01 April 2010


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.


  1. Ha! I'm an INFJ, with my "I" being borderline with an "E"

  2. The last time I took it, I was also an INFJ. Now with the person above me also being the same and given the fact that it is meant to be rare........pah. Lots of garbage. Email your brother, he needs to listen :D

  3. OMG, I was just talking to someone at work about the Myers-Briggs test last week!

    I'm an ENFP, but interestinly enough, when I took the test the second time I was an INFP. The tester told me I was both an introvert and an extrovert. And it's true.

    Loved the part about your brother - too funny!

  4. I wonder though if extroverts have rich inner lives as introverts. While introverts might not be the life of a party, they are usually very comfortable with themselves which is very much a gift in itself.Just food for thought. Too funny about your brother. Also, in family relationships, there are usually dominant roles, maybe due to persoanlity type or maybe sibling order.

  5. It's interesting, isn't it? I know I fall into the introvert group, and I've always felt like we're the poor relations. That somehow, being an extrovert is 'better' than being an introvert. That we are less .. interesting.

    On the other hand, as you say, extroverts may not always be the most fun or the most welcome. I guess it's part of an introvert's personality to think we're the 'less good' of the two?

  6. Excuse me for interupting, but there's nothing wrong with being introvert!....:)