The Exclusive Extrovert

As part of a week long leadership training seminar, I took several assessments designed to customize my training. Through better understanding of myself, my personality, behaviors and preferences, and a sampling of others’ perspective of me, I’m able to make positive improvements in my life and career. 

One test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) helps determine and understand personality type and differences helping to build self-awareness, empathy, perspective, and communication. 

One measurement in this assessment focuses on energy. Carl Jung, who originally defined these personality types later refined by Myers and Briggs, believed that people were either energized by other people and the world around them or by an internal system of thoughts, ideas, and quiet observation. He referred to these two aspects as extroversion and introversion. 

I was not surprised to learn that I was an off the charts extrovert. Probably almost anyone who meets me could tell that. I love interacting with people, I learn best through doing and discussing, working ideas out by talking them through, I take initiative in my relationships and am overall social, gregarious, and expressive. There are a few scenarios where I’m not as comfortable and I may not be seem like an extrovert, but it’s my overall preference and it’s a strong one. 

Basically, with me it’s what you see is what you get, or so you think. While I may be self-revealing, that doesn’t mean I let everyone in. 

That became extremely clear to me when I received my results on the FIRO-B. The FIRO-B measures one’s interpersonal relationship preferences –  basically how a person treats others and how that person wants and expects to be treated. Created in the 1950s under the belief that beyond our basic survival needs, people have individual needs in their relationships related to inclusion, control, and affection. Unlike to Myers-Briggs, your FIRO-B can change and is dependent on your overall situation at the time of taking the test. The Myers-Briggs, on the other hand, is unlikely to change drastically year to year. 

This fact helped me shed light on my results which I was a bit surprised to learn. When reviewing my scores in the inclusion category, it appeared that at this current time, I express a low level of inclusion and equally desire a low level of inclusion. For an extrovert, this didn’t make sense to me at first. I plan reunions, parties, girls weekends, and nights out. I almost always insist on inviting everyone. From a work perspective, I’m inclusive in projects when it’s practical. I’m cognizant of people’s work loads and don’t think it’s necessary for all decisions to be made by committee. From a personal perspective, when I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to fit in, and now that I have a son, that’s one of my main desires for him in his young life – to feel included in a world where our differences so often tear us apart. 

I spoke to my executive coach who helped shed some light on this result. When preparing to work with our executive coaches, we reviewed a readiness check list. One item on the list asked if there was anything major happening in my life that would keep me from dedicating time to leadership development. For me, I can’t envision there not being a major event happening in my life for at least the next few years. I went into my one-on-one session and spilled everything to this complete stranger. I wanted her to know that while I was dedicated to this work, it was important to know what else I was dealing with, that having an overflowing plate and being pulled in many different directions at once was my norm and it wouldn’t deter me. Instead, it would motivate me to succeed. 

So after laying it all out there she explained that my low need and expression of inclusion is likely related to my current state of over-saturation. There’s research she says that supports this finding. 

This makes sense to me. But more than that, I think with age, experience, and maturation I’ve become more selective, my circle of confidants getting smaller and smaller as people fall off, change their behavior or connection to me, or somehow lose my trust or vice versa. And as I get older it gets harder and harder to fill those roles once occupied by those who really knew me beyond that which I put out on display for all to see. 

And from a professional perspective, I no longer look for work to fulfill my social needs. For me, work is work, and I have made a more concentrated effort to separate it from my personal life. As an extrovert, a person who is used to putting it all out there, this is a way to build a professional persona that shields my extreme extroversion which can be a turn off for some. 

Still, my extroversion tends to overpower it all, which is where my FIRO-B gets it wrong. But based on the FIRO-B which definitely rings true for me, affection and warm relationships are my driving force and are more important to me than inclusion and control. 

And while I know these tools are not meant to be definitions, they help me to better understand myself, my motivations, where I currently am in life, and how others perceive me. They help me try to understand others, and I believe are a critical component of my development. 

The best of me is yet to come.

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