Back in the 90’s when I was studying psychology, I discovered the MBTI, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. It’s an instrument that helps you identify some very interesting personality traits. It was such a revelation and explained so much. I was always the different one in my large family of 8, which meant I was often in trouble for my thinking and sometimes actions. After taking the MBTI assessment, it all made sense and I forgave myself and my family for our judgments.
The MBTI identifies 16 different personality styles . All are good, and all approach the world somewhat differently. The tests looks at four measures which they call Introversion vs. Extraversion, Sensing vs. Intuitive, Thinking vs. Feeling and Judging vs. Perceiving.
My type is ENFP.
In a nutshell, ENFP’s are described as energetic, outgoing, idealistic, and creative. Able to do almost anything that interests them. Great people skills. Need to live life in accordance with their inner values. Excited by new ideas, but bored with details. Open-minded and flexible, with a broad range of interests and abilities
People who know me well are enthusiastically nodding in agreement. It was such a relief to know.
For the purpose of this article I want to talk about Extraversion and Introversion.
If you’re interested in learning more about the other styles let me know and I’ll write more about that in another article.
The way Extraversion and Introversion are defined in the MBTI is different than the common understanding of the words. It’s NOT about shyness or being gregarious. The designations refer to how each of us refuels, how we get our energy back.
If you’re an Introvert, you NEED, not just want, time alone to reflect, to “breathe,” to nurture yourself.
If you’re an Extrovert, you NEED to spend time with other people, to make contact, to nurture and get nurtured by the outside world.
How Introverts Respond to COVID-19
When the Introvert doesn’t get time for self, [s]he may feel trapped, suffocated, get cranky and may actually consciously or unconsciously push others away until [s]he gets necessary “space.” The pressure of having to address others while they’re starved for some solace makes it hard for them to concentrate, to do their tasks. They need to collect themselves and focus.
Once refreshed, the Introvert returns to socially pleasant and engaging interactions, happy to come out again and spend time with the world.
How Extraverts Respond to COVID-19
When Extraverts don’t get time to interact with other people, they often wilt. They may be uncomfortable being alone deprived of the physical presence of friends or coworkers.
These are the people that during COVID-19 confinement may have been hanging out by themselves in their pajamas or sweat pants feeling isolated and too depleted or not motivated enough to take care of themselves. Others may see them as unattractively dependent and needy. But just a little social contact, large or small, brings Extraverts back to life and back to their normally charming selves. Outside connections act like water to a beautiful flower. They bloom and attract others, re-energized to accomplish what they need and want to do.
I’ll bet you may anticipate what I’m about to say about the impact of COVID-19 on these two types.
Who has fared best with lock downs and restrictions?
How does each flourish despite the “new normal” for social interactions?
Initially, the COVID-19 restrictions seemed like a reprieve for many Introverts. It meant they could work at home with far less interruptions . . . that is except from the others they live with. If their partner or family members are Extraverts, that can be difficult for the Introvert. They need time to be alone, while other household members are anxiously imploring them for contact.
Moreover, these seemingly lucky Introverts are often forced to take part in Video Conferencing for Work. Sometimes their days are filled with these meetings. The video demands full attention and eye contact. They wish they could turn off the camera, but that’s rude. The constant video meetings are draining and even annoying to the Introvert who enjoys some social contact but then wants to go back to focusing on tasks and work. They would much rather talk on the phone where they have more control of the content and length of contact. And email or texts are often preferred to talking on the phone.
All Extraverts, but particularly those who live alone have been strongly challenged during the Pandemic. I have single Extravert clients who have not left their homes in months. They’ve been deprived of the contact which to them is similar sustenance to food. Perhaps the only time they get to see others is when they go to the store or are lucky enough to have a dog to walk.
Being deprived of built-in connections with others is a real loss for Extraverts. That’s why it’s so important for Extraverts to reach out to others several times per day. Video conferencing helps them to connect because they need to see others as well as hear them. But all forms of communication – phone, email, texts, social media help them feel more in touch with the world. And assigning themselves the task of taking care of others by reaching out to them also helps the Extravert feel more grounded and less lonely as well as purposeful.
An important note – While you can probably identify more with one style or the other, it’s not back and white. There are times when we all “switch” to the other style depending on the circumstances.
There’s a very good chance we’re in this for a long time. Introverts and Extraverts will be better able to take care of themselves and the people in their lives if they know about their contact parameters. How can they preserve their sense of self as well as their relationships while we find solutions for COVID-19? The fact is that in some ways the pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to better understand ourselves with regard to our needs for interaction. They’ve always been there but now we’re shining a strong light on our patterns and comfort levels.
Here’s how to use this time best according to John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company
Recharge by doing something active, perhaps with others (even if that happens virtually while you’re social distancing).
If working from home, make sure to take breaks. Go for a walk or a run if you can, or do something new and different.
Keep in contact with others, and use video, not just voice.
Recharge by doing something that allows you time to reflect or that you can become absorbed in.
Make time in a quiet spot for having lunch so you can relax and just think.
Leave your devices in another room when you’re de-stressing.
Establish a quiet area of your home where you can work or retreat to.
If you live with an Extravert, consider setting up times for privacy. That way they’ll know when to leave you alone and when they can get attention from you.
Limit online meetings, but ensure that you have some contact with other people.
For all of us, this is a time to consider new ideas, new approaches, new activities.
It’s important to exercise our bodies and our minds to stay interested and live vibrantly. So, go for a walk, put on some music and dance alone or with your partner. In fact, take an online course in Swing or Tango. They’re both fun and burn calories.
Make your home more exciting or comforting with music you enjoy.
Consider enhancing your skills with an interesting course that might help your career. You can take them solo or in a video conference.
Get dressed as though you are going to work or out to socialize. And consider changing from work clothes to more casual at the end of the work day.
Respect deadlines in normal working hours. Avoid sending notes to colleagues at 2am that might surprise or panic them.
We are social creatures whether Introvert or Extravert. We all have a need to belong. That’s why Zoom is zooming, providing opportunities for social connection with friends, coworkers, learning opportunities, support groups and new acquaintances. We’ve all had to find creative ways to satisfy our needs for contact.
Reach out to other people to check on how they’re doing.
Have you seen one of the Memes to Introverts? “Introverts, check on your Extravert friends! We’re not ok.”
Ha. Fortunately we’re all far more resilient than we imagined and adjusting every day.
Be Safe and Strong.