The Reluctant Extravert

The Myers-Briggs MBTI assessment claims it can help determine whether a person is an introvert or an extravert.  According to the official Myers-Briggs site, people know they are an extravert if they think things like, “I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.”

I have received the training to be a qualified Myers-Briggs instructor.  Whenever I have taken the MBTI assessment, my score or preference for extraversion is very high.  According to these results, “I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”  I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.  I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.  I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over. Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.”

Lately I’ve considered that I may be a bit of a reluctant extravert.  Many of these points just do not fit me. I would say that most people that meet me would consider me outgoing.  I do like to talk.  I have a hard time handling “dead air”. I also like to have a lot to do. These are definitely extraverted traits.  However, usually I prefer to avoid being around a lot of people.  Many of the above-listed points do not really describe me at all.  For example, I don’t jump into things without a great deal of thought.

Why would my score come out as having a high preference for extraversion?  In my training, they explained that we can act more introverted or extraverted based on a situation.  I think it can be difficult to lump people into categories or types.  I think Myers-Briggs does it as well as any assessment can.  However, even in the training I received, they acknowledged that we are all different.  No one is always one way or another.  It is about preferences.  Our preference for introversion or extraversion is similar in how we prefer to be right-handed or left-handed.  We might be able to write with both, but we prefer one over the other.  We may be able to be outgoing or not, but we prefer one over the other.

One of the reasons I co-wrote the book It’s Not You It’s Your Personality is because I don’t think any “one” personality assessment can truly explain people.  There are many theories about personality that need exploration. I felt that the Big Five, Management by Strengths, DISC, and other assessments offered some valid insight into people’s personalities. While I highly recommend learning about Myers-Briggs and the MBTI, I also think some of the other assessments are worth researching as well.

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