Personality: Introvert & Extravert (Blog I of 5)

I thought it might be nice to take a break and blog on the lighter side. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a trained counselor (formerly licensed) and part of working with my student-clients involved the occasional personality test. There are many tests, so many, but the tried and true has always been the MBTI or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The MBTI is not an in-depth personality test, but it does measure those personality factors that we know to be true for nearly every living person on the planet, which is to say, the MBTI is applicable to many people regardless of country, culture, economic status, age, and sex. The MBTI measures the broadest of predictable personality factors. While it is not in-depth, the MBTI is helpful in narrowing down an individual who could do with some assistance in personal insight.

The MBTI measures across four categories (two possible personality factors per category) resulting in a four letter combination, or personality type, per person. There is a total of 16 personality types.

By the way, I use the original and scientific spelling, ExtrAvert, and not the currently popular spelling, ExtrOvert.

Category One: Introvert vs Extravert*
(I) for Introvert and (E) for Extravert

*First – and this is very important – Introvert does not = shy. Extravert does not = attention seeker. These are surface impressions that, to this day, are perpetuated about each type. Whether you are an (I) or an (E) is strictly defined by ENERGY. Energy that is measurable in your day-to-day existence. I am not talking about the sort of vague references to a spiritually-styled energy that your yoga instructor is really into. I am talking about energy that is measurable in the triad: mental, emotional, and physical. Also, I’s and E’s fall on a scale. Some I’s are very Introverted, others less so. The same for E’s. Where everyone falls on the scale of (I) and (E) can also be measured by the MBTI.*

Energy comes from within. I’s are a lot like a cell phone, their energy (mental, emotional, physical) is charged inwardly, or alone. As soon as an introvert is in company with another person, they are essentially taken off their charger and begin to slowly but surely lose their charge until they are alone once more. People are draining. You will have met I’s in your life that you had no idea are I’s simply because your understanding of them is wrong. It’s not that I’s can’t socialize or be part of a group, it is only that they have so much energy to spare to any one person, or situation, before they require alone time. I’s are perfectly capable of conversation, of partying, going out to dinner, you name it. Activities with others usually require a foreseeable ending, or a planned exit. The more taxing or stressful a person or situation, the faster an I’s mental, emotional, and physical energies are drained.

– I’s are more likely to LISTEN than to talk. This is where the shyness assumption comes from, and why I’s tend to have a few but really close friends. I’s prefer quality over quantity and quality friendship means zeroing in on your friend; listening requires paying attention to the speaker’s facial movements, tone of voice, registering bodily posture and more. So when an Introvert is listening, they are all in. I’s have a harder time in groups for this reason. The ability to provide everyone the same quality of their attention becomes saturated and harder to keep up with. E’s have very few issues with this, as you will see. If you have a friend and you’ve thought, ‘So-and-so only seems to hang out with me and a few other people. What’s up with that?’ You have yourself an Introverted friend. Do well by his or her because they are all about the quality, and will take the time to be present with you when they are with you. Remember, they are taking themselves off their charger just to hang out when they could just as easily be comfortable at home, ready for a night of Netflix and snuggling the cat.

– Introverts think before they act. I’s live inside their heads, which means they are a great deal more likely to ponder over a thought of potential action well before they do it. It might take days or hours, minutes or seconds, but a thought process must take place before engaging in an action. This is in line with that quality of attention you can expect from an Introverted friend. Thought must proceed speaking aloud or moving toward an action.

– B/c I’s live inside their minds, comfortably so, you might well expect them to have excellent concentration skills, and they do.

– Introverts prefer to work behind the scenes. They prefer to work alone, once given a set of instructions, I’s pretty much prefer to be left alone with minimal supervision. Group meetings are nice because you can check in with what everyone else is doing but for the most part, it seems those E’s are really just thinking aloud. Whereas I’s don’t need to think aloud. This is where in corporate culture, those rock solid I’s take up zero time because they don’t need to contribute ideas about their work – they already know what they’re doing. Or, I’s don’t contribute their thoughts in a meeting until the have a quality-driven, fleshed-out idea to offer. There also those rock solid E’s whom, when they speak up, their ideas seem to be all over the place – the content may or may not be valid. They are the same individuals at every meeting and are as predictable as their quieter counterparts.

– Until I’s get to know you, they themselves are very reserved. They don’t dish the dish, gab, or chat unnecessarily. You will need to be a proper friend before any real sharing takes place, and even then the information shared is always parceled out and never a package bomb of info. I’s will not verbally vomit all over you in an effort to get to know you.

– B/c I’s are comfortable in their minds, they are quite good at written communication. They can say what they mean to say, thoughtfully, in the written word more so than in speech which is a lot more immediate and spontaneous. Spontaneous speech with I’s is more likely to happen with people they are close to. Anyone else is subject to a less jam-packed conversation as an Introvert tries to formulate an articulated response.

Energy comes from without. An E’s energy is charged from being around others. Nor is the (E) charge limited to just people, an (E) can experience mental, emotional, and physical energy just by being present in public. Not all E’s are talkative attention seekers, however, some E’s are exactly that. Just like some I’s are terrified at the idea of speaking up or being noticed. There are high-level versions of I’s and E’s, but there are also very mellow versions of I’s and E’s too. E’s are perfectly capable of being alone or engaging in meaningful conversation with just one person, like an (I). It’s a matter of energy. An (E) that is having a quiet day is likely to feel a little more drained than having a day filled with people and activities, which is more energizing to them. Spontaneity is a key strength to an (E). If you’ve ever thought, ‘So-and-so always seems to have something going on, they’re so busy. I wonder if they ever go home and just chill?’ You’ve got yourself an Extraverted friend. Treat them well. The encounter with your (E) friend might be brief, and may not be chalk full of quality, but they are there for you even so. No matter how busy they are, an (E) is more likely to make time for their friends than an (I) who struggles with out-of-the-blue invitations. This is not a diss, it simply is a common factor (not a given) to the existence of I’s. Every personality type has its pros and cons.

– E’s are naturally active and as a result, tend to TALK more than, listen. Talking rapidly, and seemingly without a particular direction, is an outward trade mark to an (E). What’s actually happening here is an E’s thought process. Where an (I) has an INTERNAL thought process, and (E) has an EXTERNAL thought process. E’s often work out their thoughts and feelings by using other people as sounding boards. They throw thoughts out, and in so doing, will hopefully get viable feedback. This why those E’s are always the first to speak up in meetings, they are likely tossing around ideas so their own finished thoughts and courses of actions can take shape. Don’t get me wrong, E’s are perfectly capable of making up their own minds, and ultimately all E’s make up their own minds, but preferably with input from others first.

– This first trade mark of E’s leads to the second, an ability to come together and connect with people and with very little effort. Groups that seem to form quickly and work together towards a common goal are more easily created by E’s; they just seem to naturally sort out their puzzle-like pieces. This is hard for I’s to comprehend as I’s tend to focus their energies on the individual. I’s are more likely to feel “lost” in a group setting b/c there seems to be no apparent anchor, whereas, for E’s, the group itself is the anchor.

– B/c E’s need others to sort out their thoughts and feelings, it is safe to say, distraction comes quite naturally. Exploring one’s thoughts, behaviors and feelings can be an undertaking, never mind all the incoming data from other people and situations. The cost to this hive of outward processing is attention span. E’s can and will get distracted easily.

– All that incoming data, however, also grants E’s the uncanny ability to tackle several things at one time. E’s can pick up one action while pursuing another or switch gears all-together, several times throughout the day. Hour by hour, an (E) has the potential for fluidity. I’s prefer to work out one thing (start and finish) at a time, regardless of feelings about the task at hand; a ‘I started this thing and now I’m going to finish it,’ mentality. E’s, however, don’t miss a beat when they start something and decide to finish it much later.

– B/c open dialogue is fast and has the potential to change rapidly, E’s prefer oral communication over written. Written communication requires thoughtful structure, and thus, slows the whole concept of communication down for an (E).

Some of you will know absolutely if you are an (I) or an (E). Others will struggle. There is a scale and you would need the full version of the MBTI to understand where you fall, particularly if you are unsure. Personally, I am a moderate (I), my husband is a mild (E). There are many ways in which he feels like an (I) but his DEFAULT method, as a living, breathing, human being, requires EXTERNAL energy to get through the day. (E) energy is his default. He needs to be around people a little more often than not. Not a whole lot, like a high-level (E) would, but just a little more often than not, he needs to be around people.

As a moderate (I), I need more alone time than a little, but not so much as a high-level (I) would. There are times my (E) kicks in and I need to be out and about in the world, and once I get my fix, I’m good. But for the most part, I hate crowds, I hate socializing, and I’ve always believed I’ve never needed more than two or three good friends. Because I’m an internal thinker, when I am with friends, I never need to run my thoughts or feelings by anyone because I’m already a decided person. I can spend quality time with my friends as myself and not someone who needs to sort things out. My husband, on the other hand, part of his friendship experience is running things by others in order to figure something out that’s been on his mind, because, hey, what are friends for? As a moderate (I) I have to be hard pressed on a difficult topic before I run my thoughts by anyone, be it my husband or a friend. Many people have accused me of not knowing when to ask for help – as an (I), that is a valid observation, and I find it to be true more often than not. Like I said, everyone’s personality package has its pros and cons.

Are you an (I) or an (E)?

Make note, you still have three more letters to work out. By the fifth part of this Personality blog, I’ll tell you what your four-letter MBTI personality type means.
Austin, Texas