I was not surprised last year when I took the Myers-Briggs personality test at Career Services and received my results: ISFJ. Introverted Sensing with Feeling. What surprised me was that I was only “moderately” introverted, as the career services woman informed me. “Take a look at this grid,” she said. I looked – there were 16 boxes, with each possible Myers-Briggs type. “Think of your box – ISFJ – as your home. The place you recharge and relax, the place you return at the end of the day,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t want to stay at home. You’ll go other places. But you’ll always come back to your home.”
This was a metaphor for “trying on” other personality types in varying social situations. Sometimes, my counselor lady said, you will be in a place that draws you out of your shell. You’ll be more outgoing, more extroverted. Sometimes you’ll be more intuitive, more thinking, rather than sensing and feeling. But you’ll always revert to your type.
While Myers-Briggs types may fit us about as well as a body-builder fits into a size XS, they can also fit like a glove: perfectly. And although a sheet of fairly black-and-white questions may egg us on to answer in a certain way and thus not ascertain our personalities with precision, the way we answer these questions does lend insight into who we are.
We tend to think of “extroverts” as loud, crazy, and the life of the party – social animals with no qualms about talking to strangers or voicing their opinions in public. “Introverts,” on the other hand, have the connotation of timidity and shyness, perhaps sitting sullenly in a corner in social settings and looking uncomfortable, or enjoying a night of solitude rather than a night with friends. These are, I think, extreme stereotypes for classifications that do not describe how you interact with people, but where you focus your attention and where you get energy.
Once I understood this, I felt better about being classified as an “introvert.” Telling people I’m an introvert doesn’t have to mean I hate people and want to live a cloistered life.
And as Myers-Briggs informed me, you CAN be in the middle of the spectrum of introversion and extroversion. Speaking of which, I learned a new word from wikipedia today. Ambiversion – the balance of introversion and extroversion. Did anyone know this was an option? Any ambiverts out there??
What’s your type?