One discovery I have made in exploring this topic is that my Introversion actually hinders my ability to blog on a weekly basis. Living in my Introversion does not lend itself to being a very effective baby blogger. (“Baby” means “new” not that I am blogging about babies.)
“Reality TV! Social Media! Big-and-bold leaders! Sometimes it seems life today is tailor-made for extroverts. But given that as many as half of Americans are introverts, how can quieter types succeed amidst so much noise?” This concept of being big and loud in the US has plagued me for most of my life. My parents are Asian immigrants who whispered covert coaching tips in my ears. If I wanted success: keeping quiet, staying humble and working hard would reap rewards and recognition. Unfortunately, what I realized when I hit the workforce was that life is more “the squeaky wheels gets the grease” and a lot less “the nail that stands up gets hammered down.” My parents and I didn’t define “rewards and recognition” in the same context. They thought that lifelong employment and a pension were crucial to living the American Dream. However, I longed for a work environment where I was constantly challenging the status quo and developing new ideas to create space for innovative thinking and creativity to thrive. Compound my conflicted Asian upbringing with being an Introvert and my instinctive nature to want to make others great and that is a recipe for folding in the complex card game of corporate America. Thankfully, my chosen career is based on the concept of creating a new culture that leverages diversity and builds an inclusive work environment. After studying Generational Diversity as a concept to help me be successful in my company, Introvert/Extrovert personality styles is my new frontier to explore.
Many books have been written on this topic. Susan Cain is one of the most recognized names in this field. She recently announced “The Quiet Revolution” in her TED talk in the Spring of 2014. Her book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” has garnered attention from critics, business leaders and parents alike. Ms. Cain was a keynote speaker at a diversity conference that I attended in Atlanta this past May 2014. For me, I was tickled to hear someone addressing this topic in a keynote address. One other author who I have read is Laure A. Helgoe, who penned, “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.” Ms. Helgoe released a second edition where she works to deconstruct the cultural bias that links extraversion to happiness, which means that introverts must be less happy. Both authors approach this topic differently but with a great deal of introspection and care. One guess whether they are each introverts or extroverts.
One discovery I have made in exploring this topic is that my Introversion actually hinders my ability to blog on a weekly basis. I’ve spent weeks mulling this concept and thinking about how to position this in a blog topic and once I worked it out in my head, I didn’t feel the need to post my thoughts. I had Introverted the topic so thoroughly in my own mind to resolution and moved on without even typing a word. Living in my Introversion does not lend itself to being a very effective baby blogger. (“Baby” means “new” not that I am blogging about babies.) Another aspect of this concept that interferes with my blogging is my extremely extroverted (with a capital EX) daughter. She just walked in and said, “Hey mom, are you ready to go?” I replied, “Just give me about 30 minutes to finish this blog draft and I will be ready to go, please go pack what you need for the day. Daughter exits and returns in two minutes with her change of clothes and a big smile, as she deposits the pile of clothes on my bed and begins to chat me up incessantly. “Here is my stuff, what’s your blog about?, my friend can’t come today..” I have to cut her off and say quietly, “30 minutes of quiet. Go or this is going to take even longer.” She smiles and hops out of my room and calls out behind her, “I love you, Mom!” That is also an example of why it is so hard for me to find a moment of privacy to FaceTime with my boyfriend or to do pretty much anything else. My offspring is an Extrovert and I love her with all my heart, there are just times when she sucks every ounce of my energy out of my every pore. A single parent needs support and a break from time to time, I believe that a single Introverted parent whose child is an Extrovert with ADHD deserves a lifetime pass to a day spa or campsite or whatever moment of silence and solitude she or he craves.
All of this led to me to create a diversity workshop on Introverts and Extroverts for the annual women’s professional development conference at my corporation. The corporation has US affiliates in manufacturing, sales and marketing and financial services. Our parent company is from an industry that is traditionally male-dominated. We live and work in a U.S. society that is clearly biased towards extroverts, I wanted to explore how that plays out at each of our workplaces and impacts career growth for women. Admittedly, it had the potential to be more than a 90 minute workshop but I wanted to plant a seed on the topic to see what might germinate from it.
The description of the workshop: Conference participants will observe an exercise to introduce “Introversion & Extroversion” and go through a guided discussion and to discuss this topic as it relates to working at our corporation. This worshop competed against a discussion on Sheryl Sanberg’s “Lean In” amongst others yet we had standing room only crowds for each session. That indicated a certain level of interest. Executives and managers alike told me they appreciated the discussion and a new way to frame diversity in the workplace.
This all makes me think about how personality style impacts interpersonal relationships. My colleague kicks off many of his workshops on diversity with this statement: “People make 90% of their judgments about you based on the 10% of what they see.” With that said, strangers will make an assessment about who they think I am based on my clothing, hair style and color, height, weight, shape of my eyes, curve of my ass, and anything else they see. Because I am an Introvert, an INFJ to be exact, I may not seem as interested in meeting this stranger. If they come on too strong I will, at least subconsciously, recoil away from him or her. However, the second part of that kick-off statement is that “90% of who we are cannot be seen.” People are like icebergs, the surface doesn’t reveal what is beneath the surface and Introverts have an invisible forcefield that blocks people from getting to know that 90% of who they really are.
I’ve read a variety of different numbers when it comes to the percentage of the population who are INFJ, like me. Most of the data I have seen says we are less than 4% (and sometimes the data is reported as low as less than 1%) of the population, making my type the most rare of all.
Profile of an INFJ Personality, according to Typefinder. http://www.typefinder.com/infj
“INFJ in a Nutshell
INFJs are creative nurturers with a strong sense of personal integrity and a drive to help others realize their potential. Creative and dedicated, they have a talent for helping others with original solutions to their personal challenges.
The Counselor has a unique ability to intuit others’ emotions and motivations, and will often know how someone else is feeling before that person knows it himself. They trust their insights about others and have strong faith in their ability to read people. Although they are sensitive, they are also reserved; the INFJ is a private sort, and is selective about sharing intimate thoughts and feelings.
What Makes the INFJ Tick
INFJs are guided by a deeply considered set of personal values. They are intensely idealistic, and can clearly imagine a happier and more perfect future. They can become discouraged by the harsh realities of the present, but they are typically motivated and persistent in taking positive action nonetheless. The INFJ feels an intrinsic drive to do what they can to make the world a better place.
INFJs want a meaningful life and deep connections with other people. They do not tend to share themselves freely but appreciate emotional intimacy with a select, committed few. Although their rich inner life can sometimes make them seem mysterious or private to others, they profoundly value authentic connections with people they trust.”
Luckily, I am a type of Introvert who really likes people and is blessed with a large social circle of friends and colleagues. Usually, I present as an Extrovert to the outside world. People who see me speak at conferences will swarm me and reach out to connect with questions and comments. What they don’t realize is that it takes all my energy to speak in front of a large conference room and I need time to recharge in solitude.
This is not the last time I will think about being an Introvert. Hopefully it isn’t the last time I blog about it.