Living along the continuum

I’ve been doing it for awhile, and so have others. We classify ourselves as either introvert or extrovert, forgetting we have tendencies towards each temperament. We tend to view our choices in life as whether they support who we are – whether outgoing or reflective – before we finally conclude, “Yes, I can do this. It’s who I am.” While awareness in our temperament gives us wisdom, helping us understand ourselves, this awareness is not the means to the end.

There’s a piece we are forgetting when we operate that way. We are not designed as option A or option B. One temperament option is a more natural fit for us, yet by selecting that temperament only, we become intolerant of another side of who we are.

In selecting a limited view of ourselves, we are not whole.

Yesterday I had “the best cup of coffee in the whole world” with a self-described extrovert. His energy is intense, his volume loud and he says what is on his mind! Decorum isn’t important to him. It’s all about the results. Not all extroverts are that way, but he is the half that is focused on task while quick to share his opinions.

Before our meetings I had 3 emails from him aluding to the coffee at his neighborhood cafe. I can’t tell you whether it was the best cup I ever tasted – and I really didn’t care. Not only did he care, he cared to discuss it for a good ten minutes.

Throughout our meeting when he learned I care greatly about supporting the introvert’s understanding of themselves and focus them on communication that supports who they are, he immediately switched the conversation over to himself.

“I’m an extrovert, as you probably already figured out,” he said. “My problem is I ramble on about things, because I get so carried away with what I’m doing. Have you ever heard of Dale Carnegie?”

I nodded.

“Well, lots of introverts are there. They went for a different reason.” And then he went on to explain why they were there, forgetting about sharing what his reason was – but I believe he went to establish and maintain focus. Clearly, he could review his notes. The point I wanted to make about DC training was their focus is on helping the world become extroverts. I’m not sure he heard me, but that’s what society is pushing us to be – the quick talker, tall walker and fast mover.

That thinking puts us all in a box – whether we are naturally tempered for it or not. My focus is to help introverts celebrate who they are so they gain comfort and confidence in exploring more sides of themselves – both boxes, if you will.The extrovert can gain from this as well.

But what caught me later in our conversation was his ready admission of the type of vacation he prefers. “I want to be unplugged. Keep all technology at home and just break away from it for as long as I’m away. To me,” he summed up, “I’m behaving at times like an introvert.”

He gets it. He knows there is a continuum he slides along that allows him to more fully come alive. There are times he needs to chill, reflect, soak in nature and observe life – to recharge, as he puts it. And the majority of the time he is on fire, rushing from one appointment to another, checking off his list, burning the candle at both ends. More behaviors that fit the temperament of an extrovert.

Have you been confused about how your recent activities have shifted from how you used to be? Don’t be surprised. As we age, we introverts adjust to our circumstances, gain confidence, gain independence and step out in new ways. On the other hand, as extroverts age they slow down. Their physical condition and energy levels, let alone new life experiences, inspire them to make adjustments after heavy reflection.

The more we blend both pieces of ourselve into our life, the easier it will be to make the temperament adjustments when life really calls for it.

Enjoy the continuum you are on. From this you will explore and appreciate new facets of yourself!

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On November 17th, 2011, posted in: Uncategorized by