Saturday, 4 October 2014

How to be an introvert...

Two years ago, I blogged about introversion and extroversion. I went into what my Myers-Briggs type indicator was. Now, let's get into some technical details about MBTI. There are a lot of criticisms about the whole system that raise questions about its validity. First, it relies of the self-reporting of the subject. The subject has to answer questions about themselves and if you want an honest appraisal of someone- never ask them! It can effect the accuracy of results. Extroversion, for instance, is valued in western culture, so subjects may answer questions to show a preference for this type indicator regardless as to whether they have a preference to it or not.

Another issue with MBTI is that no one is ever a perfect type. The system relies on four dichotomies, and for it to be a reliable personality indicator, the subjects should fall at the extreme ends of the scale. However, people do not. People's results tend to gather somewhere in the middle of the scale, making the effects of the types negligible. It becomes untenable to say that this person is definitely and ESFJ, or whatever.

Thirdly, people and situations change. Things that you enjoyed may not be the same in a couple of years. As a result of this and all these factors, it is exceptionally common for people's MBTI scores to change after a few years, or even months. Two years ago, my result was an ENFJ (Extrovert, Intuition, Feeler, Judge). Yesterday, it came up as ISFJ. So, apparently, I'm now an introvert. That makes quite a bit of sense to me.

So, the question is, what is it about me that makes me an introvert? This is a guide on how to be more like me: exceptionally socially awkward.

Think, "Why are you ruining this?"
This is what goes through my mind  when someone says, "We should invite so-and-so as well." I obviously say, "Great idea! More the merrier!" I'm actually thinking, "If I wanted them there I would have invited them already." Introverts tend to socialise in small intimate settings, and large groups can be exhausting. Therefore, we can be a bit select about who we invite.

Also, we often have to plan or mentally prepare ourselves for the interactions we're about to face. So, having that one extra person come along might not seem a big deal, but I often find it really throws me.

Be sad when you hear other people's music
I don't like to hear other people's music. Whether it is from a car passing down the road, a neighbour with a load sound system or a friend adding ambience to a meal, other people's music can add stress. It's not because I think they have bad taste. Introverts value quiet and limit the amount of stimulation they get. It's a bit like being shouted at; it can be a bit invasive to personal space. Ironically, a way that introverts sometimes isolate themselves from the outside world is through turning the music up. (I have been known to hide in my car, with my CD player on to get away from the world.) As a side note, I also hate adverts and radio DJs interrupting my listening. And I hate people shouting at the television when they're watching football. Loud laughs are pretty irritating. Too much noise, people, too much noise.

Don't like sharing news
I'm generally pretty open, but there are some occasions that I can suddenly and unexpectedly be reticent to tell others things. This can be due to various factors: tiredness, stress and the type of news it is. Only a few select people know when I'm dating someone. I hate the questions that come with this type of news and all the interest it cultivates. I will limit the information I give and I will probably not tell you the girl's name. Introverts tend to be quite private.

Now, when introverts do share things with you, don't congratulate them. I've sometimes had people say, "Well done for being open." I am quite articulate; I am fully able to let people know how I am feeling. Sometimes, I just choose not to. On the rare occasion I choose to, don't patronise me, otherwise it won't happen again. I will let you know the important things, but in my own time and on my own terms. Don't force it. And don't make a big song and dance about it either. That's exactly what introverts try to avoid.

Feel claustrophobic
If I'm ever stuck in a group of people with no way out (like in the middle of a row of seats against a wall in a restaurant), I can feel trapped and claustrophobic. I have to make an effort to distract myself from the fact that I CAN'T GET OUT AND I'M GOING TO DIE HERE. Social situations are exhausting, not being able to leave a social situation is terrifying. If you ever notice me fidget, take deep breaths or start counting backwards under my breath, I'm feeling penned in. To overcome this, I often have an escape plan...

Hide in the kitchen
I often tell my friends a particularly crafty lie. I tell them that I love washing up. I claim that scrubbing greasy pans and handling other people's half-eaten food gives me more pleasure than anything else in this world. Despite the absurdity of it, they believe me (or are more than happy to go along with it as they end up with clean dishes). And why do I do it? It's the escape plan. If sitting in the living room with everyone else has been too much, I sneak into the kitchen and start tidying. I can be safe in the knowledge that I will be undisturbed by everyone else. I just have to hope that another introvert hasn't beaten me to it.

Get lost on solitary walks
I often seek out the quietest spots I know. I'm not going to tell you where they are, that'd be stupid. I don't want to go there only to find you hanging around. In my effort to be alone, I will change course if I hear other people coming. This has got me lost a couple of times, when I've totally disorientated myself by people-dodging.

Be confident
This is one that is not quite to do with introversion, more to do with addressing a misconception about introverts. Introverts are not (necessarily) shy and their introversion is not a result of low self-esteem. I can happily talk to strangers, address groups of people and speak in front of crowds. I daily put myself in front of classes and subject myself to scrutiny, humiliation and confrontation. I am not shy. I just need to hide in a dark, quiet place for a while after any social interaction.

Get over yourself
Yes, I can be grumpy around people; I can get frustrated or annoyed quickly when social situations feel out of control. However, often I try to hide my feelings or I just accept they're my problem and not those around me. But if I am ever grumpy, and you're not sure why, it's probably because the social situation I'm in is causing me stress or just wearing me out.

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