Someone once told me that true friendship is sitting in silence with someone and not feeling the need to say anything at all. While the introvert in me believes this to be partially true, I’ve sat through enough awkward conversation with people who I genuinely like and care about to know it’s a little more complex than that.
It’s often puzzled me why it’s so much easier to talk to some people than to others. I try not to make quick judgments about people, but I can usually tell after just one conversation whether there’s the right kind of chemistry for a “sit in silence together” kind of friendship. The biggest indicator? I can’t stop talking.
For me, it’s a rare and beautiful thing to meet someone new and feel a connection with them. I don’t necessarily mean a romantic connection. Although, it can be that. But, more of a feeling that you already know a person. Perhaps they remind you of another good friend you have. Perhaps they remind you of yourself.
When that happens, and I find someone who I’m comfortable being myself around, someone who asks all the right questions and seems genuinely interested in my answers, a simple cup of coffee can turn into a three-hour-long conversation where the restaurant will eventually kick us out because they’re closing. These rare connections are the people I want to keep around for the quiet spells as well.
Other times, I’ll meet someone new and find them immediately abrasive, and I can’t pinpoint why. Or, I’ll try to talk with someone who seems like a perfectly smart and nice person, who I want to like, but it’s impossible to keep a conversation going for more than thirty seconds without a long awkward pause.
MBTI Helps Me Understand Myself and Others Better
When I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and discovered I am an INFJ personality type, a lot of things in my life started to make more sense. Like why it bothered me when a coworker always felt the need to verbalize her thought process aloud. Why I preferred written communication when doing my own problem solving. Why no one else appeared to be following my train of thought, even when it seemed that speaking my thought process out loud would just be stating the obvious.
(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)
MBTI helped me understand a lot about myself, but it also helped me understand other people better. We don’t all process information in the same way. The rational part of me always knew this. Yet, as someone who has spent a lot of time obliviously caught up in her own mind, it didn’t occur to me until recently that sometimes I need to do my thinking out loud. Sometimes other people need this, because that’s how they operate as well, and they won’t understand that when I go quiet, it just means I’m thinking.
Even if it is a struggle sometimes to verbalize my thoughts, I try to remember not everyone is an intuitive type who feels comfortable sitting in silence. I can’t expect people to read my mind. Sometimes even stating the obvious is helpful. It can put the other party in the conversation at ease, because you are vocalizing that you are both on the same page.
My Close Friends Have Personality Types That Complement Mine
We are all different in the ways we communicate. One MBTI is in no way superior to another. However, I know when I’ve met someone with a personality type that complements my own, because this is when those effortless three-hour-long conversations happen. I want to tell them all my thoughts. It comes naturally.
When I discovered I am an INFJ, I immediately started asking my friends if they knew their types. Surprisingly, most of my close friends are extroverts, usually ENFJs, ENFPs, or ENTPs. These aren’t people who are necessarily similar to me in every respect, but the way we communicate complements each other.
I need extroverts in my life who will initiate conversations and get-togethers, because I almost never do. I turn into the most bubbly and lively version of myself when I’m around my extroverted friends because they continuously use their outgoing nature to show interest in my opinion and reaffirm that they value my company.
Personality Type Differences Could Explain Why You Don’t Mesh with Someone
Seeing these positive qualities in my extroverted friends inspired me to be more outgoing with other introverts as well. I know what it’s like to be desperate to have someone make the first move. You feel like you are literally oozing awkward out of every pore. As an INFJ, the only thing I hate more than this feeling is knowing someone else is feeling it, too.
Taking a deep breath and striking up a conversation with another introvert can sometimes put you both out of your misery. And, even if it doesn’t go well, you never have to worry about talking to that person again, since initiating conversation probably isn’t part of either of your skill sets.
If I try to strike up a friendship with someone and it doesn’t work out, I try to assess why. There is much more to a person’s personality than being an introvert or an extrovert, and it’s possible not to mesh with someone for a variety of reasons. Perhaps that person appreciated the effort but isn’t interested in making new friends or going to social events because of other things going on in their lives. Or, it is possible that the person just isn’t nice and doesn’t want to be friends. However, I think it’s much more likely that the awkwardness is due to a difference in personality.
Perhaps that person is a P (perceiver) instead of a J (judger) and doesn’t show interest in your effort to make plans because they typically don’t make plans for several weeks in the future (like I like to do). Perhaps that person is a fellow F (feeler), and we spent so much of the conversation trying to make each other feel comfortable that we never got to know each other that well. Perhaps that person is a T (thinker), and the way we approach the conversation is so different that the communication is stilted and we lapse into silence again.
Of course, none of these reasons are universally true. We are all complex individuals who defy the stereotypes of our perceived personality types every day. And awkwardness is bound to happen at some point in the conversation whether your companion is an extrovert or an introvert, a thinker or a feeler. However, before blaming an uncomfortable social interaction on just bad chemistry or pure awkwardness, remember there are factors behind that awkwardness, and our MBTI personality types could be partly to blame.
I would never suggest that someone compromise who they are. But, if you can use knowledge of MBTI to temporarily alter your communication style to better understand another person, that knowledge can be very valuable. As much as I want someone to understand that I’m just muddling through my thoughts when I go quiet, a simple, “I need to think about this before responding,” or “My thoughts are all over the place right now, so I’m afraid I might not be verbalizing this coherently,” can go a long way.
It helps not just in everyday conversations but also in building the kind of trust that leads to friendship. Sometimes this friendship might lead to three-hour-long conversations. Sometimes it might lead to long comfortable silences. Sometimes, it might be both. As long as you and your companion are on the same page, it doesn’t matter how you got there.
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