This is one of those articles I’m writing because I need to get better at following my own advice. 😀
The information here has mega-potential in terms of life improvement, and I know it because I’ve experienced it, but I still forget to act accordingly all the time. I’m hoping that by writing this down, I’ll finally get it to really stick.
So we’re talking about how to make better decisions. Or how to make better decisions as an introvert to be more exact. Because, yes, making decisions as an introvert is different from making decisions as an extravert.
Optimizing the way you make decisions is super important, because your life is basically an accumulation of all the decisions you make. Whether it’s small day-to-day decisions or BIG life course decisions, you are the boss of your life, and as such, your decisions have consequences.
Sorry, did I just put way too much pressure on all of us? If yes, let me assure you that nobody makes perfect decisions 100 percent of the time. We’re humans – not robots.
But I have noticed that the more I’ve been able to follow the decision making advice I’m about to share with you, the more I’ve been liking my life.
(Pssst, this article assumes that you know your full Myers Briggs personality type and that you have some understanding of cognitive functions. If you don’t, find out your personality type here. And learn about cognitive functions here and here. And then come right back. 🙂 )
How To Make Better Decisions As An Introvert
1. Get Out Of Extravert Mode
Let’s get all geeky about the Myers-Briggs personality type theory for a moment.
According to this theory, humans have eight cognitive functions at their disposal. The cognitive functions are eight different ways for our brains to gather and process information. And we each have a favorite function assigned by our genes (also called the primary or dominant function). Our favorite function is our gift. It’s what we have talent in. It’s what we can potentially become really good at.
Now, it just so happens that for introverts, the favorite function is always introverted in nature:
INFJ, INTJ: Introverted Intuiting
ISFJ, ISTJ: Introverted Sensing
INTP, ISTP: Introverted Thinking
INFP, ISFP: Introverted Feeling
These functions are difficult to access when we’re peopling, which is why we always have that craving for some peace and quiet. It’s in solitude that we can access our gift.
So what happens when we are NOT alone? Well, when we’re “extraverting”, we usually default to our second favorite function, which is always extraverted in nature:
INFP, INTP: Extraverted Intuiting
ISFP, ISTP: Extraverted Sensing
ISTJ, INTJ: Extraverted Thinking
INFJ, ISFJ: Extraverted Feeling
Now, introverts can be okay at operating in the extravert mode, but they are typically not as good at it as they are at using their introverted gift. So when you are extraverting, you might not be in your optimal mode, reaching your full potential.
And this is where bad decision making potentially comes in. Let me illustrate with an example.
As an INFJ, my favorite function is introverted intuiting and my second favorite function is extraverted feeling. So when I’m peopling, my default mode is extraverted feeling, otherwise known as caring about everybody else’s needs and feelings.
To a fault and often against my better judgment.
Ask me a question and I’ll tell you what you want to hear. Ask me for a favor and I’ll accommodate. Ask me my opinion and I’ll agree with yours.
Ask me to make a decision and I’ll choose whatever option is most likely to minimize conflict, be seen as socially “appropriate”, and maximize group happiness.
And then watch me walk away, have some time to myself, and come back asking who the hell just took over my brain and why the fuck did she just agree to all that?
Now, sometimes this isn’t that big a deal. Maybe I just agreed to see a movie I wasn’t that interested in? Maybe I just responded to a Trump voter with an awkward smile rather than revealing what I really think?
But at other times it can be a big deal. Maybe I just took on a giant project at work that I don’t really have time for? Or bought a house that wasn’t a good investment?
Dear introvert, here’s how decision making can go wonky in extravert mode based on your specific personality type.
INFJs & ISFJs
You might go against your better judgment and just default to people pleasing, as in my example above.
ISTJs & INTJs
You might go against your better judgment and just default to controlling and “getting things done”.
INFPs & INTPs
You might not make decisions at all. You might just go with the flow and get stuck information gathering.
ISFPs & ISTPs
You might not make decisions at all. You might just go with the flow and get stuck living in the moment.
2. Go Get Some Solitude
Dear introvert, to make the decisions that will lead you to your best life, it’s necessary to walk away and process your thoughts in private.
Extraverts have the ability to think out loud.
The only way to access our better judgment is in solitude. By getting in touch with the “real” you. So don’t ignore your urge to sit on it and think things through. Don’t dismiss it as overthinking. It’s what you were meant to do.
So learn to stall, excuse yourself, ask for more time…
Let me think about this for a moment and get back to you.
Excuse me. I’ll be back in just a minute.
I’ll check my calendar and get back to you.
I’m not sure. I’ll have to give it some thought.
I’m going to sleep on it and let you know in the morning.
3. Consult Your Gift
Do whatever you need to do to get away, go inside, and hear your own voice.
INFJs & INTJs: Listen to your intuitive insights.
ISFJs & ISTJs: Listen to your past experience.
INTPs & ISTPs: Listen to your careful analysis.
INFPs & ISFPs: Listen to your personal values.
4. Consult Other People’s Gifts
And while you’re at it, don’t limit yourself to just your favorite perspective. Yes, your gift should have the final say, but especially with BIG decisions, it’s good to check out alternative perspectives as well.
Here are good questions to ask to get access to your opposites:
Intuitives: What is realistic?
Sensors: What is possible?
Feelers: What are the logical consequences?
Thinkers: What is the impact on people?
5. Give Yourself Time
Beware that you might need more than a bathroom break’s worth of solitude. 🙂
As introverts, we often chide ourselves for being worriers and overthinkers. And yes, sometimes we might go too far in that direction.
But living in a fast-paced extravert culture can easily take you down the opposite path. I would go as far as to say that pretty much every single bad decision I have made in my life was the result of not giving myself enough time in solitude to really process my thoughts about the matter.
I’ve come to realize that my brain is kinda like a crock pot. It’s not a microwave oven.
If I use it as if it was a microwave, my life will be the equivalent of a shriveled up watery mess served in a cardboard box.
If I use it the way it was meant to, my life will be a steaming bowl of beef stew.
Which would you rather eat? 😀
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