Shh! I need peace and quiet!

Like many people, I have done the Myers-Briggs questionnaire on a few occasions, mostly in work settings for career planning or team building activities. And I always come out as an ISTJ. But I never quite understood the real relevance of this profile until recently.

The 4 letters in the profile relate to (a) where you get your energy (b) how you collect information (c) how you make decisions and (d) how you live day-to-day. The one I want to talk about is the I – which stands for ‘Introversion’.

‘Introversion’ (as described by Myers-Briggs)

If I said to you that I am an ‘Introvert’, you are quite likely to assume this means that I am shy, that I don’t like talking to new people, and that I get nervous about doing presentations or talking in front of a group of people. But none of those things are true for me. I am perfectly happy walking into a room full of strangers and introducing myself to others, am not worried about doing presentations at all, and actively enjoy meeting new people.

And I think that is where I had trouble with the whole ‘Introvert’ label that the Myers-Briggs questionnaire assigned to me. Until recently, I associated the word ‘Introvert’ with being quiet and shy, which is the commonly used definition of the word introvert. Reading and re-reading and talking to others about the Myers-Briggs results made me realise that ‘Introversion’ (the Myers-Briggs definition) is about where I get my energy from, and about how that influences my interactions with others.

The Thames at Cliveden

An ‘Introverted’ type likes peace and quiet, needs time to reflect on problems or challenges, naturally likes and needs to spend time alone, and prefers interactions with others to take place one-to-one or in small groups. The worst thing you can do to an ‘Introvert’ is to spring an unexpected social gathering or meeting on them when they have no time to decide whether to attend or not – chances are they had some peace and quiet strategically planned, and you’ve just taken it away from them.

And what does that actually mean?

(a) For my working environment

  • I don’t really enjoy working in an open plan office ALL DAY, surrounded by other people and their thoughts spoken out loud. Even if I like the people! It’s not too bad as long as I have one or all of the following: (a) a lunch break where I get to sit by myself somewhere quiet (b) don’t work in an open plan office every day of the week (c) plenty of time to recharge by myself when I get home.
  • Sometimes I will prefer to work at home, as I do my best work in peace and quiet – particularly if I’m working on something that needs concentration. Please don’t take it personally or think I’m trying to be awkward. It’s just the way I am.

(b) For my time outside work

  • When I get in from a day in an office, surrounded by people and noise, the last thing I want is yet more noise. I like at least 30 mins to an hour of nothing. That might be nothing at all, i.e. sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea staring into the distance. Or it might be a silent room, with no people or TV, and a chance to flick through interesting websites on my iPad, or read a book.
  • I don’t want to be out every night of the week with other people, especially on days when I’ve been in an open plan office or at a meeting all day. This means that sometimes I might not commit to an event until nearer the time, when I can see how intense my week is looking. It means that I might want to disappear early from an event – it probably doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the event (although of course there are exceptions!), it just means I’ve had a busy day interacting with people and need some time to myself. Please don’t take it personally, and please don’t exclude me from future invitations or plans, I do enjoy getting out and about meeting people.
  • I like writing, reading, taking photos, wandering around quiet countryside parks – I’m a much nicer person to spend time with if I get to do these things every week. They allow me to spend time in my own head, in peace and quiet, thinking and reflecting.

There are many more things I could say about ‘Introversion’, and maybe I will write more in future as I find it a fascinating subject. But for now, that’s it. That’s my confession. Now you know. Please do leave a comment to share your thoughts on the subject.

Do you know where you sit on the ‘Introvert’-‘Extrovert’ scale?

Try this questionnaire and you’ll get an idea. It’s not an official Myers-Briggs resource, but it does give you a useful summary of your likely profile.

What about your partner, friends, colleagues?

Have you suddenly realised why someone you know behaves in the way they do? Are they also an ‘Introvert’ and you didn’t know?

Further reading

I think this page on the Myers-Briggs website nicely sums up the tendencies of the ‘Introvert’ versus the ‘Extrovert’.

13 thoughts on “Shh! I need peace and quiet!

  1. I love this post, Nina – I relate to everything you’ve said (unsurprisingly!), especially wanting to spend lunch hours sitting quietly (which I used to do when I worked in an office), working from home (which I didn’t get a chance to do when I worked in an office, but do all the time now that I work for myself!!), and not not committing to an event until nearer the time, in case I feel over-stretched and want to drop out!

    • Sounds like your current working arrangements work well for you Julia, I think everyone finds their own balance in the end, just takes trial and error!

  2. This is a great description Nina, sounds like me too! I often find myself staying up too late just to have some peace and quiet if I there hasn’t been enough in the day, but then the next day I’m tired!

    • I hadn’t thought about it like that Sally, but yes, staying up late, going to bed early, getting up early are all ways of getting extra peace and quiet. Interesting how everyone finds time somehow 🙂

  3. Every time I do one of these things I come out as an ISTJ. The introverted bit is definitely right as far the traditional idea of not being comfortable talking to strangers, but I don’t have the same problem being around familiar people. I like working in an open plan office because I like having people around to talk to – I hate working at home. I go mad in the house on my own all day. I’m quite happy to be around people for an extended period of time, as long as they let me sleep. And appreciate that I’d like some peace and quiet sometimes to get things done.

    • Another ISTJ 🙂 Very true Nic, everyone is different, and some bits apply and some bits don’t. I think 5 days a week working on my own would also drive me mad – I suppose it’s just a case of getting the right balance that suits. Love your comment about “as long as they let me sleep”!

  4. Thanks Nina, I’m the same result on the Myers Briggs test and totally relate to the things that you shared. Some people don’t realise that we’re quiet because we are introverted – a friend of mine always asks ‘are you PMT?’ whenever I go quiet or if I’m a bit grumpy, which is very frustrating! I think I’ll send her the test and highlight where I am on the scale. She might get it then!? ;D
    Johanna xx

  5. I absolutely relate to this Nina! I’m 100% introvert. I always thought I must be really antisocial, what was wrong with me, that I didn’t want to spend so much time with other people, didn’t want to party all the time and wanted to (actually enjoyed) being alone! But I knew it didn’t make sense because I DO like people and I do like spending time with others. Now I realize it’s just being an introvert. I must spend most of my time hanging out with extroverts, so I hadn’t realized this before now. I’m actually reading Quiet by Susan Cain at the moment. It delves into this topic quite thoroughly from a scientific/psychology angle. It’s been very enlightening so far!

  6. I really like what you’re saying here, Nina. It’s a delight to read and so lovely to know that I’m not some sort of weirdo, or being selfish, but simply that my energy is recharged by being by myself. I’ve always felt like this, but it’s often been seen as ‘anti-social’ or simply as selfish. I give a lot when I’m in company or tutoring (with the OU), but then I need to reflect and take time to feel stronger again. Thanks again.

  7. Ha ha ha – your comment list sounds like “revenge of the introverts”. I am ISTJ too although without the bit about “writing, reading, taking photos, wandering around quiet countryside parks” – I need a fast hard walk or swim. Would be nice to hear from Es who have no idea what we’re talking about!

    • Another ISTJ 🙂 The comments might have a slight bias at the moment as I shared first with a group of people I know to be ‘Introverts’ to see what they thought! And of course there are still many variations between ‘Introverts’ too. But yes, I definitely hope some Es read this and say “oh, I see, THAT’S why……”

  8. Pingback: My favourite blog posts | Exploring my world

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