Love all the -verts!

Love all the -verts!

“Introvert” is one of the top buzzwords of 2013. The introvert/extrovert sensation rages across Buzzfeed, Forbes, Inc., etc. It sells books and moves magazines. It creates a divide of us vs. them, with accusations like “Well, of course you don’t get it. You’re an extrovert!” being thrown around carelessly.

The media has pushed us into thinking we are polarized as introverts or extroverts, forsaking middle ground. People across the globe had a “Ohhhhh, THAT’S what introverted really means?” moment when they discovered that it has nothing to do with being shy or disliking people. And maybe that’s where the trouble began: a deeply rooted misunderstanding (and sometimes mistreatment) of introverts. Introverts threw their fists into the air and shouted, “We will not go quietly into the night! We are not broken! Now leave us alone!” And thus the introvert reclamation was born.

Recently, the “ambivert” movement has been gaining traction as the key to life’s social interaction mysteries, some even claiming most of us are ambiverts. While I agree that many of us are “somewhere in the middle” of the -vert spectrum, the idea that we’re all so closely aligned to the middle of it that we can’t identify with either type doesn’t hold. Most of us, given the proper questions, scenarios, and testing, would show a preference for one mode of function over the other. Oh, and apparently ambiverts do it better.

Enough with the -verts, people.

Whatever your preferred -vert function, it’s only a fraction of your personality. One fourth, to be exact, according to Myers-Briggs. Your -vert is your energy locus. Introverts gain energy through alone/downtime; extroverts refuel their energy supplies through being around others; and ambiverts are somewhere in between. While our energy locus can color our personalities (some more than others), the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) points us to further distinguishing characteristics.

The MBTI is made up of four parts (or letters) creating a total of 16 different combinations (or types):

1) I/E: preference for introversion/extroversion – where we get energy
2) N/S: preference for iNtuition/sensing – how we gather information
3) F/T: preference for feeling/thinking – how we make decisions
4) J/P: preference for judging/perceiving – how we deal with and give structure to the world around us

Which of these seems more likely to influence the way we behave, if we understand each other, or even if we like one another? I’m betting you’re thinking of a number between 2 and 4 right now. Here’s a breakdown of keywords associated with each MBTI preference. (See bottom of post for more info on figuring out which type you are.)

MBTI preferences at a glance.

Your type is defined by which function you prefer the most–the one in the left column or the one on the right. For example, I am an Introvert who tends to trust iNtuition, value Feeling, and organizes through Judging. This makes INFJ my MBTI.

Personally, the MBTI marker that I get hung up on the most is the third one–the feeling/thinking preference. I have a difficult time understanding where a “T” is coming from, being that I strongly lean “F.” And while someone who is a strong extrovert will wear this (mostly) introvert down with prolonged interaction, I understand and get along quite well with my “E” counterparts. I’d even argue that the relationship between introverts and extroverts can be symbiotic, balancing each other out. I love going to parties with extroverts because they tend to enjoy doing all the talking, which frees me up to listen and process on the periphery.

As with any spectrum, there are varying degrees of polarity. Nothing will be one-size-fits-all, but that’s why I like the MBTI so much: rather than dividing people into two, three, or four categories like other personality inventories, the MBTI offers more flexibility and accuracy with 16 different types. It better accounts for the richness in our nature rather than pigeonholing us into narrow, diametrical terms.

So can we move on from the hype over introvert vs. extrovert vs. oh, by the way, what about ambiverts? Can we stop talking about them in terms of difference and focus instead on understanding one another? Further, can we celebrate each type–wherever it may fall on the -vert spectrum–for exactly what it is as opposed to suggesting how it can improve? That is, after all, the very basis of the MBTI: a tool for understanding others–not segregating them.

Whatever -vert you are, know that you are awesome in all your -verty glory. You “T” folks, however, I’ve got my doubts about you… ;)

P.S. This article from Scientific American puts forth an interesting question: is it sensitive introversion or narcissism? There’s a Likert-style inventory at the end to help you suss it out.

If you don’t already know your MBTI, the folks at SimilarMinds.com have a few good, easy, and free inventories to help you discover it. Here’s their quick and dirty test. There are several others under the “Jung” heading if that one does not satisfy you. And I prefer TypeLogic’s website for in-depth descriptions of each type if you’re curious about your MBTI as well as the other 15.


  1. I discovered MBTI back in college when I worked in the career center. Our director used it to define our jobs and to help her manage. I scored very strongly on the NFP part and more in the middle on the I/E spectrum–leaning slightly toward I. For me, I feel like an introvert, but I wear the extrovert hat well. If it’s required, I can do it and deal–though it is exhausting for me. I think younger me was much more of an introvert, and I’ve noticed that I fluctuate depending on who I’m around. In groups of introverts, I’m an extrovert, for example, because someone often needs to fit that role. Relationship-wise, I definitely am healthier with an extroverted mate. I can become a total hermit if left to my own devices–which can be unhealthy. I actually have had many friends/mates who were INFPs, and I’ve discovered that–while I feel at home with them–it’s harder to maintain relationships. After a while, we’re bound to disagree, and then it’s very hard to reconcile because usually the argument is values-based. Which truly sucks because there can be giant rifts with people you deeply care about. And given our propensity for avoidance, it can be really tough to fix it. Overall, I love being an INFP and enjoy the debates–though I don’t think a lot of my extroverted friends join me in that enjoyment.

    • You bring up several good points, Alma. As we grow, our personalities shift around a bit, meaning our tendency to lean one way or another on any of the four markers also shifts. I used to score WAY higher on the introvert function than I do now. When folks tell me it’s been years since they took an MBTI inventory, I always urge them to take it again.

      Further, you hit the nail on the head about introverts learning to function as extroverts. I think our “I” can also get muddled by other factors like the company we’re in (I’m fairly extroverted with certain people/situations), how recharged we are to begin with, and even the other MBTI markers (my “F” sometimes masks my “I”).

      And again, you mention the way these types can balance each other out. No type is superior to another, and they all make the world go ’round. I hope everyone can get to the point you are, embracing their MBTI-ness for what it is and even what it is not.

  2. You are so right about how our personalities shift around a bit as we age. I am much less inclined to socialize nowadays whereas when I was younger I enjoyed it immensely. I still enjoy it, just on a smaller scale and less frequently.

    When I was younger I also easily stepped into roles of leadership and authority because it usually was the quickest route to getting things done the way I wanted them done. Now I prefer to work behind the scenes to keep things running as smoothly as possible. I often find myself “in trouble” at work, not because I don’t get the results they want, often even exceeding their expectations, but because I don’t always walk the prescribed paths or follow the rigidly enforced formulas laid down. Too often I run into the “there is only one right way to do something” mentality and I’m more of a “I wonder if…” type person. This has led to even more introversion as I’ve learned you can’t defeat or even reason with the corporate mentality. I never was very good at the paint by the numbers kits either.

    I’ve never really delved into the -vert controversy much. I just know I’m an introvert who will sometimes, like that perv in the park., whip open my raincoat and reveal my hidden extrovert, then try to slink back into obscurity. I don’t really think of people as verts at all, usually just as jerks or not jerks mostly. And jerks can be intro, extro or ambi, every once in awhile I even see one peeking back at me from the mirror.

    By the way, I usually test out as an INTP- architect

    Enjoyed reading this post, Ashley.

    • Your second paragraph hits the “P” and “N” markers right on the head. If those are strong drivers within you (and it sounds like they are), being in a leadership role makes sense. Leaders call the shots–whether that means instructing others to follow traditional, tried-and-true methods or fostering an environment open to exploring other, more creative options.

      I’ve read and heard that as we age, we’re “supposed” to gravitate more toward the middle of the four MBTI spectrums, as that demonstrates growth and optimal functioning. I disagree with this idea. Rather, the more life experience we acquire, the more we learn how (and when) to put on different hats–much like the introvert who puts on her extrovert hat when at a business meet-and-greet. And even though we become more adept at this, eventually, our true colors come out.

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