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1 Dec 2014

Extroverts and Introverts Moods and Circumstances

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Introverts and Extroverts

Identifying extroverts and introverts is a relative determination not an absolute one.

Extroverts and introverts can change with moods and circumstances.

My previous post on extroverts and introverts looked at their energy sources. Problematically, many personality tests don’t explain differences between extroverts and introverts beyond a social context. They also don’t explain how orientation might change with moods and circumstances.

A major deficiency of personality tests is their tendency to score extroversion-introversion as a zero-sum game. We gain introversion at the expense of extroversion and vice versa. There is no allowance for moods and circumstances in this one-dimensional assessment.

Naomi Quenk, an authority on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), wrote several books on how our extroversion-introversion orientation (as well as the other MBTI functions) can change depending upon our moods:

For example, a friend received an outlying MBTI result. It ran counter to his previous three. However, the night before this outlier, he and his wife had a bad argument. This easily changed his mood and likely results too.

It’s quite common for extroverts to become more introverted when under stress or attack. They become withdrawn and quiet. Introverts often become more extroverted by going on the attack. Now, consider this. When we test athletes’ bodies, we put them through a stress test. Yet, when we test people’s personalities, we want them calm.

Circumstances also influence our extroversion-introversion orientation. Many extroverts fear public speaking. Many introverts enjoy being on stage, such as Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. Circumstances also change our moods. The Velten Mood Induction demonstrates how this can be done over the short term. If the same circumstances persist (i.e. work, stress), the orientation will too.

Surrounding all of this, energy, moods and circumstances, is that extroversion-introversion is benchmarked. Testers take a sample population, score it and declare one half extroverts and the other introverts. Unlike the kilogram stored under glass in Paris, no extroverts or introverts are held anywhere in the world as the objective standard for their kind.

In other words, we really aren’t extroverts and introverts. It’s all relative. We are either more extroverted or introverted than another person . . . depending upon moods and circumstances of course.


Series Navigation<< Extroverts and Introverts Their Energy SourcesIntroverts and Extroverts Working Together >>

6 Responses

  1. Ronald Fountain, D.M.

    I believe that Mike and others who hold this relativist view on Extraversion/Introversion are correct. In my own case, over the first two MBTI’s administered to me relatively early in my professional life, I exhibited a significantly Introversion preference. My occupational stress level at the times of those tests was quite high. Years later, once I had left the high stress corporate environment and took the MBTI on three additional occasions, in academic instruction settings, my preference was strongly Extroversion. I was/am the same person but I now believe the Extroversion/Introversion shift in my case was primarily due to the change in my stress levels at the time the instruments were administered.

    1. Robert Simpson

      After reading the article, I agree there is some truth in that extroverts can turn into introverts based on the situation and circumstances. I feel like sometimes I am mostly introverted in that I like to be left alone to think and to enjoy the solitude and then there are other times when I like to be around others and talk and get to them better and socialize and build my communication skills.

      1. Mike Lehr

        Very good, Robert. I’m pleased it helped you. Thank you for stopping by, visiting and leaving your experiences. ~Mike

  2. Margaret Luttinger

    I don’t believe that it was ever intended for people to understand the MBTI to say you are this or that, but rather to say, relative to each scale, where we “organically’ proceed from. In my training and reading, I understood the instrument was to help people understand that about themselves and about others, and to also understand that as we learn, grow, age we become more ‘whole’, gravitating to or drifting over to the ‘opposite”.

    So great to see that people have replied that they have experienced that. One doesn’t change whether they are I or E but rather mature (assuming they are open to that and not obstinate “that’s just how I am” types).

    I also think that most people are not being introduced to what of their function preferences are introverted and what ones are extroverted.

    I liked the article but just not on board with the total position it is taking. Source of my perspective: I have worked with the instrument for 13 years, many different people, all levels, different industries.

    1. Mike Lehr

      Thank you for your insight, Margaret. You’re right about the MBTI in terms of identifying from where we organically proceed from. This post just extends that thinking by asking how does this “proceeding” manifest itself in different moods and circumstances. I strongly recommend looking up the books I cite. My aunt wrote them. Her husband, my uncle, was a long time practitioner of MBTI. He was the one who introduced me to it back in my college days.

      I recommend trying this. Have some people take the MBTI when they are relaxed and happy. Then have them take it again when they are upset and anxious. I believe you’ll find the results vary quite dramatically.

      As an example, I first ran across this with a client who couldn’t understand why one of his MBTI results diverged so much from the other three he had taken in his life. I asked him if something had happened the day before he took them. He confided that he and his wife had a bad fight the night before and he didn’t sleep well. This would alter his results.

      As another example, I ran into an MBTI practitioner who purposely tried to get people riled before administering it. He did this because he wanted to see what aspects of their personalities became dominant under pressure. He also believed that the MBTI showed different results based on moods and circumstances.

      Again, if it works for you, you might want to expand giving the MBTI more often to individuals in different situations and moods. I recommend though giving the more thorough version rather than the simplified online one. I believe you’ll find differences. I have.

      Thank you again for your insights. I’m pleased you liked the article. I hope you will find the different methodology of administering it helpful and enlightening.


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