On the heels of the APA’s, American Psychiatric Association’s, proposed changes that would negatively impact our perception of Introversion, I was asked if Introverts (INFP specifically) can be highly functioning in social situations?

The answer is a YES in capitals. It actually saddens me to think that the myths about Introversion may have contributed to someone asking this question.

Much of my time over last 15 years has been spent in the “coaching” community. While coaches come in all MBTI type flavours, several of the people I have worked with closely have had INFP preferences. The two words that come top of mind in thinking of their social acumen are grace and charm. In watching them work with groups I have seen how they can take the conversation to a deep meaningful level within a short period of time. Perhaps because the inner world of reflection is home turf for the INFP, people sense that they can surrender and trust the INFP facilitator enough to go there with them. In general people with a preference for Introversion can be as outgoing as an Extravert. I personally know many amateur and professional performers who have a preference for Introversion yet love being in front of an audience.

Every personality type comes in every range of psychological health and well-being. In addition type has nothing to do with skill or competency in any area. Whether you are Emotionally or Socially Intelligent has nothing to do with your MBTI type although some would argue that some types are predisposed to it being more natural.

So where does that leave an individual looking for answers to the doubts, fears and challenges that face them in being at ease in the Extraverted world of social discourse? The MBTI and other personality assessments can provide insights into our selves and others and add to our self-knowledge, but the journey to robustness and well-being is truly an individual adventure.

Perhaps a more appropriate question would be “Can someone survive and thrive in social situations after an unsafe or harmful childhood or psychological trauma? Absolutely! In the best case scenario, these life challenges can be fodder for the kind of understanding and strength that makes an individual exceptional. At the same time I will concede that even people with the best of upbringings can be crushed by their reaction to circumstances.

It isn’t any person’s particular “wiring” that dictates their success in a social context, it’s what they do with what they have.

One caveat that may be something helpful to remember is that “No one makes it alone”. So reaching out to others whether they are mentors, coaches or therapists or a trusted adviser, is something we all need to consider. However if you are not naturally resilient SUPPORT is essential. Indeed this is not a one time event. Reaching out, setting up systems and processes that support you on an on-going basis – all need to be integrated into “healthy” living the same way diet and exercise are ongoing day by day.

Commit to daily, weekly, monthly, annual processes that build on what you do well and are comfortable with. Discovering what works for you can either be a hard task and burden or an exciting adventure of discovery. You get to choose!

What do you do on a regular basis to keep you in top form with friends and colleagues? and with yourself?

Category: Best practices / Perspectives
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