“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.)
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.