Thursday, August 29, 2013

Extrovert, Introvert, or What?

Would an introvert let anyone see this picture?
There's been a fad bopping around the internet recently. Maybe its not so recent, but in any case I have recently noticed it. People are identifying various aspects of their personality, sometimes by taking quick online versions of the Mertz-Dorkheimer screening test, or some other test.

The results of these tests are condensed into an acronym that folks then proceed to toss about on their blogs, or Twitter, or Facebook or wherever, which makes them sound very sophisticated and makes me very confused because I don't know what any of these acronyms mean.
Sometimes I see a post like this: "Well, I've been acting like a typical IHMT recently. But we have our particular needs, you know!"
Oh, I see. Yes, I know. "Thumbs up," and all that.

What the heck are they talking about? I have no idea, but of course I'm not going to admit that. I'm out for a promenade in the main square of the global village. We all know what the acronyms mean, of course.

Maybe I should google the "Hamburger-Fries person preferential assessment test" so that I'll know more. I can even take the test myself. ...

Okay, it seems that I'm a strong LMKNT person. Wow, that's true. I could get into this! (See if you can figure out the acronym before I reveal it at the end of this post.)

Really, I should know about these things. For years now, my personality has been the object of scientific study, and scientific experimentation (of course they don't call it that; they call it "treatment," hahaha). I've taken lots of assessment tests. My favorite tool for clinical behavioral analysis has always been this one:


This test is one of the great achievements of science in our time. Everybody can find themselves in one or a combination of those faces, in any given moment. Its brilliant. I understand this test. But the ones with verbal questions tend to get me confused. Do I want to be at the big party or on a quiet beach with a book? I'm not sure. I need more details.

I don't seem to fit into any box.

There's the basic and very popular distinction between "introvert" and "extrovert" -- websites have gotten into posting lists, cartoons, and memes about introverts and extroverts.
"When extroverts see a person, they assume that he or she wants to have a conversation." Well of course. I assume that. Doesn't everybody?
"Introverts like to be alone and read books." Well that's me for sure. Sometimes I've thought that solitary confinement wouldn't be so bad... as long as I could bring a few books.
I am always thinking, reflecting, and empathizing from the moment my eyes open. Sometimes when Eileen is sitting quietly with a cup of coffee, I ask her, "What are you thinking about?" and she says, "Nothing."


Wow! How do you do that!? Oh, I would trade mountains of gold for the ability to think about "nothing"! What bliss! What a blessed relief!

Of course, I realize that she's not talking about some kind of vacuous state of emptiness. She's just relaxing. The closest I get to "relaxing" is thinking about Josef Pieper's book on leisure.

I must be an extrovert. Right?

I can also sit in a room full of people and completely tune them out. I can focus my attention on something I'm reading, or even something I'm working out in my mind, and be oblivious. Screaming babies all around me? Oblivious. "Here come the bride and groom?" Everybody stands and claps and I'm... oblivious.

Am I an introvert?

They say that writers are introverts. A writer is a person who thrives on solitude. I do love solitude. I love getting up early in the morning, when the house is quiet, when the rest of the world is quiet. I pray. I reflect on the themes that will eventually become words on a page (or a screen). I go for a walk. Alone.

But when I actually work, I like to be in the middle of things. In college and graduate school, I wrote my papers in the commons or the lounge. Concentration was not a problem. In fact, I seem to do it best when I'm surrounded by the sounds of life. And I don't mind being interrupted, whether its just to say hello or to break off and have a conversation.

During my teaching years, I offered additional "office hours" for students... in the lounge or the coffee shop! Not only because its a fact that a lot of good teaching goes on in those places, but also because I like being where the people are.

At home, I do not have a "man cave". I have a "man campground" in one corner of the living room. I have my stuff, my chair, my table, my gadgets, and the 235 books that I'm "currently" reading. Eileen tolerates my corner; it is yet another small but heroic sacrifice that she makes, another one of my quirks that she bears patiently as she grows daily in virtue and holiness. ;)

I love the busy atmosphere of the living room, although I admit that I usually retreat to the bedroom at some point in the afternoon for some "quiet reading" (which usually includes a nap).

I don't feel the need to go out seeking people, but I like to be where people are, especially if they are people I know. Extrovert? Introvert? Neither one, it seems to me. I guess that's where the acronyms come in. I'm an EI or an IE. Whatever "alpha" is, I am not that. IEPDQLOL?

I guess I won't know until I take one of those "Wiener-Schnitzel experimental classification" tests. Sounds yummy!

Ah, I almost forgot, here's the meaning of the other acronym... Lettuce Mayonnaise Ketchup No Tomato. Seriously, do you want my tomato?