Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Doesn't Play Well With Others"

I am an introvert. And I'm surprised the title phrase never appeared on my report cards.

The first time I learned about my introversion was back in the early 90s, fresh out of college, and I took the MBTI (Myers-Briggs) for the first time. It came back INFP. I was a little taken aback: INFP?? ME? No, no, they have this wrong. Granted, I had been in a pretty down mood just before I took the test (thanks to a very spiteful coworker at the time), so maybe that's why the I part came in but no, no, no, I was a very outgoing person.

I had no idea.

I took it again a few years later: same result. I took another one that my new job did as part of an administrative team training. It wasn't the classic Myers-Briggs but I got similar results. I didn't end up in the "people person" quadrant. I was quite surprised again..... what was I answering incorrectly, I thought, to skew these answers? Over the years I've come to realize that there were no wrong answers -- only honesty.

I am an introvert. And these days, I embrace that label. It doesn't mean that I can't be social -- indeed, when I'm in a small group, and especially one in which I am very comfortable, I am THE motormouth of the group. But I have to work up to that level of comfort with you before I can get to that stage. It doesn't mean I'm slow on the draw, backward, shy, or a misanthrope (though I have my days when Grumpy Cat and I would be quite a pair). It does not mean I wish to be a hermit in every non-working waking hour. It means that I need quiet private time to myself in order to function well.

What it means is that I derive my energy from an internal source instead of external stimuli. Extroverts need to be around people in order to recharge. I need to withdraw from everyone to recharge. Think of it this way: extroverts need a Vegas strip hotel; introverts need a mountain cabin, off the main road, and maybe (maybe) a few close friends. The thought of a silent weekend retreat would petrify many extroverts; introverts are screaming, "OOOH! Where do I sign up?"

When I read Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus (because I was trying to understand someone in my life) and reading the portion about men needing "cave time" I wondered briefly if I was really a guy -- because the idea of having "cave time" was absolutely delicious. I realize now that it should have been a sure sign that I was an introvert.

Truth? I actually rather enjoy public speaking and performance, and trust me, I can improvise on the fly, take things as they roll, and never think twice about it.

But I don't schmooze well. I enjoy social functions but I will not work the room. I will speak to a small group of people, or dart between people with whom I am comfortable. The word "networking" makes me wretch; there's a connotation there of people determining if and how someone will be useful to them in the future..... I don't do small talk very well. And woe be unto ye if you get inside my personal space...... if you are in line next to me, stay back, please. I don't want you over my shoulder when I'm buying a pack of gum!

If you would like to learn more about introversion or introverted people, I highly recommend Quiet by Susan Cain. And just remember that we're people too, we just operate slightly differently in a world that sees it in a negative light while trumpeting extroversion as a positive value.

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