January 17, 2020
By Michael Segovia
Of the many biases in the world, one which particularly leads to lost opportunity is the idea that certain personality types are meant for some work and not meant for other work.
For example, people who know me outside of work are often surprised to learn that I’m in front of groups of people (large and small) almost every day. I deliver single day and week-long workshops in every industry at every organizational level. I’m in front of people daily and I love what I do, but conventional wisdom says I shouldn’t--I also have a preference for Introversion.
Outside work that preference is usually obvious. When I tell people what I do, I get a double take and questions like, “Isn’t that exhausting for you?” When I say, “Not really” --again, I love what I do--they look especially surprised.
Many assume only those who prefer Extraversion are cut out for presenting, selling, talking to customers and so on, and those who prefer Introversion are only meant for less social, less people facing careers. I’m here to tell you that this bias is simply not true.
Any “Type” Can do Anything
I continually explain that any personality type can do anything. Our personality preferences shouldn’t be used to limit us. While The Myers-Briggs Company has data that shows certain personality types are attracted to certain careers, that doesn’t mean they perform better in those careers.
From time to time I work with people interested in exploring a career in which their personality type is under-represented. I encourage them to continue to explore the career while also giving a dose of reality that there may not be a lot of people like them in that line of work. “Is being different something you can handle and even thrive in on a daily basis?” I’ll ask.
I then help them explore how their differences might bring innovation that the field is missing. I’m reminded of a nuclear engineer with preferences for ENTP working mostly with people with E or I STJ preferences. This person certainly has a different workstyle and approach, and at times colleagues don’t get his “let’s look for new, innovative ways to change the system” approach. However, his colleagues will tell you that he pushes them to think outside the box…to explore new approaches that might improve processes and safety.
There is No Such Thing as an “Introvert” Anyway
Ultimately, what engages us in work does not have to do with whether we prefer Extraversion or Introversion. You may notice that I’m not saying “Extravert” or an “Introvert”. I don’t use either word, because I don’t believe there is a true version of either word. Imagine if you lived in a world that was exclusively either Extraverted or Introverted. Jung believed that would be a problem. Only living in the extraverted world or being an “Extravert” would eventually feel overwhelming, superficial, and annoying to others. Only living in the introverted world or being an “Introvert” would eventually feel underwhelming, secretive and absent to others.
Instead, I think it’s more useful to consider “having a preference for Extraversion” or a “preference for Introversion”. Not only does this understanding remove labels that limit us, it helps us see that we all have a part of our personality that we use in the extraverted world and another part that we use in the introverted world. We just prefer one world (E or I) over the other.
Extraversion and Introversion: Two Worlds Intertwined
We understand this by not just looking at the first letter of our four-letter type (E or I), but the middle two (S or N and T or F processes) and how the last letter (J or P) orients or directs its energy to the outer world. If a person prefers Judging (J), they’ll usually ‘extravert’ (using this word as a verb) their Judging process (T or F). If a person prefers Perceiving (P) they’ll usually extravert their Perceiving process (S or N). Then for balance the other process in their four-letter type will be used in the Introverted world.
This can be a bit complicated, however, it helps to explain so much more about us. For example, my preferences are INFP. Because I prefer Perceiving (my last letter), I extravert Intuition (S and N are Perceiving processes) and then for balance introvert Feeling (T and F are Judging processes). So, you see there is really no complete “Extravert” or “Introvert”. When I’m taking in information using Intuition, I do that in the Extraverted world. However, when I make decisions using Feeling, I need space to do that in the Introverted world.
The “Introverted” trainer
What does this look like in the work that I do in front of people all the time? While my overall preference is for Introversion, I hope I’ve made it clear that not only is there no such thing as an Introvert, there’s also no such thing as a truly introverted trainer. While I need to reenergize after using extraverted energy all day, if I’m in a place that allows me to use the extraverted side of my personality type—Intuition--I feel more, not less energized by the end of the day.
If during my programs and workshops I can work with people to explore possibilities around change, conflict, communication, etc., I can’t wait to do that again the next day. Alternately, if I need to make decisions on the spot in that extraverted world, I can do it, but I find those days draining. As noted above, I use Feeling to make decisions and I need introverted space to do so most effectively. Remember, all people who prefer Introversion have a side that’s extraverted AND all people who prefer Extraversion have a side that’s introverted.
The “Introverted” Employee Bias
You work with, report to or have reporting to you many people who prefer Introversion. The 2018 Manual MBTI® for the Global Step I and II Assessments (p. 156) cites people who prefer Introversion as representing 56.8 percent of the population. People who prefer Introversion are everywhere and yet, time and again, get overlooked.
In a worldwide sample of over 99,000 executives (The Myers-Briggs Company database, sample of convenience), people who prefer Extraversion are almost twice as likely to be promoted to leadership positions than those who prefer Introversion. Yet, there’s no data that shows one is better than the other when it comes to leadership. We all have gifts and blind spots. Sometimes we too easily see the blind spots in people who are different from us or what we blindly guess a position needs.
Biases limit our perception and judgements. So instead of dismissing someone because they don’t fit your traditional mold, stay open to what they might bring to your organization. Isabel Briggs Myers once wrote, “By developing individual strengths, guarding against weaknesses, and appreciating the strengths of other types, life will be more amusing, more interesting, and more of a daily adventure than it could possibly be if everyone were alike.”
If you’re looking to transform your organization, looking past biases and being open to others’ gifts could be the key.