Archive for the 'Book of the Moment' Category

Very “In”-terestng

Sunday, March 5th, 2006

Last year, sometime, my mother took part in a week-long seminar/retreat in which all participants took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator “test” (MBTI) after first arriving. Those of you familiar with the MBTI, which is used frequently in corporate America, know that the result is a four-letter “score.” (As an aside, I have it on good authority that accounting and consulting firm Ernst and Young will only promote employees to managers if they have a certain MBTI result [the ESTJ], as that personality type is the best predictor of success in the position).

The four letters in a result correspond to the individual’s location along four separate continua (that’s the plural of continuum, yo. I double checked just to be sure):

Introvert vs. Extrovert;
Sensing vs. Feeling;
Thinking vs. INntuition; and
Perceiving vs. Judging

At my mother’s retreat, the entire week was devoted to learning more about each individuals own MBTI result, and about how that result/personality interacts with other results/personalities. There were lots of group activities, for example, in which people with personality “types” that don’t automatically mesh too well, were put together and given a decision-making task to complete in a limited amount of time.

My mother, who is nothing if not a detailed story-teller, filled me in on the experience and on some of the things she learned about herself and about the MBTI test, in general.

What stuck with me most of all was the insight that whether a person scores as an “I” or an “E” (an introvert or an Extrovert) has nothing to do with whether they are outgoing or shy types. Instead, the I and E result are a pure function of how one processes thoughts and information. “I” people do their serious thinking “inside their heads,” as it were. While “E” people only process information if they’re doing it outloud. That was news to me. I had fallen for the common stereotype that an “introvert” is a shy, retiring gal. But I learned that an introvert can be quite social, but just needs quiet time to do the best mental processing.

That part stuck with me because I’ve never doubted that I’m in the “I” category. This girl needs to do her thinking alone. When my boss comes into my office and wants an answer to a question that he’s posing to me for the first time, I can stumble through an analysis on an easy matter, but if it’s complicated, I invariably try to buy time – alone time – so that I can come up with something more insightful.

Anyway, with my mother’s tale percolating around somewhere in my introverted brain, I fell prey to an impulse purchase, a few weeks back, while in a bookstore.

Like lots of impulsively purchased books (note to self: stop doing that and just go to the dang library), this one set in my room unread.

But then, a couple of weeks back, I heard an interesting interview on the radio with Jonathan Rauch, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly. The story was on the overwhelming response he had received after writing a short piece called Caring for your Introvert. Apparently, since it’s publication, hundreds of self-diagnosed introverts have been writing to thank him for the piece, and speaking of the liberating effect of realizing that introverts are not flawed creatures, only different ones, with different needs.

There was the excuse I needed to revisit that lonely book in my room. And I’m enjoying it immensely. It is liberating to find something like a grand, unifying theory for many of the quirks that I recognize in myself. The notion that the world is run by extroverts, and that we introverts can learn some simple steps on the best adapting techniques, is holding my interest at the moment.

Another idea in the book is that Introverts and Extroverts generate and use energy quite differently. I’m only 30 pages into it, you understand, but I give the book a thumbs up in this, my mini-book review for the week.

If you are, or have in your life, an introvert (and remember, they might be a very social person), then you should check out the article, linked above, and, if you’re a type with lots of free time (or if you, like me, find yourself tempted to blow off other stuff you should be doing in order to have time to read), then maybe check out the book, too.