A Myers-Briggs Expert Explains Why Introverts May Not Be Loving Quarantine
Introversion is only one aspect of your personality.
If you believe social media (and I know that’s a big if), now is the “Age of the Introvert.” Before the virus, life was all about socializing, meetings, get-togethers, and people, people, people — the time when extraverts roamed the earth.
But now it’s all about social distancing, so it’s a paradise for introverts, surely? Well no, not quite. “Introversion” is only one part of an introvert’s personality, and even introverts need some meaningful contact with other people.
Just like introversion isn’t the only part of your personality, inventories like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment don’t just look at whether someone has preferences for Extraversion or Introversion. They also address three other areas: the sort of information a person prefers and trusts (Sensing or Intuition), how they prefer to make decisions (Thinking or Feeling), and whether they prefer to live in a structured, ordered way (Judging) or in a more unstructured, spontaneous way (Perceiving).
In other words, if you’re not loving the current stay-at-home situation, it’s because other preferences interact with your introversion to create unique needs. Let’s take a closer look at how this quarantine might be affecting your personality type.
The Different Aspects of Your Personality Type
All these aspects of personality will have specific impacts when people are suddenly forced to stay home:
Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)
People with a preference for Sensing (those with an S in their personality type, such as the ISFJ) may worry about losing touch with the “real” world, or struggle with the inherent uncertainty of this crisis and the lack of clear instructions. They may compensate by becoming obsessed with the details of their work or the world around them, or obsessively worrying about missing exercise or eating far too much. Those with an Intuitive preference (those with an N, such as the INTJ) may worry to an extreme about where all this is heading, or find they are over-complicating things.
Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
It is easy to miss the usual non-verbal cues when communicating remotely, and people with a Thinking preference (such as the ISTJ) may become very direct and task-focused, inadvertently upsetting those with a Feeling preference (such as the INFP) and leading to misunderstandings and stress for both parties.
Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)
People with a Judging preference (such as the INFJ) enjoy a planned, organized life and may be particularly unsettled by the imposed changes brought about by suddenly having to work, learn, and exist entirely at home. It will be useful for them to get into a new routine as soon as they can, setting clear goals at the start of each day and setting boundaries around working hours.
Those with a Perceiving preference (such as the INTP) may initially welcome the new flexibilities and freedoms. Once staying home settles into a routine, however, they may become frustrated by the lack of variety, especially in areas that are rigidly enforcing a shelter in place policy.
All Introverts ‘Extravert’ a Part of Their Personality
While it may be true that a preference for Introversion comes with an inclination to be energized by the inner world of thoughts and ideas, it’s also important to remember that even introverts need some contact with the world outside their heads — and that the sort of contact they require will depend on the other parts of their personality. This is all explained by a concept referred to as “type dynamics.”
Briefly, each of us will have a preferred way to take in information (Sensing or Intuition) and a preferred way to make decisions (Thinking or Feeling). We will tend to do one of these processes in an extraverted way, in full view of the outside world; the other we will tend to do in an introverted way, inside our heads. Introverts will spend more time and energy on the process they carry out inside — but they will still spend some effort on the process they do outside, and this may be difficult to do in the current crisis.
This may all seem a little abstract, so here’s an example. I’m going to talk about someone I know very well — me. I am an introvert; my MBTI preferences are for INTP. Given the chance, I spend a lot of my time solving problems and making objective decisions for myself inside my head, using Introverted Thinking. But that doesn’t mean that working from home (as well as conducting all my personal life at home) is plain sailing.
People with my type preferences have a tendency to make decisions without consulting or even telling others, and without regular contact with colleagues there is a danger that this happens more often. Also, like all introverts, I have extraverted aspects to my personality, with Extraverted Intuition being the most pronounced for me. Under normal circumstances, I enjoy brainstorming, swapping ideas, and sharing possibilities with other people.
Now that I am isolated at home, this aspect has found other ways to express itself. For example, conversations with my partner have become more random and obscure. Fortunately, with preferences for INFP, she also has Extraverted Intuition as part of her personality, but someone with a different personality type could find this difficult.
I’m not entirely sure, for example, what all my work colleagues think of this, as I am also tending to be more participative than you might expect in the Skype and other online discussions that I am now having. And every now and then, I get up from my desk and walk around the house, just to re-acquaint myself with a small sliver of the outside world.
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Personality Assessments Help Us Understand Ourselves
Type tools like the MBTI assessment don’t seek to place people in some stereotyped extravert or introvert box, but rather to help us understand ourselves better. And that includes an explicit recognition that we are complex, nuanced individuals who are affected by our current circumstances as well as by our underlying personality.
So, the next time someone tells you that as an introvert you must be having an easy time right now, go right ahead and correct them. And if you would like a few hints as to what might work in persuading them, have a look at this study on Myers-Briggs Type and influence.