Flipping the Extrovert Switch

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I just had lunch with a former yoga student who’s now a teacher at my old studio.

She mentioned she sometimes gets what she considered a great compliment, that her teaching presence reminds people of mine. She then described me as being very “charismatic” when I taught.

Insert spit-take. It’sย funny for two reasons…

One, I’m not (and, no, I’m not fishing for compliments). I don’t have a high-energy, motivational speaker style, but more of a chill storytelling, bordering on snark approach. When I taught yoga, I did it in old jeans and a t-shirt. It was always more about the content and conversation.

I like campfires over hoe-downs.

And two, when you meet me “off-stage,” I tend toward introversion. For those who like data, I’m an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Index, the “I” standing for introversion.

One of my more recent discoveries is that I love to speak. After I’m done wanting to throw up in the minutes before I go on, I feel very alive on stage. Something happens and I get lost in the moment. Not always, but often.

That used to happen all the time when I was teaching yoga, too. Ninety minutes would pass in the blink of an eye. I could have a raging headache before I taught, but once I was in the room, interacting, playing, dancing, ranting, chanting, storytelling,ย occasionallyย swearing, asking and answering questions, all was good in the world.

And in that moment, whatever the setting, it’s literally like someone just flipped my extrovert switch.

But, here’s the thing…when I’m done, I’m done. Cooked.

I don’t want to work the room. Just the opposite. I need to steal away for a bit, ground and reconnect to the source. Away from people, if possible. If I’m near water, a walk along it is where you’ll find me. Maybe with a friend or two, but more likely alone. I’m capable of staying public for a time after, it’s just not what fills me up.

For a long time, I viewed this as something that needed fixing…

I thought I needed to find a way to find and then flip on my extrovert switch, be the life of the conversation not just during, but all around those short bursts of mass-engagement. That’s where “real” success, big deals, killer influence and impact, big things come from.

There’s so much mythology built around the need to “get out there and be a blazing ray of light” as fundamental element of success. I’m guessing that’s due, at least in part, to the fact that, classically, the people most of us associate with massive success are the ones who are the most fun for the media to cover. They get the most ink, air and screen time, so they’re the most in our faces.

But, they don’t speak for all people or represent that entire class of people out in the world doing great work, making great things and living well in the world. As a mounting wave of counter-culture freaks, geeks and technology stars, many of whom tend strongly toward introversion, take an increasing share of the public’s attention, it seems the age-old assumed relationship between extroversion and success is beginning to degrade.

Still, for so long, I wanted to be the eternal glow in the room. But every time I tried to go to and then stay in that place longer than I should’ve been there, I’d end up feeling like someone just stuck a massive life-force hypodermic into my soul and sucked every ounce out.

It’s taken years, but I’m finally making peace with the idea that it’s okay to jump out into the spotlight for a bit, long enough for me to connect, share ideas, make a difference and love the experience, then retreat to refuel and spend the larger part of my time not with large groups, but either with one or a small number of people. Or even alone.

Because that’s who I am. And, like the great sage Dr. Seuss once said, “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Curious, what’s your interaction M.O.? Your experience with the limelight, big rooms or small groups?

Do you believe that the biggest successes most often go to the biggest extroverts?

Does working the spotlight fill you up or empty you out?

And, if the latter, what do you do to refuel?

 

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117 responses

117 responses to “Flipping the Extrovert Switch”

  1. friend – wow, it’s like reading about myself and my own long struggle with this, from LOVING teaching and speaking to wanting to run away before taking the stage, and esp the part about needing to get away by myself when teaching, with groups, whatever. It’s a overwhelming need and funny enough, it meant I missed your closing out WDS – I had to go home. I had been planning on staying for the ending, after party, etc and suddenly, nope, I was in my car driving home. Thank you for putting this into words so well! I feel I know you so much better now and can accept my own need for solitude with more grace. Thank you!!

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Funny, that’s one of the challenges I always had with leading multi-day destination retreats where I was expected to be the hostest with the mostest 24-7. I eventually learned it works a lot better when I bring a team of people to co-present and also structure the days to allow time to step away.

  2. Theresa Reed says:

    I am an extremely introverted, private person. No one would ever guess that because I am outwardly friendly plus my work is WITH people (I teach, lecture, read tarot, lead yoga classes). But when my work is done, I NEED quiet time. I need to be alone to recharge my batteries.

    I also need time alone from my family. Space is important. This has led to many misunderstandings over the years but now they “get it”.

    It’s hard to explain this to people who don’t know me well. They assume that I like being “out there”. It’s not that I don’t like it – I just do it. But what I do like is that quiet moment afterwards when I sit and process. That’s who I “really” am.

    Thanks for such a great post!

  3. Dick Carlson says:

    One of my big breakthroughs as a presenter and keynoter was to give myself permission to NOT attend every single cocktail party, speaker dinner, connection-building event and session. Like you, I can turn on the blinding light while presenting but in general would rather be sitting quietly somewhere.

    I found that spending 2-3 hours in a cocktail party would completely drain me, while putting that same time in running a workshop was like plugging into a huge battery.

    Nice to hear there are others of us on this planet. Any idea when the mother ship will arrive to pick us up and return home?

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Dunno when the mother ship is coming, but I hope that sucker is big!

      • Dick Carlson says:

        I’ve certainly changed my teaching/presenting style over the years as I learned this. I’m now spending a lot more time asking people to speak about where they are, to generate content from the floor, to work in groups and report back, to do short writing assignments and on and on.

        In the training field, our short-hand description of this is when the trainer moves from “Sage On The Stage” to becoming the “Guide At The Side”.

  4. Great post Jonathan! It’s so interesting to read this after seeing you give such a relaxed and yes- charismatic- talk at WDS. For us extroverts (I’m ENFP all the way) being in the limelight fuels us rather than drains us, so this is a great reminder that this isn’t the case for everyone!

  5. Lindsey says:

    I relate to this so much. I’m also an INFJ, and yet I work as a headhunter, so I interact with people a lot of the time. I wrote a post a while ago about being an introverted connector and about how it doesn’t make sense to some but it is the truth of who I am. I definitely need to retreat by myself to refuel.
    So glad to know you’re a fellow INFJ out there.
    xox

  6. Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan. Honestly, it explains a lot. You’re someone I greatly admire, and at WDS I wasn’t sure if I was reading you wrong or if it was just ‘your process’ so to speak. I can certainly relate to the need to reconnect with source, which is often a solitary activity. I feel that way after big meetings sometimes. I often need to be alone, listen to music, or read before getting back into the groove with whatever the meeting topic happened to be.

    On the flip side of that, I was a professional DJ for 10 years, and one of my favorite things to do at the end of the set was to interact with the people that were still there at the end. It was something about watching people dance for hours, but being physically removed from them that left me longing for more. I had the desire to connect as part of the winding down process I suppose. I’ve found the same is true when I speak in front of a crowd, although that might be more about seeking approval or validation, if I’m being honest with myself.

    Everyone has their own process and a way of ‘filling back up’ as you described. Thanks for the reminder that we don’t all fill up the same way.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      I was actually a club and event DJ all through college, loved creating the vibe on the dance floor, but I also loved being in the booth.

      WDS was amazing, loved it but I wasn’t all that present for a solid chunk of time and didn’t go to any of the big gatherings after the opening ceremony, in part because of what I shared in this post.

      And your reaction is always one of my concerns – that people take my behavior as being aloof or elitist – rather than what it actually is…survival, lol.

      • Ha, interesting that we share the DJ connection. Toward the end of my DJ days, there was a trend away from the booth and onto the stage, which I was not a fan of at all.

        As Bridget mentioned, you didn’t come across as aloof, or elitist. When I caught myself even questioning what it was that I was sensing, I reminded myself that there is no way to tell what is going on in someone else’s world. You’re still cool in my book – maybe even more so now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Being a fellow INFJ, boy howdy, I could have written this – almost verbatim. When I’m hawking my wares, being the featured artist, teaching a workshop – people would never know just how introverted I really am. I look at it as a type of performance – on stage, I’m engaged and funny and interested in everything … away, I want to curl into a ball and hide or like you say, head to moving water and walk beside it, preferably a rushing creek or the ocean.

    Yesterday I spent I don’t know how long jumping into the FaceBook fray. I’ve been mostly in hiding there for a very long time. So yesterday I dove in, changed my privacy settings and sent out a butt-load of friend requests. Afterword, I felt like I’d eaten an enormous piece of oversweet cake and wanted to blow chunks. I’m doing a little better today, but still a bit wobbly.

    I’m in the middle of switching gears in my business. Going from tried and true and edging my way to that cliff – hence the FB changes and posting on strangers blogs. It still makes me uncomfortable, but I’m doing better. No choice in the matter, really. The time is now and I must make the leap.
    kvk
    l i g a … love, infinite grace, abundance

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Love it! And thanks for making our little tribe one of the places you’re risking diving into. It’s noticed and valued. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • jami says:

      Oh, my, I am an INFJ as well, and although I love being onstage and am doing better before presentations, the after effects are get me to a forest or large body of water asap or I am just not myself.

      I have made forays into twitter but then have days where I find the effort just too much as it moves so fast in comparison to FB! And WDS was a bit of a struggle – the river and the Japanese Garden were so nice to have near-by while in Portland!

      Thank you for posting, Jonathan, and to the other folks who are responding.

  8. Yannick says:

    Hi Jonathan,
    Quite the same here, you put the finger right on it.
    As an INTJ i find very (very !) strange to be able to lit up a university class for a few hours. I love it, the audience loves it. Damn, everyone loves it !
    Then i need a retreat. Full silence, fully alone.
    Being in company makes me *loose* energy while the Extroverts *gain* energy there.
    So be it, the important is to know where you are on the scale.
    Cheers,
    Y.

  9. T Thorn Coyle says:

    As an INTJ who teaches all over the world for a living, I relate! I’ve threatened to make “Introvert” shirts for one huge conference I present at each year, where I escape often to the hotel gym.

    Teaching is the thing I love best: the interplay of people’s presences, ideas, and energies when we are all working on something in common? Sublime.

  10. Lindsay says:

    As a fellow I / introvert, I can totally relate to your experience. Most people mistakenly equate being an introvert with being shy or socially awkward. I love spending time with people, I enjoy speaking engagements and I always have interesting conversations when I’m attending events where I don’t know anyone. But like you wrote, these events completely drain my energy and leave me wanting time alone to recharge.

    I find that when I’m in draining social situations, it helps to take even a few minutes to myself. A short walk, a few minutes to sit and close my eyes, a break to read…even 15-30 minutes does wonders for helping me refuel.

    I’m always amazed when I spend time with my extrovert friends who continue to gain more energy as the day goes on while I lose my energy. I used to think that it was important for me to strive to be like them. However, when I finally embraced who I am instead of trying to force myself into a different personality, I found that my mood was better, I wasn’t cranky or short with others and I felt better, too.

    Thanks for sharing–great post!

  11. Joshua says:

    Thanks for the reminder. An analogy I’m finding helpful is that of a sonnet – a constant rhythm of up and down. The times at the bottom of rest and recovery (for me that’s sitting in silence, reading a book, or taking a walk) are just as important as the times on the top. Put them together and the rhythm is beautiful.

  12. Mark Gantt says:

    This was so great to hear. I can totally relate. I find when I’m speaking to a group of people it’s not about me (for once) it’s about sharing my knowledge and experience. I love connecting with people and getting then inspired to take action. When I’m done, I’m flying and excites that ice touched at least one person. And yet I desperately want to go back to the cave. Reconnecting with source is a great suggestion. Thank you.

  13. Hiro Boga says:

    Ah, Jonathan, you’ve just described my own dance into and out of the teaching/speaking power-light. Thank you for this.

    When I teach, or speak at an event, there’s a great surge of Source-ness that runs through me — a beam of power, of Divine wholeness.

    And when it’s done, the class or presentation over, the current recedes, as it must. If it were to continue, it would fry my circuits.

    For me, too, it’s essential to withdraw, out to Nature, out to the seashore, back to Source. Not only to refill, but also to separate my energy field from that of everyone else at the event. And also, to reconfigure.

    Because each event at which I speak transforms everyone in the room, including me. And it takes time for that transformation to filter through, for me to find harmony and resonance with my new frequency.

  14. Jonathan,

    What a wonderfully honest, insightful post. You might be interested in hearing that extroverts, I me, struggle with the opposite issue. For me, I love the interaction, being “out there,” but I’ve learned to consciously make time for reflection, regeneration and thought. And I’ve modeled this practice after the more introverted people whom I admire, like you! I realized its where their wisdom and ability to listen deeply came from and without it, I was missing something. I have come to love my time alone and I miss it when I’ve been “out there” too much, but it is not something that comes naturally. That hypodermic needle of energy that’s been removed from you in a crowd, has been injected right into me! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Leslie says:

    My friend said something recently that struck me as really true. She said extroverts are often the worst managers because everything is always about them, and about them looking good, rather than learning to manage because you are concerned about your team.

    I thought about the bosses I’ve had, and in my experience, this is TOTALLY true. Our current agency boss is an extreme extrovert, and he is one of the worst managers ever because he really doesn’t care about anything except in terms of how it affects him. I’m not saying all extroverts are selfish. Just saying that people who are extremely extroverted tend to be absorbed with how they are perceived.

    • Mave says:

      Despite your desire not to claim extroverts are selfish and self-absorbed, it sounds like that’s exactly what you’re doing. But perhaps those particular “extroverts” you and your friend have encountered are actually introverts trying to full an extroverted role they don’t feel comfortable with. Or perhaps they are just under a lot of stress and regressing as a result. You ultimately can’t know where that person is coming from or what they are about, and guessing doesn’t do anyone any favours.

      It’s our tendency as humans to do a lot of othering, theorizing and generalizing when we encounter something we can’t relate to, or something we dislike. I know people who characterize introverts as insecure and immature, which is also inaccurate and unfair. But I think it’s an inherently destructive, nonconstructive way of handling things. It’s enough to simply say, “I don’t understand that.”

      Any explanation of a person’s behavior should always come from that person and that person only. Anything else is discourteous and inaccurate.

  16. Shirley says:

    Oh definitely! Though I love to sing, I’m always really ill beforehand. And in the performance itself I feel so powerful and empowered as the audience listens to me and I sing and we both feed that energy right back into each other, it can be magical. Afterwards I find a quiet place, preferably near water, but anywhere quiet will do. When I first started performing, I wasn’t prepared for the energy overload (which is the nearest I can describe it) and I crept into a corner, shaking,convulsing even, for a couple of hours. I couldn’t bear sound or touch, totally overloaded. Now I know how to release the high, I can usually join in again after a while, but in my own quiet way. I also find about parties, that I either leave early, or stick with it, and as most people leave I start enjoying the party more. Too bad it doesn’t really work that well when I decide just to come later

  17. Jim says:

    Will echo the sentiments of others in saying you article was like reading about myself. I have only recently become comfortable in front of an audience, my breakthrough was of all things, a Cub Scout Pack meeting. Standing in front of thirty 6 – 10 year olds for an hour, making them langh and keeping them in their seats was a real high. Since then I not only enjoy, but have volunteered myself for speaking at work.
    I also have managed to turn my introversion around through empathy of others. Because I was so shy as a youth and young adult, I understand how it feels to want to speak out but not feel comfortable in doing so, at parties and meetings I seek out those who seem to be fading into the wallpaper and invite them into the conversation. Knowing that was all it would have taken for me in the past.
    All that said, I still find myself at large gatherings being much more comfrotable to adopt a position away from the center of activity to enjoy one-on-one conversation or simply to observe others.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Wow, thirty 6-10 has gotta be one of the toughest rooms out there. If you could hit a home run with them, that says a lot. And I love your thoughts on this, too – “I also have managed to turn my introversion around through empathy of others.” great way to harness it.

  18. Jen Young says:

    Thank you for this post, Jonathan. I totally relate.

    The first person I heard talk about this was Mike Myers. He was on Inside the Actors’ Studio and talked about being an “extroverted introvert.” That was such an aha for me.

    As a kid, I was perfectly content to entertain myself in my own closet, but I also loved showing off and making people laugh.

    Speaking in front of large crowds does actually give me a charge, as does performing on stage or in front of a camera. Even teaching groups feels great to me.

    What drains my energy, I find, are auditions, dates, networking events and working one-on-one with clients as a personal trainer. I feel like I’m being dissected and judged. It takes a lot of energy for me to stay open and forthcoming.

    When I’m with personal training clients, I pick up so much of their emotional energy and pain, that I can only do a few sessions in a day.

    I guess I see myself as a vessel for a message or a character when I’m in front of groups and audiences. Energy seems to flow from the divine through me out to the audience then back again.

    I recharge with long walks, good food, naps and dancing in my living room.

  19. Bridget says:

    For me, it depends on the energy shared. If I’m in a room full of dysfunctional people, I’m not enervated by it. Put me in a room of people running clean, and I have a very different experience.

    Also, I wonder if it’s a capacity thing. If there’s a point where, even for extroverts, our speakers get blown.

    WDS made me crazy. So many people. Such high energy. Even for someone who considers herself an extrovert, I barely got through it.

    And even though it’s obvious that you’re an introvert, J, you didn’t come across to me as aloof, just aware and sensitive, and that’s all good.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Funny, at WDS I actually noticed a few people knitting during sessions along with you and wondered whether that was some kind of “energy management” practice.

  20. Sarah Page says:

    Wow, looks like you’ve hit on something here! I knew I couldn’t be the only one who is introverted, but enjoys the occasional spot light. I’m ISFJ, and rank pretty high in the “I” department.

    While I don’t always enjoy public speaking, I get a huge kick out of it if I know my topic and I’m prepared for the gig. I tend to fumble if I’m asked to speak off the cuff, but have gotten better even at this over the years.

    I tell people it’s like I have to put on a persona when I speak. It’s me, but it’s just the “public” me. Kind of like putting on a different outfit, where the one I wear at home might be sweats and the one I wear to speak would be professional clothes.

    Great post, and even greater to know there are more of us out there. Introverts unite! ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. dave r. says:

    in show business there is an art to “working a room”…you do just enough to make sure that you touch everyone but there is another saying, “leave them wanting more.” there is a reason why a very good performer does their final song and runs off and waits for the crowd to “beg them for more”…the artist returns for what is a well rehearsed grand finale and everyone in the audience is satisfied…its the same in sales.

  22. Brigitte says:

    Sometimes I feel like the only extrovert on the Internet. ๐Ÿ™‚ I kid, but many of my favorite people online write about these kinds of issues.

    I draw energy from interacting with people. This plays out in everything from group dynamics (I’m much happier leading an interactive workshop that speaking on a stage) to my shopping habits (I’ve pretty much gotten to know all the owners of my favorite shops). At WDS, I felt great — meeting all sorts of new people. But, even us extroverts need our downtime. I took an hour and a half for myself before heading over to the after-party, because I just didn’t have any more to give. I used that time to practice yoga and simply be in silence. I think the need to center is universal.

  23. Jonathan,

    Being completely connected in the moment is a huge gift to your audience, just as much as taking care of yourself is. Even as an extrovert, I have learned that I absolutely must have solitary time to recharge after a speaking, networking or social event.

  24. Trev Hamm says:

    Really enjoyed this post. I guess I’m still at a place where I think I need to improve my “working the crowd” skill set. Not quite at the point where I’m 100% ok with having an on-off switch. Reflecting on this post might help me to embrace the fact that I’m simply an introvert who has the ability to be purposefully/intentionally extroverted in bursts. Thanks again.

  25. E says:

    Much of American culture seemingly exists to push us toward forced extroversion and “positive thinking.” I’m an introvert and a bit of a pessimist in my hardwiring. I need a lot of time to recharge and, although I enjoy being on stage (and can handle the nausea), I can’t “network” in huge doses without draining my reservoir.

    But I’ve come to think I can accomplish a lot without becoming a beaming, carnival-barking Tony Robbins clone.

  26. Sounds like you’re also an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). Being an HSP means we can throw on the persona of an energetic, gung ho, thriving on people and crowds persona, but because it takes SO much energy to do it, we collapse in a heap after.

    I’d wonder why I was so schizo sometimes, then realised that it was just how I’m made. I GO, GO, GO and then need a few days to recover from it.

    Liken it to the tides – the water ebbs and flows and seeing as we’re what, 70% water?, it makes total sense for us to ebb and flow too. Now I’ve come to accept the rhythm of my body and soul and work accordingly.

    So I’m an E/INFP (or what I call an introverted extrovert) shining in some cases, and wanting to hide in others. The key is knowing and managing those waves and taking loads of time out to rejuvenate. I take that to extremes – for every year I’ve worked, I’ve had 2 off! Ha!

    Add to that being a Scanner (multi passionate person with too many interests to choose), and you’ve got one lethal combo for self destruction if care isn’t taken.

    Self love, self care baby.

    • Susan Kuhn says:

      Tia — love your name! And your reference to Barbara Sher’s concept of scanners…she’s one of my mentors. Entrepreneurs tend to be project driven, such as you describe. There are wonderful time management resources for that lifestyle, the finest, perhaps, being Leo Baubauta’s book on same that you can find on his blog Zen Habits.

  27. Ellen Berg says:

    This piece really resonates with me. A few years ago I was the keynote speaker for a conference for pre-service middle school teachers, and I loved speaking to and interacting with the audience from the stage. It was energizing to me. However, once my session was done and I was invited to a reception to mingle with everyone, I was ready to run away for my Me time. I was depleted.

    My friends are always astonished to find out I’m an introvert. I’m anything but when I’m with them. I’m also a teacher, so I’m “on” all day long with students and parents. What they don’t see is all the ME time I take when they’re not around~I have to have time and space to recharge after a day of being with people.

  28. Kristen says:

    I could have written this post, because it describes how I feel exactly. I too felt that there was something wrong with me (socially deficient in some way). But, once I recognized it was okay that I love solitude, I embraced that. Once I realized I prefer talking to fewer vs. more – I started looking for that type of interaction (small to mid-sized groups/classes). Like you, I recharge with more solitude. The ocean, park, or even just my couch will do. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Loved your post! Ironically, I just posted today about discovering that I was INFJ as well. Up until taking Myers-Briggs, I never understood why I felt like an alien in a strange world.

    Check it out at:
    http://kerganedwards-stout.com/i-am-a-freak/

  30. Susan Kuhn says:

    Jonathan, you are the “poster child” for introverts everywhere with this post! Nice, honest, human look at INFJ authenticity in work.

    Here’s a few more tidbits: INFJs are overrepresented in fine authors, they are regarded as oracles — able to take what is within and express deep feelings that make others say “aha, that is true for me.” Like you did here…

    And the flip side is that that introspective side needs to be replenished with time alone. Introverts aren’t isolated, but INFJs need to express meaning in their interactions. Generalized networking — a crucial building block of life for extroverts — doesn’t work for introverts.

    When you start a business, the more you know about yourself along these lines, the better; when you craft a business around who you really are, you not only are happier, you earn more, become more expert, and have a greater positive impact on those around you.

    Spoken as an E/INTP (who straddles the introvert/extrovert dimension every day — tie ball game!

    • marie-jeanne juilland says:

      Susan:

      Great insights. Would love to learn more about what you do, but your website is under construction. Any other way to reach you? You can find me on twitter; mjjuilland
      it ties to my linked in profile also

      marie-jeanne

  31. Eric says:

    I’ve had an “unwritten” policy for many years – as I spent two decades traveling, presenting, keynoting to corporations – no dinners with clients. When the gig was over, it was time to reintegrate with yoga, time in nature, breathing. Not that I would leave the events “drained”. Rather, pulsing with intense energy and needed time to digest. Not think about or even understand. Simply digest.
    I also found that being in front of several thousand people was a profoundly alone experience – compared to working intensely with a small group of folks which could become quite intimate.
    Over the years, I’ve learned to stay more and more grounded, connected as I present regardless of the group “size”. When I’m attuned to the common ground beyond typologies (I,E,N,S,T,J,P etc) the depletion-factor is minimized. Still, I prefer a long walk in the woods to a smoosh-fest anytime.

  32. Lynn Hess says:

    Yes, yes, thank you for the reminder about how we all process our energy differently — I don’t think I can ever get too many reminders of that, because it’s SO easy to forget, and even to start to think that the way other people do it is weird because it seems so foreign to the way I process.

    I’ll need a spot on the mother ship too, please, because I’m right here with you introverts who have spurts of extraversion.

    I have taken the Myers-Briggs multiple times during very different periods of my life, and one thing that is really interesting to me is that my “I” and my “E” flip-flop (I’m INFP). I’m usually really close to the line, but during certain times in life I been an E (usually when I’ve felt stultified and have been holding back my voice for too long and am ready to bust out) and other times I’ve been I. But if I look at it in terms of “what gives me energy” and “what drains my energy,” it’s definitely introvert all the way. I enjoy a good party and am sometimes even the one who rowdies it up, but at the end of the day I want to be home, alone, in complete silence before my brain explodes.

    I haven’t seen you speak, but I for one think it’s enormously valuable to have you and your style in this arena. There are a lot of noisy, enthusiastic, extroverted people in this community who are enormously talented and successful and really awesome at what they do, and they inspire a lot of people — but they can’t reach everyone. Some people shut down from too much “on-ness” and need someone with a quieter touch. It’s a good example of how “your people” will always find you when you put yourself out there as just who you are.

  33. Marie Angell says:

    As a performer, I’m very “on,” and I don’t mind interacting with people before and after a show, but I really need to gear up first and recharge after.

    But I leave that side of my personality on the stage. People sometimes comment on it, that I’m “different” when I’m not on stage. I’m certainly not a natural extrovert but I guess I am a ham, in the sense that I get into a very energetic zone when I’m performing.

    It’s so interesting that you’re writing about this at this moment, because just in these last few days, I’ve been thinking about public speaking, which I love but have not done in quite a long time, and how I might want to be a different, more low-key speaker now than I used to be and would that work.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and viewpoint.

  34. Barbara Winter says:

    As a teacher/speaker myself, I can’t help but study other presenters when I’m in the audience. I used to struggle with the same dilemma when I would see high energy speakers come off the stage and just keep going. That’s not my style.

    I think there’s huge difference between presenters who are primarily entertainers (who repeat the same talk over and over again) and presenters who are genuine teachers wanting to make life richer, happier, smoother for their listeners. That’s always been my aspiration and it’s far more powerful than any qualms an introvert might have.

    This post could have been describing me…and, yet, I’ve never heard anyone tackle this subject before. Thank you for writing this and thank you for writing this so eloquently.

  35. Such an interesting article and group of responses. As the ultimate extrovert, I love to be in the spotlight, I love being out with people…it is energizing for me and something I need to survive. Too much time alone and I become depressed and un-motivated. My best inspiration comes when I’m talking through ideas with others, vocalizing my thoughts, ect.

    I do think, however, that there is a specific advantage that introverts have when public speaking, performing or leading an organization in general. As an extrovert I am always deeply concerned about what other people think of me, I’m deeply affected by external circumstances and conditions…an introvert, however doesn’t have to deal with these distractions and emotional pulls as much, he/she has a better ability to remain focused on the needs of an organization and has an easier time making the best choices without being unduly persuaded by the external world. The ‘extroverted’ introvert, as you discuss here is the best there is in business, because they are able to tap into that extroverted side when needed to lead an organization or present a message, but maintain the consistency and internal fortitude that makes introverts so successful and powerful.

    Great article, business success is so much about understanding your personality flaws and gifts and knowing how to use them (or support them) to run a successful organization.

  36. Chris Zydel says:

    I’m just glad to know that I’m not the only one who a.) laughs when being referred to as charismatic and b.) wants to throw up or some version thereof before going into performance mode.

    And of course, onstage, all is right with the world but as soon as the curtain falls, metaphorically speaking, I’m off to some version of my hobbitt hole for solitary downtime and rejuvenation.

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone!!

  37. Becky says:

    I came here from Amber’s FB post & was pleasantly surprised to read about your experience as a yoga teacher; really wasn’t expecting that. It was great to read & have a glimpse ‘behind the scenes.’ I often wonder how people manage to stay social all the time but this is a good reminder that appearances aren’t everything & there’s a lot more that goes on within a person than we’re aware of. What you describe sounds similar to what I’ve experienced but I haven’t gone so far as to label myself intro- or extrovert. To recharge I rely on my daily Isha yoga practices ๐Ÿ™‚

  38. s reid says:

    You’ve just helped to ‘vindicate’ many who share your experiences and emotions…thanks.

    The energy necessary to ‘adapt’ to those required behaviors is more than most people realize.

    Having coached many who are not the typical extroverted/ outgoing sales types, I’ve helped to give them ‘permission’ to literally require the subsequent behaviors you mentioned. I’ll pass this one on to many…

  39. susan says:

    You have just described classic introversion, which has nothing to do with the ability to speak in front of large groups, and everything to do with how we recharge. If you google “caring for your introvert,” you will find an excellent article by Jonathan Rauch at The Atlantic that puts some of the assumptions to rest. I find it important to remind myself that extroverts need people to recharge, just as we need the opposite. Asking an extrovert to spend hours in a quiet room working on something without rushing out to find people to talk to, is equally soul-destroying for them. That personality test you mention seems responsible for a lot of incorrect assumptions. This is about the brain, and how people work better depending on how they refuel. Thanks for your post!

  40. nora says:

    I’m a lot like you Jonathen (I’m an INFP) – for a long time speaking in public absolutely terrified me (though I had no problem acting on stage). Going through the teacher training with you taught me that I actually do like to speak, but actually teaching and giving workshops I found the same thing you did, that I need the down time by myself afterwards to recharge. In fact, when I was going to grad school and working full time at the same time I found that I absolutely NEEDED the half hour between work “shutting off” and classes starting to just be silent and read or whatever. And the same for right after classes, I couldn’t just get into a conversation with my husband as soon as I got home. I needed a bit of silence with myself first.

  41. Jonathan, This is so helpful and encouraging to read. I am an INFP and an actress/director. After a show is over I need to retreat for a good while to reclaim my energy. I also teach acting and understand what you mean by 90 minutes passing in a blink of any eye. I get very fired up and animated when I am teaching and I love every minute of it. I think it’s because I love it so much and I am very passionate about what I am sharing. This article was very encouraging for me to read because you are someone I see as being in the spotlight. I never would have guessed that you are in introvert.

    I have been reading some interesting books for introverts:
    Introvert Power
    The Happy Introvert

    The best thing that has happened to me as an introvert is getting older because I have learned how to manage my energy, to value the deep listening skills that generally come with introversion and to be comfortable as who I am – even at cast parties. (Cast parties are generally wild affairs.) ๐Ÿ™‚ And I don’t try to push myself into extrovert mode at parties any more.

    I didn’t mean to go on and on. I’m just so thrilled you wrote this. It’s a topic I am deeply interested in.

    Best to you,
    Kirsten

  42. Kari says:

    I’m an extrovert who converted to being an introvert–so I guess I’m kinda weird that way. I went through a major life change and started being far more reclusive than I had ever been.

    Now, 10 or so years later, I’m much more introverted, but I still have extrovert tendencies.

    Hanging out with a few friends–or KNOWN quantities–is not nearly as tiring as socializing with people I don’t know. I can do the whole “small talk” thing, but I don’t like to. It gets boring and tiresome–and, honestly, sometimes I feel I have better things to do with my life.

    I’m slightly afraid of large crowds of people I don’t know.

    I guess I’m a selective extrovert.

  43. Kristi Hines says:

    I’m an INFP and find that I can turn on the extrovert for limited engagements, but after that my energy is drained beyond the point of no return. Like conferences, for example. If I’m “on” throughout the day, once I get back to the hotel room, I have no energy left for the after parties or meetups. I’m pretty much toast.

  44. Dear Jonathan –

    I have to tell you a story. Because you like stories.

    When my Uncle Cecil was 98, his sister (93) convinced him he had to stop smoking and having a bourbon before lunch and dinner. It was dangerous to his health.

    (He was still handling his extensive stock portfolio at that age. Sharp)

    His doctor said. ARE YOU KIDDING, CECIL? DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING.

    PS We love you just the way you are.

  45. Alina Bas says:

    Wonderful article. Maybe the model suggesting that people are either introverts or extroverts is not accurate. Perhaps, it’s a continuum, and people could be better described as I 70% E 30%, for example, rather than either I or E. A sidebar of triggers that make a person switch from I to E, and back, could be added to outline the causes and tendencies of the shifts in each person. A new psychology theory in the making. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • John says:

      I am a psychologist who practices psychotherapy.

      Modern personality research shows that Introversion-extraversion is indeed a continuum with “I” on one end of the scale and “E” on the other end. Many people fall somewhere in the middle of the scale. Although hardcore Myers-Briggers still talk in terms of “type,” modern research doesn’t provide much support for looking at personality traits this way. Which doesn’t mean that some people don’t fall at the extreme ends of the scale; they certainly do. But this probably isn’t true of most people.

      One final note. In my practice, I often work with individuals who consider themselves extreme introverts or extreme extraverts, but feel guilty about their tendencies (this dimension is considered a matter of temperament). People on the introverted end of the scale need to pull back to lower arousal, whereas people on the extraverted end of the scale want to keep the party going because social stimulation is a primary form of positive affect. As you might imagine, when two people on opposite ends of the scale marry each other, there’s often a push-pull dynamic in the relationship that causes trouble (and guilt). I’m often the guy who gives people permission to not only accept this aspect of their temperament, but to embrace it.

  46. Tisha Morris says:

    Yep, me too! Doing workshops, networking, speaking, and teaching yoga really take it out of me. You hear so much about you should do things that are energizing, so I had questioned that these were a good fit for me. But, giving yourself permission for “recharge” time sounds like the key. It was difficult for me at #WDS to get in the networking time for this reason. I just wanted to go to the park across the street and take it all in. For that reason, I never got the chance to meet you, Jonathan. But it sounds like you needed the same thing ๐Ÿ™‚

  47. Shanna Mann says:

    I’m a borderline INTP/ENTP. I fly high in a group setting, especially where there’s less than 50 ppl present, and I tend to be one of those people that ‘holds court’, getting into an intense discussion that lasts all night. The problem is, this frenetic energy fizzles unexpectedly, and when I burn out, I burn out hard.

    Right now I’m living in near-seclusion in northern Alberta, and it’s great! I can be fully, completely present with clients and with my network, and yet when the lid closes on the computer, none of that can touch me. It’s brought so much ease into my life, knowing that I can choose and mindfully attend every interaction, because I’m not overextended by living in a really social community.

  48. Roy Jacobsen says:

    Jonathan,
    I could have sworn I was reading your story in Devora Zack’s book “Networking for People Who Hate Networking.” (http://onlyconnectconsulting.com/onlyconnectconsc.html)

    Just because you’re introverted doesn’t mean you can’t be an effective speaker or networker. You just have to play to your strengths and recognize that you need some “me time” to recharge.

  49. Tim says:

    I could so relate to this post and to many of the comments. I am definitely an introvert who earlier in my life was deftly afraid of public speaking. Now I get a real charge out of it (I often speak to promote my business). I had someone tell me “Tim you are so quiet, but when you speak you come alive!’

    I’m learning to accept that “quiet” part of myself. After I speak sometimes, I too, want to retreat. I always thought that was weird (“how could I enjoy speaking in front of groups yet in some social situations clam up?”) Introverts like me need alone time to recharge their batteries – I know I can’t stay in the spotlight too long before feeling drained. Your post reminded me that this is OK, and I’m not the only one like this!

  50. gwyn says:

    I’m an ENFP and like Brigitte above

    “I draw energy from interacting with people. This plays out in everything from group dynamics (Iโ€™m much happier leading an interactive workshop that speaking on a stage) to my shopping habits (Iโ€™ve pretty much gotten to know all the owners of my favorite shops).”

    The truth is I can work a room and be the life of a party but when in the spotlight I freeze. It’s like I need the interaction to perform. I have also recently gone through a reclusive phase where I am emerging far more aware of how I am in public and in personal interactions. I am learning to be less assertive and allow for deeper conversations and relationships rather than numerous surface contacts.

    As for time alone it is as essential to my well being as the interactions. I think whichever side we fall on it becomes necessary to find a balance. Yoga helped me with that on the physical and emotional planes.

  51. Great post. I’m an INFP and my wife is just the opposite. I’ve come to think of the introvert vs. extrovert discussion as how we rejuvenate. I recharge when I’m by myself – I definitely need some me time. The extrovert tends to recharge and rejuvenate when they are around crowds. That makes me cringe.

    So, my wife and I learn to help each other rejuvenate in our own ways. It is odd, however, that I enjoy teaching and presenting as well. Maybe it has to do with being in control and knowing the direction that you are going. When I’m with a group of strangers, I’m always thinking about the conversation and where it’s going, etc. I like the control of presenting.

    Great post! Thanks.

  52. wendy says:

    Ahhh. Thank you for bringing this to people’s attention, Jonathan! Along with all these other folks, I totally relate! I’m an INFP. I really enjoy public speaking/teaching because of the energy and idea exchanges, but afterward, I’m exhausted. I have to be alone for some time and I also find nature revives me.
    I had a boss once who told me that someday my introvertedness would “fix” itself. That was my AHA moment–there was nothing wrong with me and I simply had to learn how to care for that part of myself so I could be “on stage” without feeling so low afterward. I don’t think you have to be an extreme extrovert to be successful, but knowing yourself will stave off the emotional burnout.

  53. Robin Cangie says:

    As a fellow INFJ, I found myself nodding throughout your entire post! I definitely have an extrovert switch, and it definitely comes with a timer. A little trick I’ve recently discovered is to steal away for about 5 minutes once per hour – it’s usually easy to excuse yourself for that long, and it helps me feel a lot less drained at the end of a long event, party or networking session.

    It’s fascinating how we assign so much value and meaning to labels like “introvert” and “extrovert”. These labels can be illuminating and help us become more self-aware, as is clearly the case with you. But too often, we allow ourselves to be defined by labels, both culturally and individually. I thought for a long time that being an “introvert” meant that I couldn’t network, meet new people or engage a crowd very well, when in fact, I’m quite good at all three. I guess the lesson is that labels, like people, are flexible. Apply them when helpful, but don’t become slaves to them or they can keep you from having a lot of fun.

    Thanks for such a great post.

  54. Kaley Klemp says:

    Hi Jonathan – I think you’re bringing to light here one of the most important mistakes that people make with Introversion and Extroversion. People think that it has something to do with social grace or public appearances. Really, introversion vs extroversion is a question about energy. Introverts get their energy (recharge) from being alone (walking by the river as you say). Extroverts get their energy and feel recharged when they are with people – after a long day with people, I feel more energized. Either type can do both – engage with people or solitude – it’s just a question of whether it’s giving you energy or costing you energy.
    Thanks for writing!
    Kaley (ENFJ)

  55. Amy Oscar says:

    Remarkable. So many of the people I admire – on social media and the ‘real’ world – turn out to be shy, just like me. (I’m an INFP, who tried for a long time to change that “I” to an “E” – as you can imagine, that didn’t work out well AT ALL.)

    Here, in your comments I see notes from teachers and Twitter friends that I love to connect with – but with whom I am – often – to shy to engage more. As we build this alternative community, I’m so glad that we are making it safe for the introverts among us to also shine.

  56. Now I understand why I only saw you briefly and then onstage at WDS.

    I think this is the case for a lot of introverts – when we’ve got the stage or the front of the classroom, we’re energized by what we’re sharing. But a schmoozing/flow kind of setting is too unstructured and can be draining.

    I just led one of those all-weekend retreats and it was okay introvert-wise. I wish I’d had a friend to debrief/hang out with, and I wish I’d had more space at lunch time. I found it challenging to take care of the group and myself at the same time.

    So I’m with you on having a bit more of a team while leading longer workshops.

    Thanks for sharing this. Yours and Jamie Ridler’s posts about how to manage energy during a conference is very helpful for us introverts/border introverts.

  57. Max Daniels says:

    ENTJ here. Not to skew your results, but I get HUGE energy from teaching and being in the spotlight, so much so that I find it a little unbearable and almost always have to run away and dissipate it. That could be making boisterous noise, dancing or otherwise making a lot of movement, could be having a drink (or two), could be drowning myself in a vat of maple syrup (hold the pancakes).

    Maybe that makes me an E with strong I tendencies. Not sure – but the point is, you get to work with energy either way. If you’re depleted by being big in public, you need to replenish the energy, and if you’re overfilled, you might need to let it out.

  58. Sue says:

    Jonathan,

    I’ve got some news for you: the Mothership for all of us with an I-N in our Myers-Briggs type (I’m and INFP) probably won’t need to be all that huge–INFPs, INFJs, INTJs and INTPs combined only make up 12% of the general population. (I don’t know if that’s globally or just in the U.S. and Canada.

    When you get past the mistaken ideas and stereotypes about what it means to be an introvert (and intuitive one at that), what you find is a group of people whose default settings include tuning into a rich inner world, a need to listen and comprehend before we put our mouths in gear, an ability to translate information into knowledge, and a need for quiet time to reflect and regenerate our energy. I found this info on a site called the introvertz coach.

    I wouldn’t say that being extroverted automatically makes one more successful, but I think extroverts are more likely to be noticed and heard because they like being out in the world and are energized by interacting with large groups of people.

    There have also been some very successful (albeit somewhat misunderstood) I-N types including Einstein INTP), Eleanor Roosevelt and Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi (INFJs); Dwight Eisenhower (INTJs), and Shakespeare (INFP). I think I-Ns just arrive at their success through different means and usually as a side-effect of pursuing their calling.

  59. Thank you for such a great post Jonnatan. About 12 years ago a client of mine who specialized in Myers-Briggs encouraged me to take the test. I scored almost dead in the middle of introvert/extrovert scale. She said “Here’s the definitive question: How do you recharge your batteries, by being alone or by being with other people? Which leaves you energized?”. I instantly answered being alone. She said “you are an introvert with good social skills.”
    I have really struggled with being out there, especially online because, in my mind, EVERYONE would see me. While that’s a clear all or nothing cognitive distortion, your strategy is a peek at how to manage tolerating being out there –however visible that might be– in a way that’s responsive to who you really are and to supporting a growing business.
    Thank you for sharing your insight into your inner world. I’m clearly in good company.

  60. Sherry Marts says:

    I’m a Meyers-Briggs “E” and I experience a similar need for “down time” when I’n teaching, presenting, or facilitating. I’m also pretty awful at small talk in social situations – I tend to get really interested in the person I am talking to at the moment, and have a hard time breaking away to join/start other conversations. Guess that’s why I never went into politics or lobbying, even after nearly 25 years of working in DC.

  61. Leslie says:

    From one INFJ to another…I loved this post and related to it on so many levels! Thank you!

  62. As a fellow INFJ, I couldn’t be in more agreement. I feel the need to recharge alone – whether its back in the hotel room after a networking event or after a long meeting. My issue comes with being able to flip that switch on. I need to really pump myself up to get to the level I need to be for a networking event.

    It’s not that I feel like I don’t have valuable things to contribute, but trying to enter a conversation or introduce myself to new colleagues/peers at networking events is a challenge.

    How do you get in the right mindset to enter a room and have no problem going up to anyone? Normally, when I force myself to do this and get to talking to a few people, I can get on a roll – but flipping the switch is the hard part.

  63. Jonathan, I’m also an INFJ… I hear we are the rarest of types. I find that as my business evolves to include more speaking that it’s necessary to balance that “in front of people time” with MORE time to myself. Being outside is always a great recharger for me – walking in the woods, riding my bike or taking my kayak out on the river. Thanks for this post and the comments that clearly show there are others like me out there.

  64. Diana Long says:

    Hi Jonathan,
    LOVED this post as it spoke to me + apparently many of us!Hello INFJ tribe ๐Ÿ™‚
    I too, am an INFJ and love to share + present. It’s as if I am fueled by a magical energy of feeling so alive, inspired + connected with my audience.
    Afterwards, I am looking for the door so I can go asap + chill and recharge myself. I used to think I needed to “fix” this, but now just get, hey it’s just how I roll ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks for your insightful shares,Jonathan, you are brilliant.

  65. Just another INFJ chiming in here. I think that the high “I” is one of the reasons I love therapy so much–the energy is small and personal. I haven’t done much teaching or speaking recently, but I enjoy it when I do (except for the “feel like hurling” part before I start). However, you nailed the need to recharge in some solitude.

    When I try to describe Myers-Briggs to clients, I always talk in terms of energy and refueling. I emphasize that being introverted or extroverted doesn’t limit your choices, it means that you need to understand how you are fueled. Thanks for describing it so well.

  66. Kevin says:

    Thank you Jonathan for this post. I’ve wondered about whether I’m an introvert or an extrovert for years. Most of my friends think i’m an extrovert but nobody really sees me when I go home and prefer to be alone with my thoughts so I confused about my own personality traits. Your post was really a great read for me because it put a lot of my uncertainties to rest and I know that I have an on/off switch as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  67. Racheal Cook says:

    This is something I struggled with for a LONG time – and one of the reasons that I love what I do now. When I am with coaching clients, leading a seminar, or doing a speaking engagement, I’m “ON” in extrovert mode. But I’m perfectly happy 80% of my time on my own, or with my nearest and dearest. But I’ve found that just time alone is essential to me actually recharging my batteries so I can enjoy being with others instead of feeling like I just wanna escape!

  68. Marie Davis says:

    Johnathan, as usual you are talking about something I’ve been thinking about. how do you do it!? I am somewhat reclusive, but when I do get out I am an extrovert, I think it is to hide my shyness.

  69. Deryn says:

    So much this. Being an INTJ the spotlight is a great place for me for short times — I get a high out of it to the extent that it feels like an altered state — but when it’s done, it’s *done* and I have to flee. I’ve had to work hard on even saying goodbye like a polite person!

  70. Michelle says:

    As an Introvert, HSP and Empath the world can sometimes be a scary place (also magical, hopeful, rich, deep and miraculous) especially when your heart is calling you to be your most bold and brave and brilliant self. Jonathan I so appreciate the honesty, depth and insight offered in this post. It fills me with that magical, deep, rich and miraculous hope that I so need to sustain my growth. So thank you. And *hi* to all of the other I’s out there. We are a powerful bunch!

  71. Nat Allan says:

    Wow, how to know you’re speaking other’s truth, what a great bunch of comments. I often get asked how I manage to stay ‘up’ all the time in my business and what people miss is me wandering around quietly watering plants between clients and classes, curled in the corner of the local cafe lost in a book, closing the door and just sitting with the music and a journal for a while. Being an extrovert as a teacher/speaker can often make people assume you are an extrovert in every other area of your life. I like the idea that other wonderful speakers recharge by introversion. It’s liberating to read. Thank you:-)

  72. Sherron says:

    Wonderful post, Jonathan! I find myself frequently explaining that phenomenon of literally feeling the life-force draining from my body just because I’m in close proximity to entirely too many people. And folks marvel and scoff and think I’m making excuses to get out of things. No one would ever guess that I’m an introvert, and I think that’s largely because extroverts just have the wrong idea of what an introvert is, how we behave. Every time I hear people talk about this phenomenon, I feel validated. Like you, I’ve decided this is not something I have to fix, but it just is. But it’s sure nice to be validated. So, thanks!

  73. Neena says:

    Huge introvert here. I have given this exact topic a lot of thought – and I do feel that extroverts have a bit of an advantage.

    You might think that on the internet introvert/extrovert might not matter as much. But I think it is quite the contrary.

    Opening your own life up to a web full of strangers is hard to do.

    Nice post.

  74. As an INTJ I have struggled with this same thing over the years. At the last yoga retreat I hosted I was careful to create time and space for everyone – myself and the students (particularly the other introverts) – away from the group activities.

    I was conscious of not filling every moment with activity (even still activities such as meditation) but instead, giving people time to themselves – without structure – to recharge and to later return to the group feeling energised.

    I let go of any fear I had of needing to be seen to have filled every second of people’s time with activity and instead, opened to there being a natural ebb and flow to the weekend, with times for high energy interaction and times for introspection and chill out.

    I didn’t worry too much about that the extroverts would do during our down time. I knew they would seek each other out and have a ball without any need for me to fill that space.

    The other thing I’ve discovered over the years is that the more I am able to sit with myself, without judgement or fear, the more comfortable I am just sitting in a crowd of people and being still. I no longer feel anxiety about needing to behave in a certain way amongst others. (A lot of my previous exhaustion in being amongst crowds revolved around my fear of not knowing what they’d want from me; a fear of not being good enough or interesting enough etc.)

    Now when I’m in a group environment, I sit in a way that’s comfortable for me – quietly. Many people will do anything to avoid the quiet and they generally find themselves another companion soon enough.

    On the flip side, I find that many people are grateful for the stillness and the silence. In that there can be an amicable companionship where there’s no forcing of conversation and when conversion does arise, it’s natural and easy. For me, that is a very happy experience indeed, and not exhausting in the least!

  75. Fellow INFJ here! I’m an actress, and as a performer, people assume that I am an extrovert. In reality, I can function as an extrovert, but it makes me really, really tired. After parties I need large amounts of solitude so that I can recharge my batteries and function again. Most people equate introversion with being shy (which I certainly am not), and can be put off with what is seen as my “standoffishness.” It’s just self-care, and those who are nearest and dearest to me accept it. They know when I engage, I engage fully, and that I am always there when they really need me, even if I can’t be at every party and answer the phone to chat for a couple of hours a day.

    Do you. Dr. Seuss had it right all along.

  76. Mike Braun says:

    Great article, Jonathan! As Jennifer stated above, it really was “like reading about myself and my own personal struggle. What is interesting is that I was a classic ENFP. That said, over the last decade I felt that the E should have been a J. Like you, I thought I needed to fix something. Then, I thought back to my childhood…and growing up as an only child on a farm in the prairies of Canada. I realized that while I enjoyed the spotlight, I have always preferred “me time”…I just didn’t have the awareness. Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,

    Mike

  77. I’m also an INFJ and I really connected to your words here. I’ve learned that when I’m passionate about a subject, I can appear extroverted. If I’m with friends or family that I’m close to, same thing. But for the most part I’m HIGHLY introverted. I don’t like mindless chit chat, I don’t like parties and I don’t feel a need to socialize at an event, especially when I’m feeling drained or like I need to process what I’ve experienced.

    I’ve recently learned to be so much kinder to myself. There’s nothing wrong with me for not wanting to stay after and socialize. There’s nothing wrong with me if I don’t want to partake in mindless social chit chat. Part of my personality type is that I care about different things than most. I want to make a difference, learn, grow, talk about deep and interesting things.

    Speaking is something I’m working towards and you’re the second person with my personality type to say you love speaking. I’m glad to hear that because I have a lot of fear around it! I know that fear will never really go away, but it’s comforting to know there’s a good chance I’ll feel great about what I’m doing once I’m out there!

    Thank you for this post! xo

  78. Rob says:

    This resonates massively.

    We’re all probably a lot of one or the other depending upon the conditions, activity or event.

    I’m thinking of the Musician extrovert performers who are the introverted artists in the writing and recording studio or at home.

    Maybe one fuels the other.

    Rob

  79. emma says:

    It wasn’t until someone finally explained to me that being an introvert doesn’t mean one doesn’t like people or isn’t social, but rather than being an introvert means one recharges via sources other than people, that I had my ah-ha moment. I, too, am an INFJ and I love connection but boy-oh-boy do I need my down time.

  80. Once upon a time, I took the Myers-Briggs. I don’t remember my exact results, but I know there was an I and a J in there somewhere. Five years and a whole new life situation later, I took it again. This time, I was an INFP.

    The only thing I know for sure is that the introversion apparently isn’t going anywhere. ; )

    So, Jonathan, I can relate to much of what you’re saying. Somewhere, I read that there is such a thing as an “ambivert”; I think it applies to me. Sounds as if it does to you as well.

    For me, being an ambivert means that I get my energy and my refueling from the time I spend alone; and yet, I can also “flip the extrovert switch” and, for a short period of time, gain energy from the people around me.

    This usually only happens in a small group of people whom I trust. Even made up of familiar faces, large crowds wear me out. For every hour I spend in the company of strangers or a large gathering of friends, I need two hours of alone time to refuel.

    Sadly, my extrovert friends find this incomprehensible. Happily, most of them accept it anyway and let me have my space as soon as I tell them I need it. I only really confuse them when they see me “acting” like them and then needing to hide.

    So here’s to ambiversion! ; )

  81. Wow…here I was over here all alone in front of my computer thinking I was an oddball. Who knew the internet was filled with people from a similar tribe.

    I put it this way recently: Put me at a table for four and I’m Cinderella; put me at a table for 8 and I’m curled up inside a pumpkin.

    Tequila used to help when I was young and carefree. Now I just own my “I”-ness and carry on.

    I do think extroverts have a slight edge when it comes to “success” because they make people feel more comfortable. For introverts, superhero smartness helps make them (quietly) shine. The old “speak softly and carry a big stick” thing.

    Thanks for this timely post, Jonathan.

  82. Rikk Hansen says:

    Wonderful, spot-on post Jonathan!

    As an INFP I relate to every word. Give me the campfire over a cocktail party any day. Yet I too have found a joy in teaching and speaking.

    That joy hasn’t always been true though. While coaching feels like something I was born to, fluidity with training and speaking has been more developed than natural. Toastmaster was a literal god-sent! And developing some ease in these only came after finding a way to bring my strengths and style to the role.

    As a trainer I knew instinctually that I’d never carry the room with charisma and huge energy. Yet I found I could be a catalyst to spark interactive learning. Love the energy buzz in the room when participants are sharing and exploring!

    Co-facilitating is a favorite mode. And retreats that combine coaching time with that small-group magic are the ultimate. Followed by a week of SERIOUS recharge! : )

    Do you feel like your speaking mojo has always been there? Or is it something you grew into by expanding on your natural strengths?

    Thanks for putting this out there! I found a lot of affirmation in the post and vibrant comments.

    – Rikk

  83. Jason Cook says:

    Once again this type of article is making connections in my head about my own personality type. I read lots of self help books and goal books which offer little help to me. But nothing rings more true and has offered more help than the relatively recent view that being an introvert does not have the negative connotations I was lead to believe. Within that framework I can set out to improve what I am. Testing shows I am an INTJ. The Myers Briggs test has little or no scientific basis and one wonders if we read into it what we want. But that aside it seems to be the closest option. I have often being called an extrovert and life and soul of the party, but I think alcohol has helped with that. I actually prefer my own company and intellectual pursuits. I now realise their is nothing wrong with this and i have other strengths.

  84. David says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I have kept up with your varying blog formats since you began your Career Renegade tribe around the time of its launch.

    I can distinctly remember watching your first video filmed with all the snow around you (near your home I think) and its very low key, but captivating manner.It resonated.

    I do not follow any other blog -and had’nt before this event-and I know that this results because of your content and approach- I trust it , it talks to me and the comments of the of the tribe “fills out ” the rest, adding the dimensions that you trigger when you ask “what do you think?”.

    My family and friends would likely class me as very extrovert – yet I rarely comment , for instance ,on forums such as this.

    Your articles, for me , continue to show the balance between the perception we have come to believe regarding success, confidence, achieving -and the diverse ways of getting there while maintaining “yourself”.

    Like many others I welcome quietness.

  85. Nicole Black says:

    Jonathan–great post–feel like I could have written it! I’m an INFJ, too–also an attorney and writer/speaker like you, although my space is legal/tech.

    I know I’m an INFJ because for years I’ve felt like something was wrong with me for not wanting to constantly interact with people. I recently spent some time thinking about this, reading about introversion, taking personality tests. And then it all clicked.

    The process you describe re: speaking–feeling nauseous ahead of time, alive during and losing sense of time and then needing to regroup afterward–is so familiar. Thanks for sharing that:)

    I love reading the writings of other kindred spirits who view/interact the world in a similar way. It’s so interesting. From all the comments to this post, looks like you struck a nerve and connected with a lot of people on this one!

    Thanks so much for this post. I really enjoyed it!

  86. Jonathan,

    That’s me, too. I’m a successful keynoter, represented by the same folks that do Paul Krugman and Malcolm Gladwell. And I love the high.

    But when I’m done, and the client invites you to join the gang for dinner, hoo boy I don’t want to. All I want is get me to the bat-cave, put the DND sign on the door, turn on some stupid sit-com from a few decades ago, and let me recharge.

    ‘S tough!

  87. Susan Colket says:

    Jonathan, thanks for writing this post. Last month, I read “The Introvert Advantage – How to Thrive in an Extrovert World” by Marti Laney, PsyD. It is a fascinating take on the world of both the introvert and extrovert, including how our brains work differently.

    As an introvert, I have a new reassurance and confidence after reading Marti’s research, insights and experiences. A couple key ideas…only 25% of us are introverts; and “extroverts are lighthouses, introverts are lanterns.”

  88. Hello fellow INFJer. I figured out a long time ago that I can do public speaking, but am best with a smaller group and in a workshop style format.

    I once tried 200 and that was not my cup of tea. 50 is OK, but 15-30 is ideal. Then I can see and talk to people.

    Even so, I go through a few stages:
    Stage 1 – excited to get the gig
    Stage 2 (day before) – wish with everything I’ve got that I didn’t say yes.
    Stage 3 – on the way there, I repeat the following mantra: “It’s not about me it’s about them.”
    Stage 4 – 5 minutes in – Oh, I don’t need to read my notes.
    Stage 5 – shake a few hands then go back to the hotel and watch TV. Read no feedback forms until the next morning. Emotions are too open if I don’t wait.

    Lori Helgoe, author of another great book, “Introvert Power,” has a term for those of us who “don’t look introverted.” She calls us Accessible Introverts. We can be out and with people; we just have to be mindful of our energy. (Shadow Dwellers would probably never do the speaking thing.)

  89. Milo says:

    I’m also an INFJ and this post completely describes my experience too.

    I’ve played gigs where I literally became a different person on stage, then coming off stage was terrified of the attention.

    In those cases I’ve actively put myself in a position where I’m suddenly centre stage, where I normally do anything I can do avoid that. No wonder I would immediately disappear to the bar for some dutch courage!

    I don’t perform much anymore but I get the same with public speaking etc. Even karaoke, where I “become” Kanye West for 4 glorious minutes.. to the complete surprise of everyone who knows me!

  90. […] Jonathan Fields: Flipping the Extrovert Switch […]

  91. Sabrina says:

    What I see in your words and the words of others is the spectrum of introversion and extroversion that is being acknowledged. So one can be either a very clear, clear, moderate or slight introvert OR a very clear, clear, moderate or slight extrovert. Either way, it’s the personality level of the person and really helps to give us words that help translate our way of being to get our needs met so that we can accept ourselves and feel more at home in the world. Highly important! Because there are words for it, it means that I’m okay and you’re okay. ๐Ÿ™‚ Within MB there are also facets to that reflect idiosyncrasies of a type … for example typically INFPs and ENFPs would be known for not being able to keep track of time very well, however there exist those with this type that do excel at being on time.

    As a moderate E myself, I do need some “alone” time, but then again, do I if I’m always with my dog? Just a rhetorical question.

  92. […] out this thoughtful, introspective post by Jonathan Fields entitled “Flipping the Extrovert Switch.” I think this guy and I have a lot in common. […]

  93. Matt R says:

    Hello INFJ,
    I know what you mean. You can connect with people and it’ll be fine. For me, once I pass the initial fear, the extrovert switch goes on and I talk a lot. Then the following day, I’m trying to recover from that!

  94. Steve Errey says:

    I don’t think the big successes are more often reached by the extroverts of the world, not one bit. Indeed, a lot of people at WDS were introverts, and I’d consider every one of them to be successful in some really important ways.

    The big flashy stuff might could more associated with the extrovert, simply because that’s where they’ll be drawn. But the events that create the success that leads to the big flashy stuff is everyone’s.

    For me, I come alive when schmoozing and the whole social butterfly thing works wonders in energising and rejuvenating me. I love it. But with that said, I know there have been countless times when I’ve had to deliberately separate myself from people or social events simply to centre myself, breathe and recharge in a different way.

    I’ve also noticed a number of times when I’ve been one-on-one with someone and we’re just doing the small-talk thing, that my energy drops through the floor. It’s like a black hole just sucks up every ounce of anything I started with. If there’s an energetic substance to a one-on-one, some element of “truth” to it then it’s great, otherwise I’m about ready for a nap. Haven’t quite figured that one out yet…!

  95. Thank you for writing this great post. You so accurately capture exactly what I experience every time I conduct a training. In fact, for many years I was content to focus on selling the personality type training products I’ve created and shunned conducting trainings myself, always recommending one of my clients.

    About four years ago, I was contacted by the manufacturer of drones that are used by all of the branches of the military and asked to put together a Team Skills Training that included personality type to solve some problems their teams were encountering while deployed with the Air Force.

    I was terrified, however, the military and all they stand for are very important to me having grown up in the Marine Corps and close to my father, a career, highly decorated, Marine fighter pilot of 25 years. This deep respect for and love of what our armed forces are fighting for (our liberty, freedom, independence and everything we stand for) enabled me to “walk through my fear” and put together a two-day Team Skills Training that includes personality type.

    And, you’re so correct that once I started conducting the training each time, a sense of peace came over me and I was calm and loving what I was doing. However, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I’ve conducted this particular training (and I’m sure it’s over 80 times in 4 years) I still rehearse every line completely in the weeks leading up to the training. And, immediately after the two days of training, I wanted to spend time alone.

    I have been conducting this Team Skills training for the past 4 years and it has been so successful that the Dept of Defense has given the division of this company that I’m working with the highest CPR (Contractor Performance Ratings) ever given a division of that firm.

    I’m immensely proud of this, mostly because it is my chance to give back to our country. Yes I am paid well, however, I give my all and then some. When I die and cross over into heaven and meet my father, I’ll get to say, “Look at what I did! All by myself!”

  96. Great post that I am sure many people were able to relate with. I have worked for many years with a personality assessment and what you are describing would indicate you are an introvert – but higher on a trait called Exhibition that indicates you can feel comfortable in front of an audience. I worked for years with professional speakers and it was vital that they were higher on this trait so they exudes confidence and comfort teaching/speaking/training. Afterwards, your introversion takes over again and you need to “refresh”. There is a great book called “The Introvert Advantage” that tells that introverts manage and recover from stress differently from extraverts. Introverts (like rechargeable batteries) need to disconnect and have time away from people to re-charge (your walk by the lake) verses extraverts (like solar panels) need to be around people to get re-energized. We all need enough self-awareness to recognize our talents and gifts and also those things we need to do to become revitalized to use those strengths again in a positive manner. Thanks for sharing yourself with us again.

  97. I can certianly relate to the spotlight zapping you out! great blog as usual

  98. I’m an introvert too and much prefer small groups.

    But being introverted doesn’t mean you can’t have charisma.

    Not that I have but I think you do.

    The people who are always braying and shouting aren’t that attractive to me. The quiet ones are much more interesting:)

  99. susan bra says:

    Im such an introvert and have trouble talking to anyone but when I get on stage for a presentation I feel more at home then most, I think its because I know what I have to do and what I have to say but the uncertainty of a conversation scares me.