As an introvert who spent a large part of her life masquerading (rather effectively, I might add) as an extrovert, I accepted my ‘label’ (the result of a Myers-Briggs workplace assessment) with some relief, along with a drop of cynicism. Those who know me were dubious, to say the least. ‘You – an introvert? Don’t make me laugh. In fact, do. You do it so well. You can’t be an introvert’. Granted, in any social gathering (and to be fair, workplace setting), I was the life and soul of the party (or the office). What they didn’t see was the three days I required alone afterwards in a darkened room, just to recover. At last, I had an explanation for my private hatred of the staff awayday, and I finally knew why I had such an aversion to the open-plan office.
What I didn’t understand was why I had felt the need to deny my natural introversion for so long, to spend so much of my life going against my own grain, and why – if I was indeed an introvert – I genuinely experienced so much pleasure in entertaining others, telling stories and generally making merry. I really wish I had had someone at the time to help me make sense of such inconsistencies and contradictions. More importantly, looking back, I would have benefitted from having someone who could help me identify my strengths as an introvert, and reassure me that I was not being ‘inauthentic’ by embracing both my introversion and my love of performing and storytelling – that both could co-exist quite happily.
Small wonder, then, that I was drawn to our profession. Not only has it allowed me to utilise, hone and develop my listening skills (see Erik de Haan’s excellent meditation on listening), but it means I can work with other introverts who believe that their introversion makes them unsuitable for the average workplace, or that they have to change something fundamental about themselves in order to fit in or get on in the professional world.
As a coach, I do not use psychometric tools with my clients, but I deal with the outcomes every day: clients who, like me, have been informed by an authority at work that they are ‘this’ or ‘that’, without the benefit of a reflective space or helping intervention to support them through the process of understanding what ‘this’ or ‘that’ might mean for them, and who are left believing that they are somehow ‘deficient’ or ‘lacking’. We coaches – particularly those of us who are therapeutically trained – have an opportunity to be that guide, to offer that reflective space, to dive deep with our clients in order to help them reconcile and integrate this new information about themselves, to identify the gold within it, and move forward with purpose and clarity.
I’d love to know what you think of our lead article on the use of psychometric tools in coaching, and I hope you find it as useful and enlightening as I have.
And to all you fellow Introverts, Feelers, Activist-Reflectors and Plants – keep having your intense discussions, birthing ideas, holding space and telling your stories. How about sharing some of them in the pages of this journal? Just a thought.
Until next time…