Introverts Unite!

Categories: Biblical Studies, Sociology

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Michael Bird has come out of the closet with pride, revealing that he is indeed an introvert (an INTJ, in fact). As another (prototypical) INTJ (if you want to see a near-perfect description of me, go here and here), I fully identify with his post; humorously, the comments section of Michael’s post has become a sort of rally point for INTJs in the biblioblogosphere, with a few other introverts also chiming in. It’s really not surprising that so many bibliobloggers are rational (NT) introverts, as this type of format is exactly suited to the kind of social interaction (or lack thereof) preferred by this group. Bird’s post pointed to the new book by Adam McHugh, Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture, which he mentions he will be reading soon (see Scot McKnight’s brief review of the book here).

As a quick note, many people misunderstand the difference between introvert and extrovert, thinking it has to do with whether a person seems “outgoing” or “assertive” or not. The proper distinction concerns the source of a person’s energy. Extroverts are energized by being around people and find time spent around people more rewarding than time spent alone, in private. After spending time alone, they tend to crave time with people, feeling “dead” if they are alone for very long (being also quite prone to boredom without others around). Introverts are the opposite; after spending time with people, they need time alone to recharge their batteries. Introverts live in their own heads and are prone to overstimulation if around too many people for too long. Extroverts tend to have wide social circles and tend to be content with more superficial relationships (though having some closer friends), while introverts tend to have smaller circles and value closer friendships (these are the folks who make a strong distinction between “acquaintances” and “friends”). Introverts also tend to be more analytical in their communication; since they don’t often communicate just to “be with people,” they communicate to deliver or receive a message and then retreat into their own world again. At a party, the extrovert is at the center of the room or moving around the room, enjoying being around people, while the introvert tends to be towards the edges, engaged in a more intense conversation with one or two people.

Here are a few quotes from Bird’s post that had me nodding (or shouting or laughing) in agreement:

  • “For me, the real world is inside my head, and everything else is just the ‘Matrix’.”
  • “I’m a cold hearted book worm with a super-sized intellect in lieu of a sense of empathy. So I don’t really care how you feel, but I know when I’m supposed to pretend to care in order to help someone if they need it. I’m task orientated with a capital “T” and if I’m on a mission just show where to bury the bodies of the people who get in my way. I like people, they are very useful entities, they need to be looked after, but after a while I need to be away from them.”
  • “Extroversion is in fact a medical condition that I call ‘Barbara Streisand Syndrome’ – People who need people are the weirdest people of all.”
  • “When I tell people that I’m an introvert they scarcely believe me. Yes, I can project myself, yes I can speak in public and entertain folks. But don’t confuse ego and the capacity for self-projection with personality.”
  • “Truth be told, I’m actually a comedian and [my scholarship] is just my medium.”
  • “I enjoy being the life of the party – but only for a while – very quickly I feel the need to flee crowds before people drain me with their constant talking about stuff that I really don’t care about.”
  • “Don’t get me wrong, I like people, I love certain people, it’s just that being around them can be so draining at time[s].”

I have returned home from extended social interactions only to collapse on the living room floor for a while once I walk through my door, completely drained. After teaching a class or spending time with students at office hours, I am exhausted and need time to get away. All I can say is that whenever Michael gets the I-Force up and running, I’m in—as long as it doesn’t require me to be around people for too long!

*Update: Loren Rosson has joined the party on behalf of INTPs, pointing out the lighter side of this whole personality type business (according to Loren’s scale, we INTJs are “Outside Contractors” while INTPs are “Eggheads”; he gets the scale from this hilarious personality parody page). Jim West has replied that the whole personality typing thing is a bunch of hooey, but it’s fun hooey. And Joel from TCoJC is apparently also a member of the INTJ biblioblogging club. There’s no social interaction INTJs like more than discovering other INTJs. And the best place to find each other is apparently the Internet, since we really don’t get out all that much.*

*Update 2: Bill Heroman has also joined the fun with a really fantastic post on why personality inventories can actually be really helpful, giving us “the best possible motive for learning typology: It is NOT okay to go through life trying to make everyone else just like yourself” (something David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me calls “Pygmalion projects”). If we understand how we and other people naturally function—and that it’s not inherently “wrong” that people function differently—it simply helps us to understand our natural strengths and weaknesses and can help us in dealing with those not like us.

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • I’ve worked a lot with Myers-Briggs in the work environment, and it’s always fun. (I’m INTP, “P” for “perfection” naturally.) You have it right about “source of energy” being what defines extroversion/introversion more than anything else.

  • Stephen C. Carlson
    December 27, 2009 4:21 pm

    I bet you’re one of those who people are surprised to learn is an introvert.

  • Jason, rodger that. Let us rally and take over the world!

  • Extroverts Unite !!! No pun intended… ; )

  • Could one be diagnosed with BSS? The thought sounds awful. I wonder if there are genetic pre-dispositions? Nah…just a figment of our minds.

  • Hey good to meet another INTJ. And yes people often do misunderstand I vs. E. Very common mistake. I’ll never forget how amazed I was when I first realized I was an INTJ. You should also check out Enneagram. Honestly, finding out my Enneagram type and reading profiles of it was possibly more mindblowing than when I figured out my MBTI type.


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