I tend to like people, and socializing, so I thought this meant I was an extrovert. In fact, on the Myers-Briggs personality test, I typically tip into the "E" category by slightly over 50% (I'm an ENFJ).
So I was surprised to learn from Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won't Stop Talking, that, according to her defintion, I am most likely an introvert who has learned how to appear extroverted in certain situations.
In fact, extroversion and introversion have nothing to do with whether or not you like people or socializing, according to Cain's analysis of the research. Instead, it is defined as the level of outside stimulation that you need to function well. Extroverts need new stimuli, like meeting lots of new people, are often thrill seeking, tackle work assignments quickly, make fast decisions and are comfortable multi-tasking. Introverts, on the other hand, prefer to work slowly and deliberately, listen more than they talk, feel they express themselves better in writing than in conversation, and typically dislike conflict.
I was amazed to find myself ticking nearly all the boxes on the list to put myself squarely in the category of introvert.
The Hub hates quizzes and definitions like these. He says there's no point in categorizing people as we're all too complex for that. I agree to some extent -- does it matter that I might be an extrovert by one definition and an introvert by another? And which definition is "right" anyway?
I will say though that reading Cain's book has helped me to understand a bit more about myself, particularly when it comes to a few things that were troubling me. For example, I do love socializing and going to parties, but I also find them incredibly exhausting and need time to "recover" afterwards. If faced with a week where there are numerous social events, particularly on consecutive nights, I don't cope well at all (just ask the Hub about how high the crankiness levels can get). But needing time alone to recharge, according to Quiet, is just par for the course for an introvert. This made me realize that being protective over my time alone and not allowing myself to be over scheduled was not a weird thing (as I have always thought), but something I actually need to do.
I find it is relevant to my work as well, and probably why I found being a journalist so draining, as it involved constant interaction with others. Although I have to participate in a lot of meetings at my current job, including external ones, and speak at conferences, I have always found myself needing to limit these events or group them together (I tend to try to schedule meetings in the afternoon so I have an uninterrupted morning to do research and writing). This is also not surprising for an introvert. Another mystery solved.
Whether or not you are an introvert or an extrovert, this book is enlightening. I am not naive enough to think that people do fit completely into one box or another, but I will say that this book gave me a much better understanding of human nature and why it is very important to "know thyself". And it gave me a justification for the fact that every weekend I try to kick the Hub out of the house (if for only a few hours!).
© 2015 Mind, Body & Scroll.