Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment? Some of you who have done so will have your type memorized and will know what the letters stand for and know what those letters say about them and how they are in the world. Others will think this is total bunk and pseudoscience and to hell with it all.
As part of my career change and Jennifer 2.0 project in 2016, I took A LOT of assessments. My coach had me do a DISC profile; the HR person at the university had me do a Strong Interest Inventory assessment; someone else suggested Strengths Finder, which I did on my own. None of these assessments is 100% accurate; none of them function like a crystal ball or are un-erring. But each of them does provide interesting insights to work with. And, taken as a group over a few months, these assessments reminded me of some consistent trends in my life and behaviour (at work and at home) that I needed to keep in mind as I thought about Jennifer 2.0. I needed to find a new career; I didn’t need a personality overhaul.
The first time I took the MBTI, I was probably 12 years old. My mother was getting her MA degree and it involved psychometric testing in the context of educational supports for students who were identified as outliers in the system, either because they were in special education programs or the gifted program. She used me as a guinea pig for her class assignments. I have no idea what the results of that test were, but I know that subsequent MBTI assessments have shown me to be an ENFJ…. unless they’ve shown me to be an ENTJ. Because Feeling vs Thinking tends to be a 51% vs. 49% situation for me over and over again and my mood seems to determine how the test rolls out. (This, btw, is why I like the 16personalities.com site; it does a good job of contextualizing your numbers, which allows you to decide whether you want to put your full faith in them or not.)
As I’ve grown the network of coaches I know and interact with, and read coaching books and listened to coaching podcasts, I’ve figured out that a lot of coaches are introverts and that almost all of them define themselves as Feeling vs. Thinking people. My first coach referred to the women who were often part of teaching teams at CTI as “you know, a lot of pashminas.”
So I’m a bit of an outlier in the coaching space.
Conversations in the public spaces of social media lately have indicated that we understand introversion and extroversion better than we did when I was first exposed to these terms. We know that introverts tend to USE energy in people-to-people situations, whereas extroverts GAIN energy from these. E vs. I doesn’t indicate whether or not you like people, but whether or not dealing with people gives you juice or requires you to recharge your batteries.
Another generalizable (but not 100% accurate) distinction between E and I people is how they process their thoughts and problems. Introverts tend to be self-reflective: they journal, they mull, they require solitude to think through things and tend to be most sure about insights gained internally. Extroverts are often the people who like to talk through and discuss their problems; they come to a solution by bouncing ideas off of others; they love the seminar format; they get energy and creativity from the interplay of ideas.
That describes me to a T! The energy I get from brainstorming with others is the best part of any job I’ve ever had. One of the things I say about coaching is that I get to keep one of the best parts of my academic work: talking about interesting stuff with interesting and smart people. And the coaching paradigm and model give purpose and structure to these conversations so that the coach and coachee remain focused on an agenda and create plans for action–rather than just gripe or examine.
The coaching paradigm and model also offers a lot for the Introvert, as well. All of those coaches who are introverts are testament to the way that coaching uses a serious conversation to start a process (of examination and reflection, focusing and prioritizing, whatever the situation calls for, etc.) that then continues and intensifies after the call. There is space for things to simmer and condense and reveal themselves subtly, over time. It is not all Aha! and Eureka! moments.