I’ve been called a “Type A” person my entire life. Yet it never seemed quite right. Sure, I’m driven and organized. I loathe wasting time and have a list for everything. But, I am definitely not outgoing nor do I view myself as aggressive. I’m an introvert. Can you be a Type A personality AND an introvert?
The short answer is absolutely yes!
The Type A introvert
I tried on the Type A label many times. It always felt like a dress that didn’t quite fit. The waist hung like a potato sack, and it showed far too much cleavage. So I grabbed a Type B to try that on for size. I couldn’t even get that over my hips!
Introversion is like the belt that cinches it in at the waist and the scarf layered on top so only the tiniest bit of cleavage peaks out. Introversion makes a Type A fit me perfectly.
When I hear the term “Type A Personality” I think of a person who is ambitious, work obsessed, outgoing, competitive, and aggressive. I’m guessing you conjure up similar thoughts.
They are viewed as the most likely to succeed and achieve great things, especially in their careers.
On the flip side, they are impatient, stressed, and experience a higher level of social isolation due to their tendency to alienate others.
“Characteristics associated with a Type A personality may include operating at a more urgent pace, demonstrating higher levels of impatience, having a more competitive nature, getting upset easily, and associating self-worth with achievement”— Elizabeth Scott, Verywellmind.com
Type A personalities have been associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stress and social isolation though the negative health impacts are less supported by recent research.
Are you an introvert?
In the U.S., approximately one third to one half of all people are introverts. The percentage is estimated at a full 50% for women. Introverted personalities prefer internal stimuli over stimulation from the external environment. They find satisfaction within themselves. They enjoy quiet time alone and find large social activities tiring. They are thoughtful, reflective, and self aware. A group project, public speaking, or anything that forces them into the limelight is their idea of a nightmare. While they disdain large social groups, introverts tend to have a few very close friends who they hold dear.
Don’t confuse introversion with shyness. Just because an introvert doesn’t want to socialize in a crowd doesn’t mean she fears social judgment. She may simply choose her own company or the company of a few close friends.
Introverts in the workplace
Introverts get a bad rap in the U.S., especially in the workforce. Our culture values people who are social and outgoing. We award ambition, and those who speak up, lean in, and ask for what they want. Introverts can be viewed as weak or unable to stand up for themselves. Therefore, they are pushed aside.
Introverts often passed over for leadership positions because of an incorrect assumption that they are socially competent enough to lead an organization. Yet recent research by Adam Grant at the Wharton School shows that introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes because they are more likely to allow creative employees to run with their own ideas. An extraverted leader may be more likely to exert their influence on decisions and actions thereby suppressing innovation.
We place a high value on teamwork and an outgoing personality. Yet this doesn’t create the best environment to maximize all employee performance. Half of people in the U.S. work better alone and when left to the quiet of their own minds. Therefore, we are diminishing the ideas and contributions of 50% of our workforce. It’s no wonder the U.S. is falling behind in the global economy.
Could you be a type A personality and an introvert?
I love to work yet have a driving need for time alone. This forces me to put work aside periodically and refresh. I have an enormous capacity for focus and am ambitious. Socially, I enjoy my close friends and love to entertain – as long as it’s on my terms.
I am also an executive and an outspoken advocate for causes near to my heart. I run meetings, lead teams, and doggedly pursue success.
At the same time, I dread large social events and having to engage with people I don’t know. I crave time alone and much prefer to pursue my intellectual passions rather than social activities. I hate to feel embarrassed and fear being put on the spot in a social situation.
As different as these traits sound, they can all exist side by side. For me, it results in a very different personal and professional persona. This has allowed me to be successful in both worlds. I consider this a huge advantage of my personality type.
Does this sound like you? If it does, you are probably a Type A introvert. Welcome to a very exclusive club!
How do I find out about my personality type?
As a Type A person, I needed to learn everything I could about my personality classification. I read, researched, listened to podcasts and TED talks.
Then I read some more.
Finally, I stumbled across the Meyer Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
Like many people, I took the MBTI in college but don’t remember much about the results except that I would do well in a leadership position and in the military. I had to invest in the test again. Approximately $50 and a few hours later, I had my results – INTJ. I followed up with four other personality inventories online and received further refinement to INTJ-A. It was confirmed!
There are plenty of free resources to dig into and evaluate your personality type. If, however, you want to learn more about the results, the MBTI is a good place to start. The test and results are backed by decades of data and research and the organization provides ample type specific learning material.
A quiet revolution is taking place
People are beginning to see the inherent value in both extroverted and introverted personality types. For example, major introverts such as Oprah Winfrey, Mahatma Gandhi, J.K. Rowling, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt and many others are being hailed as role models for introverted leaders. I suspect most of these are Type A introverts.
Writers such as Susan Cain in her book, Quiet, are speaking out about the benefits of introverts in the world, family, and business. In her now famous TED Talk, she urges us all to just “Stop the madness for constant group work”.
We each have to do our part to support all personality types if we are to maximize our efforts and performance. And we all love to maximize!! In fact, we should lean on our Type A traits in order to help change the conversation about what makes a leader or a successful person. In addition, we have to “Stop the madness for constant group work” and to listen to quite revolution!