I have to admit that I don’t know what these initials mean exactly, but I do know it has something to do with a personality profile, in the Myers-Briggs vernacular. It’s a label, and humans love to label things, people and places. I attended a presentation today and the speaker touched on the topic of introverts and extraverts. Many people in the room gave an audible acknowledgement that they were intricately aware of this distinction and strongly identified with one of the two personality types.
I was sitting at the front of the room closest to the speaker and had been paying close attention throughout the presentation. She was making eye contact with many people in the room but had not made eye contact with me until this precise moment. She looked at me directly and said: you are the introvert, right?
Uh, well apparently so.
The extroverts in the room voiced their agreement with this hypothesis.
The speaker resumed her presentation, acknowledging that extroverts are often guilty of interrupting others when they are speaking, but don’t much seem to mind when they themselves are interrupted.
I try not to interrupt others. I try to listen and respond as appropriate. Sometimes I find myself waiting, waiting, waiting for a break in the conversation so that I may broach a new subject, ask a question or introduce an idea. I would consider it rude to interrupt a conversation in progress to serve my own needs. But sometimes conversations have their own momentum and the lulls I seek just don’t present themselves. The extrovert speakers keep talking and other extroverts keep interrupting in a swirling cycle.
I was talking with my brother yesterday. He is an extrovert and I hold him in high esteem. But when we talk on the phone it is a difficult experience for me. Yesterday I had wanted to ask him something in particular. But as I was listening to my brother talk, the story he was telling, as is typical, kept getting longer by the minute. Eventually, he had to interrupt himself in order to cut our conversation short and answer a call from a client.
I never got a chance to interrupt him and ask my question.
I know that I am an introvert. I work well in a quiet atmosphere and don’t need to interact with others to keep my creative energy engaged. I prefer to minimize my time in meetings unless they are well structured. I have fun in social situations, but I am never the life of the party. I prefer to take a supporting role.
But this word, introvert, this label, seems to convey other information. As though we introverts seek to limit our interaction with others or hide from the world. Today’s presenter did not use these precise words, but she did paint a picture of introverts in similar broad-brush terms.
And I begin to think that being an introvert, governed by this part of my DNA, inhibits me from living a richer, happier life.
On the other hand, I would not wish to be one of those people who chronically interrupt others when they are speaking or verbally arm-wrestles others for the microphone.
So excuse me while I send my brother an email to ask him my question. It is not the quickest way to get a reply, but at least I can use this strategy to communicate a complete sentence.