I’ve been reading some things about MBTI personality theory lately, and of course been taking a few tests. On all, I score as about as introverted as can be. I mostly score as an INTJ, but with most qualities bordering on their counterparts – except for Introversion. The only exception is the BlogThings test I just took, and also took last year, where now two of the suggested types are Extraverted. I’m not, of course, but I’m not as strongly introverted as is mostly being suggested: scores around 95% are based, in my view, on an incorrect definition of introversion.
I’m not too knowledgeable about Jungian or Myers-Briggs personality theory, but their definition of the difference between Introverts and Extraverts, according to Jack Falt’s article has to do with what people get their energy from: Extraverts tend to get energized by interacting with people and get drained easily when they have to be on their own, while Introverts get energized by being on their own and feel drained quickly when in social situations. This does have some connotations with one’s ability to interact socially – if you’re not good at socializing, you’ll most likely get tired in social situations easily cause of the energy it takes to socialize -, but I feel that introversion is often confused with social ineptness.
I am myself very socially inept, but that’s not to say that I get as energized by being on my own and as drained by being around people as the extreme introversion rates would suggest. In fact, I’m finding that sometimes I need to be aroudn people cause I just cannot sit in my room alone 24/7. It wouldn’t seem surprising – everyone needs social contact at times -, but its extent does surrpise me. So, one can seemingly be socially inept while still having interest in socialization. And furthermore, one can be passive in social situations while still having an interest in social interaction. Cause, having read quite extensively about the “active but odd” style of social deficit, that is pretty prevalent among people with Asperger’s Syndrome, the idea that one can crave social contact and still be awkward with people, is not new to me. However, being passive is not the same as not desiring social contact, assuming that if the person desired to socialize, he or she would take the initiative to. It’s simply a deficit in initiative-taking, either cause of social skills deficits or cause of fear of making a fool of oneself.
That’s another definition of introversion, equally incorrect, that I’ve often seen: that of social anxiety. There’s a community for people with social phobia, Avoidant Personality Disorder and the like, called The Introvert’s Hideaway. The definition of introversion presupposed by this community is far too rigid: Avoidant Personality Disorder and social phobia, and even simple shyness, are based on fear of social situations, and usually more specifically fear of making a fool of oneself in interaction. I am not really shy, but I am an introvert. And yes, I do experience some degree of discomfort in social situations, but that is based on a lack of knowledge of how to act socially, rather than a perceived inadequacy. In other words, a social phobic may be perfectly socially skilled, yet avoid social situations cause of fear of doing the wrong thing, while I don’t fear social situations by definition, but feel discomfort cause of a lack of knoweldge of how to act.
In this sense, the avoidant/social phobic definition of introversion is more close to the MBTI definition than is social awkwardness. However,, as I said, it’s too rigid, cause introversion in general is not based on fear, but on what gives a person their energy. I assume that many social phobics/avoidants are introverts in this sense – although theoretically social phobics could be extraverts, but the extravert with social phobia would have a dual handicap, caus enot only would he lack the confidence to interact with others when he has to, but he would also be deprived of his source of energy -, but not all introverts in this sense are social phobics or even shy: with many, it’s just a lack of desire to be around others most of the time.
Yet another characteristic associated with the introversion vs. extraversion topic, is whether one prefers a few intimate friends (considered introverted) or many acquaintances (supposedly extraverted). In this sense, it is hard to say whether one is introverted or extraverted, if other issues, like social ineptness, complicate the situation. I simply don’t make friends easily, so I have the extraverted characteristic of having a ton of acquaintances rather than a few good friends. On the other hand, my reserved nature, that in part contributes to this situation, is considered introverted, and it has nothing to do with the superficiality attributed to extraverts: that they don’t appear reserved cause they’re easy to read. I don’t share easily, and it contributes to the fact that I don’t tend to make close friends, among many factors related to my poor socialization skills. So some of my introverted characteristics, combined with some extraversion – that I need to be amongst other people at times -, puts me in a position to appear very extraverted in this respect: I go out to interact with people for enjoyment sometimes, but cause I don’t have any real frineds, I just hang aroudn with anyone, hence creating a large cycle of distant acquaintances. This is not my preference, but it is my situation.