Steve Fenton

On Being an Introverted Extrovert

There is a general pop-psychology perception that people have a personality type. This has been embedded into the collective mindset over the years thanks to companies using psychometric testing, DISC models, Myers-Briggs types, and Belbin tests to categorise and manage these different personality types. I have been subjected to many of these tests over the years and each one reinforces the common misconception that I’m a Plant/Shaper, ENFP, Dominant, outgoing extrovert. But I’m not.

In fact, I doubt I have a consistent personality type at all. Rather than contextualise this with one of the much-abused corporate models, I’ll use the one that anyone off the street will probably subconsciously use to judge my personality, my perceived extroversion. You can forgive the observers! I’m certain that I come across as loud, confident to the point of arrogance, and willing to stand in front of large groups of strangers. At times.

But I’m not “an extrovert”.

What I have discovered to be true for myself is that I have needs and budgets. I am both introverted and extroverted to the extent to which these needs are not satisfied, or the budgets are over-spent. To put it another way, if I go to a conference or talk at a user group, I am spending my extroversion budget. If I don’t take care of the budget and over-spend, it hurts. A lot. Similarly, if I starve myself of extroversion there is a palpable missing piece of my self. Equally, if I don’t satisfy my needs for quiet time alone, or if I spend too much time alone; trouble.

So, for me at least, there is a balance to be achieved. I need to allocate time to being a gregarious and confident loud-mouth, while ensuring I don’t starve myself of that all important cocoon-time. I am happy to make a fool of myself in front of a crowd of strangers (and perhaps even need to do this) – but there is recovery time needed to balance out the stress this puts on my brain.

Maybe other people who are perceived as introverts or extroverts will recognise something of this conflict/balance in themselves?

Written by Steve Fenton on