Psst: I’ve got a secret. I’m an introvert.

I’ve got a big secret that most of my colleagues from the last 20 years don’t know: I’m actually an introvert. I remember the first time I was administered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I had just taken a very challenging job, one that had no precedent in the organization so I was breaking new ground. Additionally, I was newly married and trying to figure out what it meant to be part of a couple. There was a lot of change in my life and a lot of new roles I was trying out.

You can probably imagine, the achiever in me, the self-identified “people person” anxiously awaited the test results, sure that I’d land squarely in the E-for-extrovert zone. Imagine my shock/confusion/dismay when I landed in the I-zone: introvert. Almost immediately I thought, “What?! I’m not a person who spends her day buried in spreadsheets. I’m a relater, a convener, a people person!”

Then it was explained to me, the introvert-extrovert scale measures how a person gets their energy (from being in large groups vs. having quiet reflective time) and it’s not a measure of their shyness or their capacity for public speaking. Later, after a few other tests, I learned that I am what some psychologists call “ambivert” meaning people like me hover in the center of the E/I continuum and lean to either side depending on what is going on in our lives. While I’m not one for labels, that made perfect sense to me.

Over time I learned to appreciate this bit about my personality as it helped me show up ready and gauge my own receptivity for certain situations. For example, I found myself uncharacteristically laboring over my elevator speech before an event and I knew it was likely to be a more challenging night because I’d also had a lot of other interpersonal challenges going on at work. I was tired from dealing with interpersonal conflicts, and not likely to be a sparkling conversationalist. Cue the self-care rituals: get to the gym, add an extra hour of quiet time before bed, eat healthy if I was to show up ready the rest of the week.

Knowing yourself and your style is one of the most important first steps in setting good communication habits. What cues do you use to figure out yours?

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