Commentary: does society favour the extroverts?

Recently I’ve been looking into personality and some other stuff, and I’ve discovered the prominence of the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) in personality testing circles. Now, some people may doubt the usefulness and reliability of a test such as MBTI, but I’m not here to talk about that. What I’m here to talk about is my personal experiences of this testing, and some observations.

Now, I know that there is professional testing out there where you go and sit down in a room and some person who is probably more knowledgeable about psychology than you are stares at you for a while and asks a plethora of questions and then tells you everything you could ever want to know. However, I instead opted to take the free online personality test at https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test. I’ve taken this test twice and received two different results – further proving that MBTI can be inconsistent/inaccurate, but I digress – the first result was INFP and the second result (taken several months later) was INFJ.

INFJ

The only difference between these two types is the P/J indicator, which stands for Perceiving or Judging.

Now, having thoroughly read through the descriptions for both types, I’d agree that I identify fairly strongly with both of them in different ways. However, I do have a hunch (perhaps that’s my Ni-function kicking in) that I sort of lied to myself on the first test, where I received INFP – and thus I choose to identify primarily as an INFJ.

(I might talk about this some other time, but that isn’t the focus of this post).

And that brings me on nicely to my next point: why do we lie to ourselves about these sorts of things? Is it because the status quo teaches us that the more introverted personality types are somehow inferior? I don’t think so, but there is a certain social pressure on us introverts that tends to encourage us to become more and more extroverted.

Take, for example, the school environment as a base example. I wonder how many of you introverts have received school reports that tell you ‘this person is a hard worker/good student, but is very quiet in class.’ Here, the phrase ‘quiet in class’ is levelled as a criticism – but why should that be a criticism? In many environments, the more carefully thought out and considered ideas and arguments are often better-reasoned than those that are shouted out as half-finished ramblings.

(Although, I guess this blog is a half-finished rambling, in its own special way.)

A possible answer is that we are living in an increasingly extroverted society. For example, think about the stereotypes of big business executives: commanding presences with big ideas, big words, big power. Yet the truth is that there are introverts among these executives as well. Altruistic personality types such as the INFJ and the INFP may be among those best suited to dreaming up an idea, and the INTJ and ISTJ to get an overview of a situation. Yet these personalities are frequently passed over for their extroverted counterparts, who – while admittedly much stronger in some areas – are weaker in others.

There are, of course, introverts who have thrived in these big business environments – INT and IST types in particular may be well-suited to the areas of business, economics and politics. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are among the most successful businesspeople in the world, and they have been classified as introverts. In the field of politics, several US presidents – among them George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman and George H.W. Bush have been classified as introverts (though admittedly there is a lot of debate about some of these). Then there are spiritual and philosophical leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Plato…Plato Quote

You may have noticed that I’ve picked out some of those who are seen in a rather positive light by many people. Of course, I’m naturally biased towards the introverts, being one myself. But obviously we aren’t knights in shining armour or anything – I myself share a personality with Hitler…  and among the pantheon of introverts we can count such paragons of virtue as Robert Mugabe, Pol Pot and Osama bin Laden.

And that is exactly why introverts should never be allowed to take over the world…

But I’m rambling a bit here (unsurprisingly), so let’s get back to that question: does society favour the introverts?

Well, while looking through this data of the expected MBTI of US presidents, I found a trend that over the years we seem to be tending more and more towards extroverted leaders. The most recent introverted president is George H.W. Bush, whose tenure as President of the United States ended in 1993-

(random note: I’m British myself, but our Prime Ministers have an uncanny tendency to be quite boring. I think that instead of asking what David Cameron’s personality is, we should be asking whether or not he has one.)

-whereas at the other end of America’s history, every president from 1789 up until James Monroe in 1817 – has been identified as an introvert.

FDRArguably the most significant extroverted president of the last 100 years has been Franklin D. Roosevelt, who saw the end of the Great Depression and most of World War II during his tenure. Roosevelt is often viewed as one of the greatest American presidents, alongside Abraham Lincoln and George Washington (reportedly both introverts, yay!). Now, FDR’s successes cannot entirely be attributed to his extroverted status (he’s an ESTP), but perhaps it contributed in part to FDR’s work ethic during both the Great Depression and World War II.

There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.

 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR, of course, suffered with a crippling disability for much of his tenure as president. Yet, in keeping with his progressive ideologies, he decided to move forward, and his ethic of keeping going forward gave America a strong leader to carry it through the difficulties of the 1930s.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, incidentally, is the only president to have been elected four times by voters – before the introduction of the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1951 . He also won a landslide victory in his first election over the Republican incumbent Herbert Hoover in the 1932 presidential election, winning 57.4% of the popular vote and 472 electoral college votes to Hoover’s 59. 1932 Election MapThe obvious reason for this is because the American people had been tortured by the Wall Street Crash and the ensuing depression. Roosevelt and the Democratic Party’s plans to eliminate the worst effects of said depression by – which eventually led to the New Deal – were seen as a breath of fresh air, compared to the policies of the incumbent Republican party, which were held (perhaps unfairly) responsible for causing the Depression.

Yet there is another interesting thing to note: Roosevelt was the first extroverted president since his relative Theodore Roosevelt, whose tenure lasted between 1901 and 1909. Of the introverted presidents who came between the two Roosevelts, only Woodrow Wilson managed to be elected to two consecutive terms.

So maybe the American public were not looking just for a leader who promised change, but someone who could outwardly inspire rather than inwardly administrate.

However, presidents of the United States are obviously a very small sample size, and obviously the voted-in president does not represent the beliefs of an entire nation.

Yet we see that in recent times society is becoming more and more extroverted. Social media is largely a purely extroverted idea, and those who don’t want the ceaseless Facebook updates and onslaught of Snapchat notifications can often feel trapped within the social media bubble. We introverts (particularly the more extreme ones among us) need the opportunity to escape, and to unwind, and to get away from it all, something that is becoming more and more difficult in an age where hyperconnectivity is seen as normal, and anything other than that is seen as abnormal.

But I’m going against the status quo here. You won’t find me posting on Facebook or plastering my face all over Instagram. I’ll just be here, quietly venting my frustrations, until I get bored of my own rambling – and that will probably never happen.

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