Friday, June 19, 2009

Putting the I INTJ

Have you ever taken the Myers Briggs test? I realize that some people believe that it's akin to astrology in terms of meaningfulness, but I've found that the description of my psychological type is a far more accurate depiction of someone like me than the description of an Aries; a risk-taker? Me??

If you think the personality sorter is hogwash feel free to skip this entry. I've taken this test more than once, both for work and for the hell of it to see if I always got the same results, and I have. I am INTJ. That acronym stands for Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judgment. We are the supposed masterminds, which is less impressive than the title makes it sound.

How much I can be described as be someone who is a "thinking" person is up for debate, and when they say intuitive they are not talking about the common way we use the word intuition but how much someone is able to synthesize information, like how one of the reasons I have loved computers almost all my life is that I am easily able to discern patterns (as long as they don't involve human beings, ha) which has often made teaching myself computer programs that lack instructions an achievable task. Let's talk about introversion now and judgment at another time, since those things are the most interesting.

I find it amusing that many people who know me superficially do not realize that I am an introvert at heart. I have been able to mislead them for two reasons: 1. Over the course of my years as an employee at various places of enterprise I have been able to make successful strides towards overcoming my introverted tendencies, mostly through repetition and endurance and this spills over somewhat into other experiences too. This is a survival mechanism that has been necessary, especially at my current job, because so much of my position involves meeting new people and interacting with them. I no longer feel butterflies in the stomach when it comes to public speaking, even if the crowd is fairly large, but this doesn't make constant interactions with others as stress-free. We'll come back to that later.

2. When I am around extroverts of both sexes, I am myself more extroverted. From puzzled looks when other people refer to me as "quiet," I can tell that many extroverts don't have a clue how I am around other introverts. Every guy I have ever liked all the way back to middle school, and most of my female friends as well, have been more extroverted than I am. There's something about their energy that's contagious, and pressure-free because are more than happy to dominate conversation, so despite their need to constantly talk, it's still relaxing. This might be why our current project at work has not driven me completely insane. The two kids - god, I'm getting old if I'm saying that, but they're only 22 and 23 - at my end of the table will talk your ear off, and that lessens the monotony... even though I finally asked one of them if I could have his girlfriend's phone number so I could call her and tell him to behave =) I haven't had to ask for the other one's girlfriend's number yet, but there's still a week to go.

Anyway, extroverts who do realize on some level that I'm introverted call me a "good listener." Probably because I only make halfhearted attempts to interrupt. Oh I try sometimes, but it's usually not worth the effort so I hold my tongue after being talked over.

Then there's the agony of associating with people who are less extroverted than I am. And there are a lot of them, because when you take other tests that measure how introverted or extroverted you are, I fall just to the left of center on the scale, and that leaves a whole lot of potential introversion as you move leftward. I think I probably would have ended up a lot more introverted if I wasn't born a redhead; having my hair drawing often unwanted attention since birth didn't allow me to hide from interaction with chatty strangers! As for those more interverted, remember McDuff? He is much more introverted than I am. He's the classic "strong silent type" that drives me batty. Being alone with him was mostly unpleasant, because the onus to maintain the conversation fell on me since he wouldn't even try to think of topics to talk about. (These awkward, barely maintains conversations are a big reason I have no idea why on earth he decided that he liked me...after two years of what I thought was agreeable plantonic acquaintenceship, I might add. Why would anyone want more awkward conversation?) Being somewhat better socialized made me anxious about filling silences every time we were together without a more talkative person along. Hopefully it's not too hypocritical to tend to avoid the company of people who have even less to say than I do.

Being an introvert, especially one drawn to the company of extroverts, has its difficulties. Primarily, because there are social situations in which I lack any great degree of confidence. One of those that has caused the most difficulty, is the instinctual urge to turn down invitations to go out with a group of people I only know some of. Sometimes I've been able to squelch that impulse, though, which is the only reason I know (in a rudimentary sense, that is) how to play Ultimate Frisbee or darts. Even though I know that these situations usually turn out to be less scary than I anticipate, it's still hard to overcome the instinct to refuse to engage with others until I know everyone in the group. After that, though, I seldom turn down an invite.

The other thing, which is something I've battled since college is that I find it devastatingly hard to approach people (okay, let's be honest, guys) that I enjoy being around if they are already talking to a group of people that I'm not comfortable with; be it because I don't know the other people well enough to feel at ease around them, or I just don't like them. This wasn't a problem before college because I went to a tiny high school, so we all knew each other. And since I was entangled with the same boy from the 10th through 12th grades, we knew each other's friends and had quite a few in common anyway. I suppose this can be confusing to extroverted guys, which I've already said are my favorite kind, because as long as my interest isn't solely carnal* I'm not shy around them one-on-one, or in group situations where I'm there when the group forms. This has led to them wondering "is she mad at me?" more than once when the truth is, no. I'm just scared of your friends. I don't know why these other people are scary, perhaps on some level I fear they will exclude/reject me, and the interesting guy of the given moment will as well. I fully admit this probably makes me hard to figure out myself, because it gives the impression of running hot and cold. If I could change that I would, but I'm not sure how to become more brave in this situation. Sorry, guys.

These difficulties aside, being an introvert isn't all bad. For example, I'm equally happy with the thought of having no set plans this weekend, as I am with the idea of going into Boston with a friend next weekend. I know people who would be aghast at the thought of spending time alone, but I don't mind. It seems to me that life would be more difficult if you are not able to entertain yourself, since it would require the presence of other people for you to relax and other people can be deeply unreliable.

And as a bonus, I've learned that I not infrequently intimidate people. I find that bizarre, considering I do not cut an imposing figure, being all of almost five foot four. After hashing it out with other "imposing" introverts, we have concluded that merely being introverts is somehow imposing to less confident extroverts. Which seems that the contradictions in terms to me, because how could you be extroverted and less confident than I am? In general I'm a fairly confident person, and as I've said at times it's still hard to find the nerve to speak. Those unconfident extroverts, why aren't they afraid to say stupid things too if they lack self confidence? Anyway, apparently some of them believe we are judging them, and our stern silence is evidence of this. You, gentle reader, know this is not true. Instead I'm apt to be thinking about underwear sizes, or eggs thrown into fryers =) I'm not being secretive because I am trying to spare their feelings about them, I just don't have any feelings about most of them. They probably wouldn't like the truth much better come to think of it, but I'm so not a people person.

As for J for judging, maybe tomorrow.


*For me, lust is a counterproductive emotion. If I like a guy for any reasons other than simply the thought of bedding him, I had no difficulties carrying on a conversation with him...even if that same thought has crossed my mind a time or seven. But around guys whom my interest in is solely physical, I can't even string two coherent sentences together. Then I avoid them, because as Willow said, "I think boys are more interested in a girl who can talk."


"Going home, you won't miss me/ I don't care shut up & kiss me" - Pony Up!, Shut Up And Kiss Me

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