Dec 23, 2016

The Myth of the Introvert

With over three decades of working with people; first in a pastoral role, then as a Sales Leader, and now as an Executive Coach and Life Coach, I have acquired an unorthodox view of people, personalities, and the human mind.

Having spent over 15 years in the Occupational Assessment industry building, selling and implementing them, which means that I’m very familiar with labeling people as certain personality “types”, as fit for specific roles, and displaying labeled behaviors. I have come to be a heretic of the established assessment industry and here’s why; assessments tell you what a person has become, not who they are. I have story after story of clients who were labeled by doctors, assessments, and even themselves as being certain types and, after discovering that their life’s events had changed them from who they had been born as, I’ve been able to help them regain the real person they are. I want share the experience I had working with a woman that I’ll call “Jill” and illustrate what I’ve observed over and over again.

Jill was a highly paid IT executive and had worked for a few Fortune 50 companies and several smaller organizations. When I met Jill, she was in transition and engaged me to help her discover what job she should take next. At our first meeting, Jill shared that she currently had four companies who had jobs waiting for her to accept. She told me about each one and what she liked, and didn’t like, about each one. When she got to the last job, she quickly dismissed it and said she had already decided to refuse the position. I asked her to tell me more about the position, anyway. There were two major differences between this job and the other three; size of the company and level of public interaction. The first three companies were 100-500 million-dollar companies, the fourth was several billion. The first three required very little engagement with people outside the organization, the fourth required regular engagement with executives from other companies and the public. When I asked Jill to tell me why she so quickly dismissed what appeared to be the best and was the highest paying job, she told me it was because she was an Introvert. I asked her how she knew she was an Introvert. She said she had been told by behavioral assessments that she was one. I asked her how the assessments knew she was was. Of course, this elicited a look at me like, “Are you crazy?”. I explained that I have a rich background in behavioral assessments and that I was curious if she knew how they determined a person’s personality “type”. I went on to explain that the results a purely driven by the input given by the person taking them. In other words, people answer the questions by self-perception. So, I asked, “Do you think you’re an Introvert?” Her answer was, “Yes!” I asked for a few examples, which she freely shared. The next question led to an epiphany for Jill. “How do you decide to behave like an Introvert in all those settings you just described?” This took some very deep soul searching and then the stories flooded forth. You see, when Jill was young, her mother used to get her involved in various sports, dancing, music, etc. In every one of the activities Jill participated in, no matter how well she performed, Jill’s mother would berate her in front of the team, the teacher, or anyone else present. Now, the intent Jill’s mother had was to motivate her to perform better the next time. The result was that she created a person who was fearful of interacting with people. Thus, Jill began displaying the behaviors people label as being introverted.

After a few sessions with Jill removing the Mental Malware she had causing her to behave like an Introvert, she realized that the reason she had job-after-job for the last few years was because she wasn’t really an Introvert. She was living the role of which others had given her the label. Jill took the position with the multi-billion-dollar company, where she has stayed longer than any of her preceding jobs.

My experience working with thousands of people over the years is that we learn to adapt ourselves to be what others tell us we are, from the events that happen to us in life, and from choices we make. We tend to hold on to the negative thoughts, words, and events and then we generalize them into our lives hoping to protect ourselves from harm. That’s where Mental Malware takes over. Like a computer virus, it corrupts everything it touches. For instance, just because you were hurt in one relationship doesn’t mean you should generalize that hurt into all relationships. Just because mom and dad told you you were worthless and wouldn’t amount to anything doesn’t make it true. Just because you lost one job because you couldn’t meet the performance standards doesn’t mean you will never meet the performance standards at any job. Imagine what it would be like if all those negative thoughts were removed and replaced with Updated Software.

Is there such a thing as a true Introvert? Is there any person who truly fits the extremes of the labels that Society, psychology, and assessments have given them? Or, are they using self-protection mechanisms they’ve implemented to survive? My experience is the latter.

Change you thoughts. Change your life…quickly!

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+++++++++++++++About Dr. Edward Lewellen++++++++++++++++++++

Dr. Edward Lewellen an expert in creating methodologies for people to learn to use their mind; their beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors, and put them back in control of their lives and become top-producers. He is a Master Executive Coach, leadership and sales expert, and keynote speaker for some of the largest global organizations.

Author of The 90-Second Mind Manager