Thursday, May 01, 2014

Introverts: The System Is Not Set Up for Us

If you're a follower of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI), you understand how some folks can be categorized by personality type:

E - Extroverted
I - Introverted
S - Sensing
N - iNtuitive
T - Thinking
F - Feeling
P - Perceiving
J - Judging

Most of the chatter I see on the internet is about the differences between introverts (of which I am one) and extroverts. But I believe, in my case, more than one factor plays into my occasional inability to enjoy the popular culture.

Extroversion vs. Introversion. No question that the American culture is extroverted. Do you love interacting with the crowd? Can you talk with anyone? Can you convince? Can you charm? If you answered yes to all of these, you're most likely going to succeed in this culture. Do crowds overwhelm or exhaust you? Are you uncomfortable talking with strangers? Do you trip over your tongue when trying to convince someone of your ideas? Do you lack an interest in winning people over? You might be a candidate for social ostracism...or a character spot on Big Bang Theory.

Sensing vs. Intuitive. America also has very much a sensing society: facts, dollars, sensations...if you work primarily with what's in front of your eyes, you're considered to have "common sense" and better able to address the questions of your peers on the spur of the moment. On the other hand, if you're more past- or future-minded or "inside your head," you're considered impractical, an egghead.

Thinking vs. Feeling. Our culture is more feeling than thinking (try getting into discussions about astronomy or philosophy with random strangers here!). Are you fond of tactfulness? In that case, you're less likely to get yourself into a social faux pas. Part of a democracy involves moderating opinions to ensure domestic tranquility, sometimes at the price strict truth--if such notions irritate you, well, you're likely to stand out in a crowd.

Perceiving vs. Judging. America is a pretty relaxed place on matters of protocol and timeliness. A "judging" person, in the MBTI world, means applying rules (arbitrary or not) to behavior. Perceiving people prefer to let things happen.

I'm about half there, most recently testing out as INFJ, Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging. So imagine a quiet guy who spends his time inside his head and is easily hurt or upset by the behavior or tardiness of others.

The Myers-Briggs traits are only part of the story. After living in Washington, DC, for three years, it became painfully clear to me that I was ill-fitted for life in our nation's capital. Do you crave power over others? Fame? If not, Washington and Hollywood are not for you. Do you want to experience everything from mountain climbing to extreme sports to "extreme eating?" No? I'm sorry, you won't fit the zeitgeist. Are you interested in making a fuss? Forcing your opinion on others? Do you want to share all of your personal secrets aloud? Live on the cutting edge of fashion? Own the newest, biggest, best, and most expensive of everything? If not, your social standing might suffer. Or so it seems to me.

It's a weird world out there, if your personality is not wired to appreciate it. Find your own way. It can be done.

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