Why a little bit of introversion may help you better relate to others
I taught a course back in December and one of the students was curious to know how her fellow Humanists taking the course scored on the Myer-Briggs test. I scored as an INTJ (introverted, intuition, thinking and judgment) others were INFP’s (Feeling and perception), what was interesting is we were all, on balance introverted.
Now, obviously, we should take any Myers-Briggs test with a grain of salt. I think the value in it is not in its accuracy, but in how it helps us think about the positive attributes that people who aren’t like us bring to the table.
Regardless, there was a wonderful essay by Ram Bansal about how to be more charismatic. (see: http://pleasures-of-living.blogspot.com/2012/12/improve-upon-your-charisma.html) Ram is a Humanist by the way. One of the things he says is that being about 60% introverted and 40% extroverted helps us to be more charismatic.
Here is his reasoning. Introverts don’t suck up all the air in a room. They make space for other people to be, and this helps other people feel more secure and drawn to the introvert. As Ram Bansal says, introversion “makes the person to have an inclination towards thoughtfulness and intellectualism. His/her quality of extroversion would provide him/her courage to face the world squarely and project him/herself boldly.”
Like everything, this is about getting the balance right. Being too much of an introvert would prevent us from interacting well with others. But being too much of an extrovert means we are too focused on ourselves to truly notice other people. I think the key to getting the balance right is to understand that introversion helps us to be thoughtful of our impact on others. Being thoughtful helps improve our relationships with others because it keeps our competing interests in balance.
While I do believe that a certain amount of introversion and extroversion is nature based, I also believe we can adjust our levels of introversion and extroversion through active nurture (ie: practice). I know that I used to be incredibly shy and am now considered an extrovert by almost everyone, even though I consistently test as an introvert. My mother is the same way and changed how she acts simply by deciding to practice being more extroverted (or at least that is the story she told me as she encouraged me to be more outgoing and courageous).
I know that, for me, I am at my best when I actively think about and choose how out there or introverted I want or should be in any given situation. I find the courage to put myself out there by accepting that I might get the social situation completely wrong and come off as a complete dork. Happens a lot actually. But what keeps me going is that just as often, I get the balance right. I am able to make good friends by being extroverted. I am able to give people the space to be who they are by being more introverted. And I feel good about that.
So, the big question is: am I the only person who has to actively think about how extroverted or introverted I am? Do any of you actively think about how you are going to act? How do you convince yourself to be more extroverted and how do you convince yourself to take a back seat so that others can shine?