March 23, 2014

MBPI: Extroversion and Introversion

Posted in Myers-Briggs, personality, relationships, writing at 2:09 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Before we got married, my husband and I attended some pre-marital counseling sessions that used the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBPI). After answering a lot of questions, we were each assigned a four-letter personality profile.  These profiles represented our inclinations in four different areas.  Our counselor felt that knowing these things about each other would help us avoid misunderstandings based on personality. He was right. The MBPI has helped me in my marriage, all my relationships, and my writing. People are different, and I believe diversity is what makes the human race successful and interesting. Frankly, I find it fascinating.

In the next few posts, I am going to talk about the four main designations of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. I am no expert. I will be simplifying ideas. If you want “better” information about this psychological assessment tool, I suggest visiting the Myers-Briggs Foundation.

Extrovert vs Introvert

As you probably already know, extroverts are outgoing and introverts are shy. This isn’t a black and white designation, with everyone being one or the other. Instead, think of it as a continuum. On the shy side, some people are more shy than others and the same is true for the outgoing. Some people are right in the middle.

Let’s go a step deeper into what it means to be an extrovert or introvert. It’s all about energy.

Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. They like being active, doing things. My father was an extrovert and a teacher. In retirement, he often led workshops at conferences. He’d talk about the buzz he’d get from being at a conference, talking to others, being surrounded by people. The large conference experience, for him, was positive and renewing.

His description of a conference was mindboggling to me, the introvert. Introverts get their energy from being alone. It doesn’t mean I don’t like being around other people, because I do. I go to conferences, but they are incredibly exhausting. I’ll meet people, chat, do the conference thing, then go back to my hotel room and collapse. After a quiet evening alone, I can summon the energy to go out and socialize again.

I like being alone. I like when the house is empty. I don’t put on music or the television. I like silence. For me, this is comforting and wonderful. This is how I recharge. I don’t want to be home alone all the time, but I need this sort of time if I am going to have the energy to function in the world.

My father was not as comfortable being alone. This doesn’t mean he avoided it, but when he was home alone, he would have the television on or music going. Quiet, alone time exhausted him. If he needed to re-charge, he would go to his favorite restaurant/bar. He was friends with the employees, and he loved to sit and chat with new people too. This is how he re-charged.

The extremely introverted need more alone time to re-charge than the mildly introverted. The extremely extroverted seek more social situations than the mildly extroverted.

Why is this important to a writer?

You need to know what sort of characters you are writing. Who is an introvert? Who is an extrovert? To what degree? How they respond to being left alone or being forced to socialize will add depth and authenticity to their character. Many writers are introverts, and they need to make sure their out-going characters don’t seek isolation to re-charge. That isn’t how it works.

How can knowing this help your relationships?

If you are an introvert married to an extrovert, or vice versa, you need to understand how this makes you different in terms of energy. You need to let your spouse re-charge in the appropriate way. An introvert is not trying to hurt your feelings when s/he needs to be alone. It is a matter of survival. In the same way, an extrovert is going to need to be around more than just you, the introvert. Don’t be hurt that you aren’t “enough.”

Two extroverted parents with an introverted child need not worry about how much time their child spends alone. That child has different needs than they do.

Even people of the same sort, two extroverts or two introverts, are likely to be at different points on the continuum. A mildly shy person might want to “go out” more often than the extremely shy person.

Knowing the energy/re-charging needs of people in your family won’t solve every problem, but it can help inform your discussions.

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3 Comments »

  1. Beth Buelow, The Introvert Entrepreneur said,

    Elizabeth, nice post! You’ve provided a nice summary of the differences. And you’re so right, understanding those differences can have a huge, positive influence on our relationships.

    While you hit the nail on the head with your descriptions and advice, there’s one small piece that’s not accurate: “introverts are shy.” It’s true that most shy people are introverts (I saw a stat once that said around 70%), but not that most introverts are shy. Shyness is about social anxiety; introversion, as you go on to describe, is about energy. The two can appear to the casual observer to be the same on the outside, but what’s happening on the inside is very different.

    People with either trait – introversion or shyness – might share some similar challenges, but how they address those challenges will depend on if it’s a matter of energy or anxiety.

    Have fun continuing to explore your type! It’s cool that you and your husband each know your type… I’m still trying to get my husband to do it. (I suspect he’s an INFP, but it’d be useful to have validation of that!)

    ~Beth (INFJ)

    • Beth,
      Thanks for explaining the difference between introversion and shyness. I’m both, so it was an easy mistake for me to make. It is interesting to me to think about people who are introverts but not shy. Personality and behavior are so fascinating!

  2. Bev Scott said,

    I soooo relate to your introversion. You might find support (as did I) in “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Laney 155.23 at the PC Library.
    INFP

    Bev Scott


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