Cycles of Shame | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: “Incognito” by nasrul ekram, CC BY via Flickr

Why do INFJs feel guilty?

The INFJ mind is very good at coming up with reasons we should feel guilty. Our Introverted Intuition seeks out patterns in our own behavior. Our Extroverted Feeling picks up on how we make others feel and evaluates our actions in light of how people “should” be. Our Introverted Thinking is quite happy to analyze our faults to death. And that pesky Extroverted Sensing adds even more guilt by whispering that all this shouldn’t matter and we could just go have fun. Read more

Heartbreak and Vulnerability

This week, I was reading someone’s comments on a young lady’s question about her increasingly physical relationship with her boyfriend when I ran into a phrase that always makes me twitch. The commenter suggested breaking up with the boyfriend immediately, then said, “Do not get attached to any boy until you are ready to have a serious relationship.”

Now, that might be good advice in this specific case (since the girl was 16 and had only been dating the guy for 3 months). But in Christian circles, the idea of not getting attached to anyone until you’re ready to get married has been painted with a wide brush across a whole range of situations. It’s often treated as a sure solution to avoiding heartbreak and keeping yourself “pure” for God.

Concerning Conduct

I first heard this advice in courtship circles, where young people are advised to avoid developing feelings for someone of the opposite sex and just be friends until they reach a point where they want to get married. Then, in theory, you can start courting one of these friends and explore the possibility of marriage with them. If you develop feelings for someone before you’re in a position where you could get married to them, then you’re doing something wrong.

Struggle then against yourself as you would struggle against an enemy. Refuse to listen to a wish, to dwell even upon a possibility, that opens to your present idea of happiness. All that in the future may be realized probably hangs upon this conflict. … I only require from you what depends upon yourself, a steady and courageous warfare against the two dangerous undermines of your peace and of your fame, imprudence and impatience.

If not for the slightly out-dated language, you might think I quoted this from a courtship book written within in the past ten years or so. Actually, this quote is from the novel Camilla, first published in 1796 by Frances Burney. It’s part of the letter a pastor writes to his daughter, and is based on 18th century conduct books. Camilla’s father urges her not to let the man she is attracted to learn of her affection, because as a woman it is her duty to “retire to be chosen” by a man rather than seek out a man she loves. It doesn’t turn out quite like he planned, though, since Edgar is waiting for a sign that Camilla has feelings for him before he confesses his attraction to her. They spend much of the 913 pages of this novel miserable because neither one thinks they can properly and decently give the other a hint about how they feel.

On Heartbreak

There are oodles and oodles of songs and stories about heartbreak. Two people fall in love (or at least become quite attached to each other), have a relationship, then the relationship ends and one or both people end up with “broken hearts.” One thing this model presupposes is that you have to be in a relationship in order to get your heart broken. I don’t think that is the case. You can experience the feeling of heartbreak without actually having been in a relationship with someone.

This is one of the things the courtship movement got right — if you let yourself get attached to someone, there’s always the chance that they can hurt you, even if it’s simply by not returning your feelings. Courtship phrased this as “giving away pieces of your heart,” and said the reason it’s a bad idea is because then you don’t have as much heart left to give the person you actually do marry (which is really a ridiculous idea when you think about it; it’s not like we’re born with a set amount of love that we have to dole out sparingly, but problems with the courtship movement is a topic for another day).

I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, but even so I feel like my heart’s been broken a few times. It’s largely my own fault, too — I let myself get pretty close (emotionally) to a few guys I liked, and nothing came of the relationships. But would I have been better if I’d tried to keep myself from feeling anything at all, as Camilla’s father suggests? I really don’t think so.

On Vulnerability

Being open to the possibility of heartache is a prerequisite for entering any kind of relationship. The people who know us best and who we are closest to are those who are most capable of loving us, but they are also the people who could most easily hurt us. If we want to gather people around us to love and be loved by us, we have to take risks. We have to have the strength to be vulnerable.

To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.” ― Brené Brown, from “The Gifts of Imperfection”

A Hypothesis on Heartbreak | marissabaker.wordpress.comNow, we should exercise a certain amount of caution when letting people get close to us. Some people simply cannot be trusted with your heart, but you usually don’t know who these people are until you start to get to know them. The key is to be vulnerable in stages. Don’t pour out all your thoughts, emotions, and self into someone you just met. You do, however, need to start connecting to people authentically if you want to develop relationships. Locking everyone out might keep them from breaking your heart, but you’ll end up lonely if you try that and loneliness can feel an awful lot like heartbreak.

Brene Brown has a great TED talk about this subject. She says that the people who have “a strong sense of love and belonging” see vulnerability as fundamental. They share a willingness “to say ‘I love you’ first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees … to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.” It’s not easy, and it’s not guaranteed to keep you safe, but I think it is better to risk getting close to people than fighting your human desire for connection “as you would struggle against an enemy.”