Myers Briggs: The Dynamics of Our Energy Sources

I can't believe she just said that!  What was she thinking?

That guy? He doesn't care.  He never participates in the discussions, anyway.

These are common, inaccurate responses we have to people because we misunderstand their communication styles.  The funny thing is the way they communicate has more to do with what energizes them than whether or not they have thought about what they are saying or whether they should speak at all.

According to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), all people have a preferred energy source.  You prefer to be energized by one of the following:

  • Interacting with the outer world of people and things
  • Focusing on internal thought and reflection

Neither method is wrong, and to some extent, everyone uses both of these methods; however, we tend to show preference in one direction over the other.  Over the years, you have probably heard of extroverts and introverts.  For the moment, forget the dictionary definitions of these terms because they provide a different meaning than what the MBTI refers to in this dichotomy of preference.

If I'm an extrovert, I energize myself by interacting with others.  I gain energy from talking and doing things with other people.  I will talk more, exhibit verbal proficiency, and think out loud.

If I'm an introvert, I energize myself by internal thought and reflection.  I gain energy from thinking through something.  I will process my thoughts carefully before speaking (if I do even choose to speak). I prefer to communicate by writing and choose what I do say with great care.

When I teach MBTI, I compare word usage between the two preferences in this way:

Image courtesy of StuartMiles\
To extroverts, words are worthless until I speak them.  Then they come back to me with energy and value.  The more I talk, the more energy I gain.  For this reason, I will say a lot of "stuff" that isn't as carefully considered or prepared.  I'm on an out loud journey to an answer while energizing myself.

To introverts, words carry great value.   Each word is worth $100 or more, so I hold them tightly in my mind until I'm sure I want to spend them.  Since they carry great value, I do not use them in excess.  I hoard my words and only speak when I've perfected what I want to say.  I would rather communicate with you in writing, because when I do speak, I'm expending energy.  When I think and reflect, I'm energizing myself.

Did you get that?  Extroverts gain energy by speaking, so their words flow freely and with less thought.  What they say isn't as important as getting to the idea they are working on. It's boisterous, noisy, and tons of energy for them.

Introverts gain energy by NOT interacting.  They prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves, only sharing when they feel strongly about something but never saying more than is necessary.  They fear judgment of their words, so they consider them very carefully before, and if, they speak.

This causes problems.  It creates conflict.  It creates misunderstandings.

Can you recognize an extrovert?  Don't judge them by everything they say.  Listen for the conclusion and try to accept that they don't always take what they say as seriously as you might interpret it.

Can you recognize an introvert?  Don't judge them by their silence.  Ask them what they think and then wait to give them time to process their thoughts and give you an answer.

Which are you?  What problems have you encountered due to the differences in these two preferences?


Rose said…
I'm very much an introvert personally. I think conversations should be about important things, and I've had coworkers get offended when I don't care to discuss gossip or my love life. Plus, when I work drive thru at work you're dealing with people all day without any time to walk off and breathe, which can cause a lot of anxiety for me.

Great article too! I'll be sure to share this with some of my friends as well.
I've always thought I'm an even mix of both, but this makes me think I'm more of an extrovert. I love alone-time to write and read and just be alone with my thoughts, but I love to talk things through, also. And sometimes (probably a lot of times) I don't know what I'm going to say before I say it!
Oh Rose, you do sound just like an introvert. It's very normal for you to not want to discuss your private life with others.

Valerie, even extroverts need down time to think things through. In fact, each of us has a part of us that is extroverted and part that is introverted. The question is which one do we pursue after being alone awhile. Do we need people and go in search of them or can we spend long periods of time without having to interact?

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