I remember, around ten years ago, when I completed my first Myers Briggs. This, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is a personality assessment created by a mother and daughter duo in the United States in the 1920’s.
I won’t go into the details of whether the questionnaire is valid or the Jungian or other roots of the theory, nevertheless, for some, the ability to understand themselves and others through a lens of introversion/extraversion and other personality traits is enlightening.
I will not explain the theory here – it is all in previous blogs; see here.
On this occasion and at subsequent times the analysis describes me as an introvert. Sometimes called intravert. Word doesn’t like spelling of the former, you can choose.
In the world of Myers-Briggs (usually called Myers-Briggs Type Indicators or MBTI), Introversion although implying in the colloquial sense, a quiet guy, also explains the ways in which a person is energised – where they draw their strength, with, the theory being that introverts gain succour from within, from quiet, lone time, reflection, silence and inner-thought and extraverts (extroverts) are the opposite, getting their energy from outside, from interaction with others, from noise, happenings, hustle and bustle.
So, me, I am an I, Intro or intra.
I need quietness to recharge.
I enjoy solitary pursuits.
It is 9am on Good Friday and I have already been for a 1500m swim at Manvers Lake. The time, breaking the waves, staring down into the green, sun shattered depths, rejuvenates me, it allows my thoughts to disentangle; it frees me from anxiety, from too much self-talk or, in the language of Mindfulness, mind-wandering. Afterwards I can focus. All is clear. Tranquillity reigns. A couple of hours with a book, a crossword, on my bike or running does the same.
That is me. Quiet time.
And, yes, for extraverts, the opposite.
For some of these activities, individuals who gain their energy from socialising with others would consider punishment. They need the engagement, gregariousness, society, noise of others to sustain them.
Each to his own, I say.
And it is this split that is interesting.
I am both intraverted from a MBTI perspective and introverted with respect to my personality.
A couple of weeks ago I spend five days in Iceland. Alone. Away from my family (and dogs) and, was fine. I didn’t chit-chat and barely interacted with anyone beyond the occasional, ‘Can I have some more herring?’
I know there are readers who would consider a week in Iceland, by themselves, highly disagreeable.
There you go.
And the point?
Well, I recall, after my first MBTI outcome, those in my group (it was an NHS leadership development programme) couldn’t believe I was an ‘I’ (Intra, for short).
‘And, the point, Rod?’ You ask.
Well, a funny thing is that when I am in groups, particularly ones that address topics that are close to my heart, perhaps to do with patient care, dementia, delirium, improvement, and innovation, all the stuff I have been writing about for the past years, I flip from being the quiet guy to being unable to shut up.
I can talk and talk.
Another situation where I talk, and talk, is if I am running a meeting and no one else is speaking; I struggle with the silence and usually fill-in.
I don’t know where the words come from, they are just there and I go on and, on.
Funny stuff for an ‘I’.
Some people only know me in this mode. Mostly through work.
They see me as the ‘E’ – extravert, hyper-social, talkative chap.
As a little boy, my mum used to say I was ‘silent but deadly.’
It is a dichotomy.
Recently, during an interview I was silent (I was on the panel); people (work colleagues) were wondering what was wrong. I was even texted to check ‘Are you OK Dr Kersh?’
And yesterday, in conversation, I expressed my preferences (MBTI shows preferences, not absolutes) and was again dismissed, ‘You! A quiet guy? Ha!’
There is theory to explain this.
The MBTI notion is that because of another component of my personality –I am what is called ‘feeling’ rather than ‘thinking’ – I operate at this level, it is my currency, it is what I value most in human interaction (I will say, ‘I am not sure how I feel about that,’ just as someone else might say, ‘I don’t know what I think,’ you see the difference? Some of this is the nuance of dialogue, there is however something deeper.)
Anyway. Me, being an ‘F’ in situations of the silence (that makes most people (although less the thinkers than the feelers) uncomfortable, my discomfort is so great that I effectively sacrifice my quietness to create a more engaging or supportive atmosphere.
If you want to test this, watch me at the next meeting I chair, if you are there and no one else is talking.
(Again, this is preference, not absolute, I can shut up when necessary).
The consequence of all this chatter is that I find myself spun-out after a few such meetings; needing a rest.
Well, what you see and what you get are not necessarily the same thing. We think we know people; we understand their behaviours or motivations and we can be misled.
We exist in the silent pits of our mind. In the deep, dark space that is our brain, the squidgy neurochemical interface; no one really knows what is going on.
And, trust me, I am a quiet guy.
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3 thoughts on “I’m just a quiet guy.”
I think many personal bloggers are introverts who can’t shut up about stuff that matter to them. I know most people I follow fall under this category – including me (I don’t follow myself intentionally though – my reader just adds me on automatically).
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