“Quiet” Insights: On Introverts, Pseudo-Extroverts, and Voices in a Crowd [—at A Life Overseas]

Did you hear the one about the team of five cross-cultural workers who walk into pre-field training and take the Myers-Briggs personality assessment? Three of them get a code that’s “E” something something something, while two have “I” as their first letter. Then four of them turn to one of the “I”s and say, “Wait, what? You’ve got to be kidding. You are so not an introvert!”

Perhaps you’ve been part of a team like this. Perhaps you’ve been the one diagnosed with the suspect “I.” Perhaps you’ve been one of those who claim to know an extrovert when you see one.

Now this is where the facilitator steps in to explain that for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) the words extrovert and introvert don’t mean what we commonly think they mean. They’re not “loud” and “shy” respectively. Nor do they signify who is or who isn’t the “life of the party.” Rather, it’s an outer-world versus inner-world thing. As the Myers-Briggs Foundation asks at its site: “Where do you put your attention and get your energy?” Is that place inside, among your thoughts, or outside, where the people are.

But still, what about those who claim to be introverted when we all know better. We’ve seen them in action. We know how outgoing they are. Did the test fail them? Did they answer the questions incorrectly? Are they not self aware? Or are they trying to have it both ways?

Come on, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s got to be . . . an extrovert, or at least someone who wants to be the center of attention.

Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, gives us a lens through which to look at this dichotomy. You may have already read Quiet. It was published in 2012, after all. But I just got a copy a couple months ago, by way of a coworker, so I’m a little late to the game. Fellow ALO writer Rachel Pieh Jones has mentioned Quiet a couple times here at this blog, in 2013 and 2017. Maybe we need to bring it up every four years. If so, I guess it’s time again.

To Be or Not to Be . . . Yourself

When it comes to being either an introvert or an extrovert, Cain points out that it’s more than a simple either/or situation. Rather, there’s a spectrum between the extremes, even including “ambiverts,” those who find themselves right in the middle. But she also explains why true introverts can come across as extroverts, and she presents a vocabulary for discussing it. For example, there are “socially poised introverts,” who are “interpersonally skilled” while retaining their introversion. Some introverts “engage in a certain level of pretend-extroversion” when circumstances call for it. And some are “high self monitors,” meaning that they are “highly skilled at modifying their behavior to the social demands of a situation.” . . .

Read the rest of this post at A Life Overseas

(The Meyers-Briggs Foundation, “Extroversion or Introversion,” adapted from Charles R. Martin, Looking at Type: The Fundamentals, CAPT, 1997; Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Crown, 2012)

[photo: “Hand adjusting audio mixer,” by Ilmicrofono Oggiono, used under a Creative Commons license]


Personality Tests Can Be Functional and Fun, or Pass Me the Ball, Cinderella, We’re on the Same Team


What are you? An ISFJ? Hmm. Me? I’m an INFP. Hmmmmmmmm.

Many people, including current and potential missionaries and other church-worker types, have taken the popular personality test the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MTBI). And many of them have their four-letter label memorized. This gives them the ability to carry on quite a conversation based on their combination of characteristics. It also gives them the ability (or at least some think it does) to announce their letters as a way to say, “Don’t blame me, that’s just the way I am.” Take, for instance, what Sarah Condon, blogging at Mockingbird, has to say about the MBTI:

As a J, I can tell you that it was the fastest way to sort out the weirdos from the weirdest. And also, it was a great way to preemptively excuse your bad behavior. Once I learned my Myers Briggs, I could say whatever I wanted. It was like the “God put it on my heart to tell you . . .” of liberal Christianity. As long as I reminded people that my INFJ plight makes me “decisive and strong-willed” or “easily mistaken for an extrovert,” I could dole out all kinds of insistent and unwanted opinions.

Don’t judge Ms. Condon too harshly. She later repented of her ways.

In the missionary world, agencies and churches often use the MBTI to learn about candidates and to help them learn about themselves. The test can also be a tool for building teams and for giving team members insights on how to deal with each other. In addition to the MBTI, other useful tests include the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, the Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory, and the Color Code.

But is there a better test for looking at team dynamics? I think I may have found one. It’s ESPN’s new-just-last-week Which NBA Team Are You? quiz. Of course, you’ll have to care about professional basketball to get into this one, but what better way could there be to analyze teamshipfulness? Come on, the quiz even has Team in its title! (A word of caution: Before you take the quiz, please understand that we all can’t be Warriors.)

Not a basketball fan? Then try the Major League Baseball Fan Compatibility Test or Which NFL Team Should You Really Be Cheering For?

Obviously I’ve gone from “useful” personaly tests to simply fun (which can be useful in its own way). So, in that spirit, here are some charts for your MBTI type.

Who are you? Hermione, or Dumbledore? Superman, or Batman? Or are you a great dane, or a chihuahua?

Which Disney Princess or Heroine Are You?
Which Disney Prince or Hero Are You?
Which Saint Are You?

Which Star Wars Character Are you?
Which Battlestar Galactica Character Are You?
What Dr. Who Character Are You?
Which Harry Potter Character Are You?
Which Downton Abbey Personality Are You?
Which Avengers Character Are You?
What Marvel Characters Are You?
Which Hobbit Character Are You?
Which Lord of the Rings Character Are You?

For some more stand-on-their-own tests, ones that don’t require an MBTI code, here are

Which Superhero Are You?
Which Bible Character Are You?
What Shakespeare Character Are You?
Which Disney Character Are You?
Which Zootropolis Character Are You? (I guess Zootopia is called Zootropolis in the UK.)
Which Force Awakens Character Are You?
Which Hunger Games Character Are You?
Which John Hughes Character Are You?
Which Children’s Book Character Are You?
Which Dessert Are You?

What Kind of Car Are You?
What Cat Are You?
What Dog Breed Are You?
What Tree Are You?
What Instrument Are You?
What Animal Are You?

OK, on those last two. . . . For team building, I know that a complete orchestra needs all kinds of instruments, but when it comes to animals, would you want a pride full of lions, or should there be a couple sheep around for mealtime balance?

(Sarah Condon, “Personality Assesmentss: Grace and Neurosis,” Mockingbird, Marh 24, 2016)

[photo: “Cinderella | Soundsational,” by chris.alcoran, used under a Creative Commons license]