Daily Prompt: Are you comfortable in front of people, or does the idea of public speaking make you want to hide in the bathroom? Why?
Yesterday, I did a Meyers Briggs personality test, just for fun. Despite the fact that I really don’t take these things too seriously, I was surprised at how accurately the result described my personality. According to the test, I am an INFJ (introversion, intuition, feeling, judging), the rarest of the M-B personalities, describing approximately 1% of the population.
According to Wikipedia, INFJs tend to be “sensitive, quiet leaders with a great depth of personality. They are intricately, deeply woven, mysterious, highly complex, and often puzzling, even to themselves. They have an orderly view toward the world but are internally arranged in a complex way. Abstract in communicating, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. With a natural affinity for art, INFJs tend to be creative and easily inspired.”
This site describes them as follows:
INFJs direct their energy inward. They are energized by spending time alone and have a few close friends. They are independent and deliberate. INFJs are highly intuitive and are deep thinkers. Their thought process is complex and abstract. They are idealistic and future-focused.
INFJs are Feelers that make decisions with their heart. They are empathetic, warm and caring. INFJs are often quick at their tasks and enjoy finishing them. They seek closure. INFJs lives are scheduled and structured. They have a controlled and organized nature.
An INFJ is often mistaken for being extroverted, but is truly introverted. We are quiet individuals who prefer to exercise our influence from behind the scenes. We prefer one-on-one interactions to large groups but are friendly and often get along well with all types of people.
Can you imagine someone like this up on stage, addressing a crowd?
Well, yes, I can. It doesn’t mean I like it, but I have been told I am quite good at it.
I have always thought that it was because of my schooling, and certainly the school I went to did a lot to ensure its students were able public speakers. We were taught how to read our notes without appearing to read our notes. We learned to look up and make eye contact in smaller groups, or if at the front of a large, filled hall, to look out over the tops of people’s heads. And we were taught to speak more slowly than felt right, to pause and to enunciate.
At camp, I spent some time in theatre, and that also helped a lot with clear speaking and enunciating. I still remember the exercise involving standing on little hills separated by a dip several meters wide, across which we would recite Shakespearean dialogues at each other. That did wonders for my public speaking.
All that training aside, I think it also helps that I can put myself in the place of the audience and imagine what they would like to hear and what would engage them.
But when I actually get up there, I am terrified. The introvert in me is shaking and wants to run away. No amount of mental gymnastics can change that – imagining the crowd naked, for example, does nothing to calm my nerves.
But, I have a plan, as apparently do all INFJs. I have fully imagined and planned how things will go and that allows me to just dive in and start reading from my notes – without, of course, appearing to be reading from my notes.
For the first little bit, I actually can’t hear myself, but something takes over and I am able to stick to the plan. I pause in the right places, I look up, I seem to connect with the audience. And then gradually, I come back to my senses. I can hear myself. I can feel the audience’s reactions. Usually by the time I’ve finished my lines, I am comfortable.
If the public speaking is less of a formal thing, though, for example, speaking in a meeting at work – or, heaven forbid, leading the meeting – it is another matter entirely. Unless I have prepared what I am going to say, I feel as though I am rambling nonsensically, my face flushes, my heart pounds and my mouth goes dry. Of course, being a meeting and not a formal speech, even if I have planned what I will say, things at some point devolve into discussion. There is no set plan to follow, and I find myself ad libbing in front of people.
In these situations, I often censor my thoughts as I go, cutting out some good, creative views in case they are misunderstood, or sound silly. Because I haven’t had a chance to plan them or to think through how the audience may react, I avoid them. Often, they are good ideas which others bring up at some point during the meeting.
This goes to the heart of my stress-related issues at work. I am a manager, and that means I have a certain amount of meeting-leading, and speaking in meetings, to do. I hate leaving the comforting familiarity of my desk and my computer to go to a meeting. Not because I am lazy, not because nothing really ever is accomplished at meetings, but because I am afraid. I feel much more comfortable behind the scenes, quietly delving into a project, researching and writing, and then presenting it in written form to my team or to my supervisor.
Yes, it is sometimes a good idea to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. That is how you grow. But since I am sitting here, at home, on stress leave, learning to relax and to set boundaries, I feel pretty confident in saying that this is one comfort zone I don’t need to push myself beyond. I am perfectly happy working quietly on my own and letting my work – in written form – speak for itself. And perfectly happy is the state I am aiming to cultivate in all situations.
Although the INFJ is a rare personality, and introverted, it is interesting that there are some quite famous INFJ people out there, who have stepped into the limelight at some point. Perhaps they, too, can handle delivering a planned speech in a more formal setting.
I leave you with a list of the most intriguing famous INFJs:
- Nelson Mandela
- Mother Theresa
- Martin Luther King
- Jimmy Carter
- Mel Gibson
- Robbie Burns
- Nathaniel Hawthorne
…and, would you believe it, apparently Frodo Baggins, Jane Eyre, Luke Skywalker and Dumbledore fit into this personality type as well!
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