Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What does it mean to be an introvert?

I'm an introvert.  Introvert/extrovert is one of the attributes tested by the Meyers-Briggs test.  On the version of the test I have taken each pair of attributes is scored on a number scale from +83 to -83.  +83 is 100% introvert.  -83 is 100% extrovert.  I scored a +78.  I am very much an introvert.

And yet I did speech and drama for 4 years in high school.  I get up and preach sometimes, including headlining a week-long revival at an inner-city church in Trinidad.  I attend Sunday School  and worship most weeks (when all of the kids are healthy.)  I have friends.  So in my case "introvert" does not mean hermit or simply dislikes being around people.

It is something I have thought about quite a bit, for several reasons.  I'm trying to puzzle out my strengths and weaknesses for future work/projects.  I'm trying to figure out how to describe my strengths and weaknesses to potential employers and new friends.  And, as I study the whole job search and hiring issue I have developed a theory that introverts have a harder time getting hired--because I think that many of the job search activities were designed by extroverts (salespeople) for extroverts (salespeople.)

I have only broad theories for the world at large.  I have specific theories for myself.

The definition for introvert that I have been using for years is "recharges their batteries by being alone."  For myself, I think that the definition needs to be expanded.

My new definition has 3 components:

  1. Recharges their batteries by being alone.
  2. Prefers smaller groups to larger ones.
  3. Prefers structured activities with groups over unstructured ones.
I don't mind large groups, so long as there is a structure to what the group will be doing.  Worship services are very structured.  Bible studies are very structured.  Plays are very structured.  Play practice is even very structured.

If you took the same group that I was perfectly comfortable with in one of those settings, and put us in a new setting with little or no structure then I'm going to react in one of two ways.  If anyone else steps up to lead the group and impose structure then I will gladly let them do it--I will fade into the background and participate in the structured activity.  If no one else steps up to lead the group then I will either step up and impose structure or leave.

I will not participate in a large group for an unstructured time.  That is a form of chaos that I stresses me out tremendously.

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