Mar 30

Introversion: A Summary of Helpful Resources

Although Susan Cain‘s Quiet (2012) may be the best known of the introversion resources/books, the following are some additional suggestions.

I. Books on Introversion

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can only be administered by certified practitioners, but a book by David KeirseyPlease Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence (1998), offers a quick test, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, that gives results similar to the MBTI. Keirsey gives detailed descriptions of each of the 16 types. Introversion is one of the key traits analyzed.

Additional books:

II. Article on Introversion

Possibly my favorite resource is an article by Jonathan Rauch entitled “Caring For Your Introvert: The Habits and Needs of a Little-Understood Group” (The Atlantic), March 2003.

Although tongue-in-cheek, the many good points in this piece have resonated with tons of people since its publication. Some excerpts:

  • Introverts are not necessarily shy…Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say ‘Hell is other people at breakfast.’ Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
  • For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: ‘I’m okay, you’re okay–in small doses.’
  • Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome.
  • The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.
  • We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking…
  • The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves.

Rauch’s concluding remarks offer a (naturally) cheeky response to the following question: How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice?

First, recognize that it’s not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s an orientation.

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don’t say, ‘What’s the matter?’ or ‘Are you all right?’

Third, don’t say anything else, either.

III. A Test to Measure Introversion and a Chart

Scott Barry Kaufman in Scientific American introduces a test that purports to measure four different aspects of introversion based on previous academic findings of Jennifer Odessa Grimes. Go to the above-linked article and scroll down to “What Kind of Introvert Are You?” to take the test.

When you score your results you’ll have a number for each type. It’s not about the highest score being your type—rather, each score indicates how much of that type is part of your introversion.

For a quick read, go to this popular Huffington Post article by Lindsay Holmes, who provides an illustrated chart, “Dr. Carmella’s Guide to Understanding the Introverted,” by artist Roman Jones.

Jun 02

Personality: Can Adults Change? If So, How?

People often wonder if it’s possible to undergo a personality change. It depends: What kind of change?

  • Your behavior? Yes, we can do that. The more habitual our behavior, though, the harder it will be.
  • Your character? Yes. We can work on a trait such as honesty, for example, and improve on it.
  • Your temperament? Not as likely perhaps, but not impossible.

When biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher recommends (CBS News) five ways we can try changing our personality, she means the first two listed above, our character and/or behavior:

  1. Write out a plan
  2. Find the right environment for achieving one’s goals, e.g., people who are supportive
  3. Keep a journal regarding one’s progress
  4. Tell a friend, as this helps with accountability
  5. Reward ourselves

How commonly do people actually change without these kinds of efforts? Psychologist Christopher Soto, NPR, states that personality traits “can and often do gradually change across the life span.”

What’s more, those changes are usually for the better. Many studies, including some of my own, show that most adults become more agreeable, conscientious and emotionally resilient as they age. But these changes tend to unfold across years or decades, rather than days or weeks. Sudden, dramatic changes in personality are rare.

If it’s not because of concerted efforts, other ways people change, adds Soto, involve adapting to occupational or social role expectations and living life meaningfully and satisfyingly.

What about therapy as a means of changing personality?

From a study reported in 2017 (Research Digest):

A new meta-analysis in Psychological Bulletin has looked at 207 psychotherapy and related studies published between 1959 and 2013, involving over 20,000 participants, with measures of personality taken repeatedly over time. The analysis has found that just a few weeks of therapy is associated with significant and long-lasting changes in clients’ personalities, especially reductions in the trait of Neuroticism and increases in Extraversion.

It’s not, by the way, that the other end of the extraversion spectrum, introversion, is undesirable or maladaptive. See posts “It’s Okay to Be Quiet” and “Introversion: Resources…“.

Does therapy have to be long-term? No.

Roughly four or more weeks of therapy was enough to induce meaningful change. In fact, beyond eight weeks, more therapy was not associated with greater personality change. Therapy-related changes to trait Neuroticism were especially significant – a few weeks of therapy led to about half the amount of increase in emotional stability that you would typically expect to see someone exhibit over an entire lifetime (as a general trend, most of us slowly but surely become more emotionally stable as we get older).

Is it the shorter-term types of therapy that have the most success, then? No again. “[The] extent of observed personality change was about the same for different kinds of therapy, for instance be that CBT or psychodynamic…”

How does personality change affect one’s life? A study by Boyce et al., as reported on Psy Blog, “confirmed that personality was the strongest predictor of satisfaction with life. This is well-established and helps explain why some people have everything and are never satisfied and some people have next-to-nothing and seem quite happy with life. It’s not just what you have that makes you satisfied (or not), it’s how you think about it. And those habits of thought are heavily influenced by personality.”

Mar 19

“How to Be Yourself”: Social Anxiety

Just be yourself!” You’ve likely heard this advice and thought “But how?” Ellen Hendriksen’s How to Be Yourself is for the millions of Americans who consider themselves quiet, shy, introverted, or socially anxious. Through clear, engaging storytelling, she takes readers on an inspiring journey: from how social anxiety gets wired into our brains to how you can learn to live a life without fear. This book is also a groundbreaking roadmap to finally being your true, authentic self. Susan Cain, author of Quiet

Clinical psychologist Ellen Hendriksen has experienced and dealt with social anxiety herself. In addition to devoting her clinical career to this condition, another way she wants to help others lessen its effects is through her new book How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety.

What is this condition all about? “Social anxiety is self-consciousness on steroids, it highjacks our ability to think, speak and respond.”

Up to 12% of the population have reportedly dealt with this form of anxiety, which, incidentally, is not the same as introversion, though there can be overlap. The main differences between the two are outlined in an article by Hendriksen. Click on the link for details.

  1. Introversion is born. Social anxiety is made.
  2. In social anxiety, there’s a fear of being revealed.
  3. Perfectionism lays fertile ground for social anxiety.
  4. Introversion is your way. Social anxiety gets in your way.

Another list of four is Hendriksen’s types of social anxiety (see her website Resources):

  1. Physical appearance self-consciousness
  2. Physical symptoms (fear of them showing)
  3. Diminished social skills (fear of their obviousness)
  4. Worry one’s personality is “fundamentally deficient”

As for how to lessen the impact of “self-consciousness on steroids,” i.e., social anxiety, A. Pawlowski, Today, repackages the author’s advice in the form of six steps, the details of which are excerpted and/or paraphrased below:

  1. CHALLENGE YOUR INNER CRITIC: What are you afraid of? How bad would that really be? What are the odds this will happen? How will I cope?
  2. LET GO OF SAFETY BEHAVIORS: “To lessen anxiety in social situations, people often stare at their phones, wear sunglasses to avoid making eye contact, hide in plain sight, say very little or leave the room.” These just make social situations worse.
  3. REALIZE IT GETS BETTER AFTER THE FREAK OUT PERIOD
  4. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SMOOTHEST PERSON IN THE ROOM: Just be your human self.
  5. ACCEPT THE SHENANIGANS OF YOUR ANXIOUS BODY: “Embrace your racing heart and sweaty palms without judgment, Hendriksen said. A bit of self-compassion will help put some space between you and the anxious thoughts.”
  6. YOU’LL FEEL LESS ANXIOUS BY LIVING YOUR LIFE: “Patients often tell Hendriksen they want to be less anxious first so they can finally go out and do things they’ve been avoiding like traveling, seeing friends or dating. But that’s actually backwards. Doing those very things now builds confidence, leading to less anxiety down the road, she said.”

Not ready to buy the book? Another of the resources offered via Hendriksen’s website is a free 7-day course to get you started toward decreased social anxiety.

Sep 11

Non-Introverts Need Love Too: Giving Them Their Due

We’ve been hearing a lot about introverts lately, but what about the non-introverts, often incorrectly only described as extroverts? (Read to the end to see the other kind that’s often omitted.)

It’s often estimated that there are a lot more extroverts than introverts. Why doesn’t anyone write a bestselling book about them?  Could it be that the champions of this population are just too busy talking?

What is an extrovert anyway? As explained by Jack Falt in an article about the Extraversion-Introversion dimension measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), it’s mostly about energy: “Extraverts get their energy from the outer world and feel drained when they are by themselves too long…Think of Extraverts like solar cell batteries. They need to be in the sun to get charged up. Introverts are more like rechargeable batteries. They need to by by themselves to restore their energy…” (Note about spellings: both “extravert” and “extrovert” seem to be acceptable.)

Another thing about these non-introverts known as extroverts? There’s a commonly held belief that they’re more friendly and introverts the opposite. But, nay: “Those with a high Extraversion score are not necessarily individuals that are more outgoing and lively. Rather, it means that they have a clear preference for Extraversion, i.e. practically everything they do will relate to the outer world. Similarly, a high Introversion score does not mean that these individuals are quiet and withdrawn, but that they usually go inside to think things through before they respond and need a lot of time by themselves.”

On the other hand, it does seem to be generally true that extroverts will prize having a bunch more friends than an introvert would ever care to have.

On the other other hand, there are extraverts who are shy; there are introverts who are socially assertive.

On the other other other hand, while extroverts may be more likely to get involved in such people-oriented fields as politics where they can try to change the world, introverts may be more likely to be preoccupied with trying to figure out how to understand the world.

Is this too confusing? Well, here’s another way to look at extraversion versus introversion. Falt uses the following quote (from an unknown source) to sum up one of the main things that differentiates these two types: “If you don’t know what an Extravert is thinking, you haven’t listened. If you don’t know what an Introvert is thinking, you haven’t asked.” This is because extraverts tend to think out loud, whereas introverts’ thoughts often stay internal.

What if you’re not just an extrovert, but kind of off the charts about it? Countering an article about the “secret powers” of introverts, Carol Pinchefsky writes in Forbes that she’s an “extreme extrovert.” She then shares her opinion about the “not-so-secret” powers of her own ilk:

  1. Our thrill-seeking temperaments benefit society.
  2. We’re easily bored…and that can lead to innovation.
  3. Our social network keeps us employed.
  4. Our many friendships keep us healthy.
  5. We’re happier than introverts.

She backs up each claim with supporting proof, of course. Check out the above link for more info.

But the group we really haven’t heard much from at all are the other non-introverts, the ambivertsAmbiverts? What the heck are they? Well, as extraversion/introversion actually represents a continuum, and not a binary system, it does stand to reason that most people won’t fall squarely on either end. That leaves room for a whole lot of people somewhere in the middle, in a not-so-clearly-defined world where one can have traits of both extraversion and introversion.

So, who’s really in the majority now? Maybe of the types of non-introverts, it’s not actually the extroverts, as we’re often led to believe, but the ambiverts. But do they even know that?

As it turns out, I think they might need a book most of all.