There was a moment in high school when I turned down going to a party filled with all of my friends, where people were playing my favorite games and watching my favorite movies, in favor of reading a book at home by myself. I thought: what is wrong with me?
This confused me for years because I’m not really shy. Soft spoken? Yes. But I can be the life of the party when I want to be. I LOVE meeting new people. In fact, I work in human services, which pretty much requires working one-on-one with, you know, humans. I’m a people person. A people person who often wants nothing more than to curl up by myself and never see people.
A Meyers Briggs test recently cleared up this confusion, and offered a lot of clarity. For those unfamiliar with the test, (I took several online approximations of the real thing, which all gave the same result) it answers your primary preference in four areas:
Where do you get your energy? (Introversion or Extroversion)
How do you take in the world around you? (Intuition or Sensing)
How do you make decisions? (Thinking or Feeling)
How do you structure yourself within the world? (Judging or Perceiving)
After these four questions are answered, you are given a type, which shows your primary mode of functioning (mine is Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging, or INFJ), and each type has it’s own order in which things are prioritized (functional stack) and clarifies which functions in that order are primarily internally or externally based. Interestingly, extroverts present their primary function to others, whereas introverts’ primary function is internal and they present their secondary function instead. So, there’s another reason why it’s harder to know an introvert besides, you know, that they may not always want to talk to you.
What I discovered was that yes, I’m introverted in the way I perceive and process information, but I’m an extroverted feeler, which means I’m more in tune with the feelings around me than my own and base my decisions off of those feelings. This explained both why I felt a strong connection to people, and why I avoided parties like my life depended on it. Not only do I recharge alone, but at a party I take in all the other emotions in the room, kind of like sensory overload. And interestingly, extroverts can be introverted feelers, or introverted thinkers, etc. None of us, not even the extroverts, present our whole selves to the world.
Another revelation came from reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Did you know that there can be shy extroverts as well? It’s a common myth that all shy people are introverts and all outgoing people are extroverts. In fact, introversion vs. extroversion has to do with where you get your energy, whereas shyness vs. “outgoingness” has to do with how comfortable you are around people. So, it’s possible to feel the need to recharge by talking to other people, even if you are someone who gets nervous around strangers. This might be the person who frequently vents to her best friends or relaxes by staying out with his buddies on Friday, but cringes at the idea of giving a speech or throwing a big party.
So there you have it. Are you an outgoing introvert? A shy extrovert? An introverted feeler? An extroverted senser? There are so many different ways that we process information and interact with the people around us.
For more information on MBTI types or to take the test, click here.