Weeks after an important two-day meeting, one of the participants, a self-identified introvert, was still shaking her head in dismay (plus, I assumed, irritation) at "those extraverts!" By this person's account, the extraverts apparently had run away with the meeting. It's such a common complaint that extraverts dominate in meetings and in social settings. At the same time, it's also a common complaint that introverts hold back and don't speak up. There's problems for both and not much empathy. If we are introverted, extraverts become "the other"; if we are extraverted, introverts become "the other". A standoff! But the truth is - "the other" is us!
All of us are both extraverted and introverted. In
I like to facilitate from that premise of
Jungian personality theory
. We all take in and process information in both a sensing and an intuitive way. We all make decisions and judge in both thinking and feeling ways. These functions of sensing and intuiting, thinking and feeling reside in all of us in both extraverted and introverted modes. The energies of extraversion and introversion are profoundly different. We need all of these functions, but we don't prefer all of them in the same way or even have capacity for using all of them easily. Hence the challenges we experience in meetings, in conversations, and in our interactions with people. We can have very discouraging and off-putting experiences. It's easy to become frustrated and stop at judging "the other".
workshops I help people develop understanding of the extraverted and introverted dynamics of sensing and intuiting, thinking and feeling. Participants discover how these functions reside in them and their particular strengths and challenges in communicating. When
facilitating, I design meetings to insure that all of these functions in their introverted and extraverted modes have a place at the table and in the process of planning, decision-making, discernment - whatever the case might be.
A big part of giving and receiving empathy is developing our capacity and willingness to understand others. It's not in the scope of this newsletter to explain all the ways Jungian personality theory provides a language to help us. But I would like to offer a suggestion, perhaps a caveat. When we are puzzled or stressed by another person's apparent extraversion or introversion, it helps to appreciate that they aren't just talking too much or too little. They're essentially sensing, intuiting, thinking or feeling something. We can empathize with the need of extraverted sensing, intuiting, thinking and feeling to engage with others. We can empathize with the need of Introverted sensing, intuiting, thinking and feeling to have sufficient "I-space". Judging another as too talkative or too quiet can actually be an invitation to get to know a part of ourselves better. Starting from a place of what I would call "appreciative empathy" for ourselves and "the other" helps us to respond to the invitation.