I, Introvert

I recently took a Myers-Briggs personality test and I scored an INTJ. This literally means absolutely nothing to you right now, and funny enough assuming that everyone is on the same page as me is one of the personality traits of an INTJ. But let me put this into a little more perspective.

The way this particular Myers-Briggs test was conducted (apparently there are a few different ways to figuring out your personality type) involved independently answering thirty-two different questions. Each question then corresponded to a particular trait of your personality type, based on the typology developed by Carl Jung. Each personality type has four traits, and each trait has a dichotomous interpretation. This might not make a lot of sense to you still, and yes this is more of my INTJ coming out.

This will probably make most sense if I break down my own personality type. INTJ represents Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, and Judging. For each of these four traits, there is a counter-trait. My opposite would be Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving. And these traits can be mixed up in any number of ways. You can be an ENFJ, Extroversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Judging. A lot of the people were split down the middle with where they could fit: they could either be an ISTP or an INTP, because the answers they gave on the test didn’t create a clear personality trait. In fact, most people I took this test with had some sort of leeway with which personality type they fit under.

I on the other hand am a complete INTJ. On the test, literally every answer I gave fit into this personality type. I am pure 100% INTJ according to this test. This isn’t even the first test of this kind where I fit 100% into a category. A few months ago I took a test that determined my communication style. The possible options were kinetic (communication and decision making is based on feeling), audio (based on how things sound), visual (based on how things look), and audio-digital (based on how things line up logically). Like many of these tests, your scores can vary and you can probably even fit into a couple of different categories. I scored completely in the audio-digital category. The woman facilitating the test told me that the only other time she had seen a score like that was when she did the test with engineers.

Both of these tests highlight a part of my personality I always knew was present, but only just recently begun to full understand what this part of my personality actually means and how it affects my behaviours in the world. Both of these tests highlighted my introversion.

I’ve always identified as an introvert and have been reading up a lot on introversion lately in hopes of fully understanding why I act so weird around some people and why I get so tired any time I leave my house but can never get to sleep once I’m home. There’s been a lot of outpouring of introversion analysis and support on the internet (and what better place for introverted people to try and safely express their ideas about themselves) and I’ve learned a lot about my own personality and even debunked a lot of the myths around introversion.

Back when I was in high school, when I would tell people I’m introverted they reacted in one of two ways (sometimes both): they would either treat me like I’m depressed, or they would think I’m a dick who doesn’t like anybody. Frankly, both of these things are wrong. Especially the latter. I really do like people, a lot and I constantly seek the approval of others. I crave that shit like it’s a Big Mac. In both my work and my personal life I don’t feel comfortable with anything I’m doing unless someone else expresses some sort of approval over it. Even if the approval is just implied, I’ll fill in the blanks for myself, convince myself I’ve been given full approval, and strut on confidently.

The saddest demonstration of this was when I had my first interview for a magazine job. Despite already being in the downtown neighbourhood where the interview was taking place for a class, I still drove home to the suburbs before I changed into my interview suit so that my mother could approve of my wardrobe choice. Otherwise, I would have fidgeted and drowned myself in nervous sweat throughout the interview (I mean, even worse then I already had) and probably blown the entire thing.

With this in mind, I can definitively say that I do like people despite being an introvert. Introversion has nothing to do with liking people or not; it has to do with energy.

Let’s take a look at my girlfriend as my antithesis. The every fact that we’re opposites in this way is probably one of the strongest points in our relationship. When she goes out to see friends or goes to a bar and has a lot of people around her, she’s like Mario and she just picked up a gold star. Crazy disco music starts playing, she’s doing front flips and running all over the place, and nothing can touch her or stop her. When she’s home and relaxing, she falls asleep. She sleeps a lot while she’s at home. I’m sometimes convinced I’m dating a cat. Except for the fact she really likes dogs. And I’m not allergic to her.

My girlfriend is an extrovert. In fact, a textbook extrovert. She gets energized by being around people. She draws energy in from others and is at her peak when others around her are paying attention to her.

Introverts are the opposite of this. When I’m around people, especially if they are paying attention to me, it drains me of my energy. If I’m going to a bar or to a party, I need to make sure I always have a nap before I go because if I don’t I’m going to be that guy who sits in a single spot the entire night, yawning and staring out into nothing. I gain energy by being alone and in quiet.

This is one of the reasons why my relationship works so well. When we’re out, she can be the party and go nuts while I follow along rather than compete for attention with her. When we’re home, she can take her cat naps while I work on my odd little hobbies and she’s not suddenly competing for attention with me while I’m working on things at home.

Of course, there are other things to the relationship as well and there are plenty of times where we both get super energized and have a lot of fun when it’s just the two of us together. I tend to think that aspect kind of works like this: she gets energized because another person (me) is around, where I get energized because no one else is around except for her and I feel safe when she’s around.

This is just one small self-analysis of a much bigger and more interesting topic and there is so much to read up on that will help give you a really big, clear picture as to everything that encompasses into what it is to be an introvert and what it is to be an extrovert. But, just like my INTJ self, I’ve done a lot of thinking and reflection around a single point. Now to tie it all back together.

Everyone who took this Myers-Briggs test work in the same office as I do. It brought up a lot of things about my working style I was already aware of, like how I’m very task oriented, I like completing projects, I like structure and schedules, I think before I act, things have to be logical before I can accept them, and I like solving complex problems. All this I already knew. But it brought up a few other things that made total sense to me, but I never took the time to stop and notice. And when they were brought up, though they’re completely normal things, I could see how some people in my office might think I’m a dick.

Let me give a bit of context to how I work in my nine-to-five job. Yes, I work in a cubicle. Sort of. I’m at a desk around a bunch of other desks that are occupied by people who work for the same organization as I do but often work on different tasks. Usually the definition of cubicle office work. Except that we don’t have walls around our desks. I’m constantly out and exposed, around other people, who are often talking and gabbing about non-work related topics while I’m just trying to buckle down and get things done. Classic introvert’s conundrum. It’s a great environment when I need to bounce ideas around. Otherwise, I’m the guy sitting in the corner with my big (and I mean studio size and quality) headphones on, huddled down in front of my keyboard, not taking part in any conversation, and rarely saying good morning back.

Other INTJ qualities include hurting people’s feelings without knowing it, being firm-minded and critical, unaware of new tasks arising, sometimes overlook facts, and working on single projects alone for long spurts of time without interruptions. Yeah, this sums me up. Though none of this is particularly malicious, I can see how it can come off that way.

While all of my coworkers looked at their test results and we all discussed our qualities, I decided to step a great deal out of my introverted comfort zone and talk about how I work. I addressed the headphones, sitting in the corner, being quiet, and my very short and direct answers when asked about something. I reassured my workmates that I’m not angry about anything and that I do like people and though I may keep to myself it’s simply because it’s how I work best.

Since taking this test, not only have my coworkers come off more understanding about how I work, I’ve also taken note on how I can come off and have started making more of an effort to take off the headphones and try to gab along, even if I don’t actually give a shit. It’s brownie points and those do add up. Better to be the quiet one with a lot of brownie points than to be the weird one no one wants to talk to.

One more good thing came out of that INTJ result. Another trait it outlines is working in short, productive bursts. So when people catch me on Amazon while I’m at my desk, I get to say “ten minute brain break, just did forty minutes of solid work” and it’s now an acceptable excuse. They don’t need to know that the ten minute brain break’s been going on for an hour now. I got enough brownie points for that anyways.

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