10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #1 View Yourself as Whole

When is the last time you heard an extrovert talk about how they wished they could be more introverted?  How they would like to start taking more time to think before they talk, or be able to just sit quietly at a party and enjoy watching the activity?

Probably never. You’re more likely to hear the reverse: introverts want to be more extroverted, more outgoing, more comfortable in social situations.  When this happens, when introverts focus on what they don’t have they end up ignoring the qualities they do have.

We Create Our Own Experience

Introverts often equate sitting alone at a party with being unpopular, but that’s only one way of looking at it. If you slouch in a corner looking like a loser, sure, your demeanor will telegraph exactly that.  Your anxious face will shout your innermost thoughts to the crowd: “I have no friends!” As a result – you guessed it – no one will want to talk to you.

SerenityNow imagine yourself at that same party, sitting in that same corner, but this time you’re calm and interested in what’s going on around you.  You don’t feel like a loser because you aren’t – you have friends, they just aren’t with you at the moment.  You realize that you can talk to people if you want to but you don’t have to, you know that you can leave any time you want.

Feels different, doesn’t it?  Now you’re sitting by yourself because you choose to.

You Are Not a Non-Extrovert

INFJ’s can get in the trap of defining who we are by comparing ourselves to our opposites.  We view our introversion as a lack of extroversion, we see our preference for dealing with our inner world as being inattentive.  We can believe that our emotionality makes us seem less intelligent, and that our preference for organization is an imposition on those who are more spontaneous and fun.

We need to turn that around.  We need to take the view that our quietness gives us a lovely depth of thought and creates calm in our environment.  And our ability to read between the lines is a perfect complement to analytical thought.  We need to value the fact that our orderly lives enable us to help our less organized family and friends.

And, the one I like best, our tender hearts are devoted to bringing peace and love into the world – what could be more important than that?

Exercise:  Interview With an INFJ

INFJs, in their desire to for harmony, can ignore or not even recognize their preferences.  In addition they can end up discounting their strengths and skills and focus on what others can do that they can’t.  The following exercise is designed to help you explore and embrace your unique likes and dislikes and better understand your strengths.

Directions: This exercise is designed to identify your preferences and strengths, so leave negativity and self-pity (yep, I said it – self-pity!) at the door.  Your answers should be positive declarations (e.g. “I love candy” as opposed to “I eat too many sweets.”)

  1. What is your favorite time of the day?
  2. What time do you like to go to bed at night and get up in the morning?
  3. What are your top three skills?
  4. What kind of humor do you like?  Quirky? Slapstick? Dirty?
  5. What is your favorite way to relax?
  6. What are you smartest about?
  7. Who is your favorite person to go to when you need help?
  8. Who comes to you for help?
  9. What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever done?  What skills did it take to do it?  How did you feel afterwards?
  10. What kind of books do you like?
  11. How would you dress if you had an unlimited budget?
  12. What is your favorite type of movie?
  13. What are your favorite foods?
  14. What pastimes do you enjoy? (e.g. cooking, writing, dancing)
  15. What are the three most important things you’ve learned in the past year?
  16. What would your friends say that they love about you?
  17. What do you love about yourself?
  18. What are you most proud of in your life?
  19. When are you most yourself?
  20. What challenge are you facing in your life right now?
  21. What else?  Add your ideas in the comments section!

***

What can you add?  What have you learned about viewing yourself as whole?  Are there any books or articles on the subject that you can recommend?

This is the first installment in 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

How to Impress Others

Photo by beastmanphotos via Flickr

We all want to be smart, beautiful, magnetic. We want to impress others with our charm and intelligence. What’s the best way to dazzle those around us? It’s not what you might think.

First, a simple exercise. Make a list of five things you want others to think about you. Each item on the list should start with “I’d like others to think I’m…” Your list might include things like “loveable”, “intelligent” or “a leader”. Create your list now and don’t read any farther until you have at least five items on it.

Done? Now take a look at the items on your list – it’s likely that these are where you put a lot of your energy and focus. They are probably the areas you tend to stress about, that trigger your insecurities. My guess is that this is where you want to look good but feel that you don’t.

The problem is that wanting “others to think” you’re anything (fill in the blank – smart, cute, charismatic…) puts the focus on merely looking good. And when our efforts go into looking good we can end up convincing ourselves that looking good is equal to actually being good – believing that talking like an intellectual is the same as being intelligent (and who hasn’t found themselves with someone who loves to hear themselves talk as they try to impress others?)

But don’t throw away your list! It’s a valuable inventory of areas that are important to you, areas that you really do want to improve in your life. You can use that information to figure out where to put your efforts and energy to learn and grow.

Using the list you created, identify an action step for each item that will move you towards being good in the areas you care about.

For example using the list in the second paragraph one might work to:

  • Become more loveable by building sincere connections with others
  • Increase your knowledge by reading about an era in history you’re interested in, joining a book club or taking a class
  • Learn leadership skills by asking someone seen as a leader to be your mentor

When we put our focus on merely looking good we often achieve the opposite effect. Plus, our efforts are usually surprisingly transparent to others, and we may waste valuable time and resources in trying to create what is, ultimately, an illusion. By focusing on improving our knowledge or skills in the areas that are important to us, we end up not only achieving more but we also end up looking good naturally and effortlessly.

Find the Sunshine in Your Life

Osteospernum: Two little stars emerge in the s...
Image by Mukumbura via Flickr

As I sit down to write this post, I find myself wanting to give you sunshine. Looking though my notebook of writing ideas the topics feel heavy to me – advice on how to survive, how to make do, how to become comfortable in uncomfortable times. But maybe what we need is simpler than that. Maybe we just need to reconnect to the little pleasures in our lives, those special people, things and events that already surround us.

As children it was easy to become absorbed in small pleasures. I remember spending entire afternoons in the hills near my home, exploring, playing, and finding new things. Fun was any place I could pretend was a house – I’d flatten tall grass, find a crook in our grapefruit tree, or sit in a hollow bush – anything to provide walls for my little tea parties.

It’s easy to get disconnected from the small delights in our lives, especially when we hear what sounds like dire news every day. Finding and enjoying these pleasures can provide warmth and texture to these precarious times.

Below is my “Sunshine List” for today – just a sample of what brings sunshine into my life:

  1. My breakfast, every day.
  2. A sunny walk at lunchtime with my daughter.
  3. Watching reality shows with my best friend.
  4. Taking a hot bath on a cold day.
  5. A coaching session where my client has an “ah ha!” moment.
  6. Elastic waistbands.
  7. Goofing around with my business partner when we’re supposed to be working.
  8. My house, especially when it’s clean.
  9. Finishing an article that I believe really captures what I want to communicate.
  10. Seeing my cat roll around in ecstasy just because I walked in my front door.

 

What puts the sunshine into your life?

Take a moment, put your feet up, and grab a pencil and paper and create your own Sunshine List.   Once you’ve created your list, what can you do with it?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Post it where you’ll see it every day and make sure you do at least one thing on your list daily
  • Each day add a new item to your list
  • Create a whole new list of 10 items every day for a week
  • If your list includes loved ones like mine does, share your list with them and suggest they write one of their own
  • Even if you don’t do another thing with your list, be aware of the things that add pleasure to your day and add them to your mental Sunshine List

It’s important not to get lost in the tension of everyday life. Staying connected with the small things that make us happy builds a storehouse of pleasure that can provide balance when troubles or worries strike. Take a look at your list – how many things on it are available to you every day? How many items on your list not only give you pleasure, but also give joy to someone else?  Our lists are filled with rich pleasures that increase the quality of our lives and of those around us.

Before & After: Navigating Transitions

You're Fired!October 26, 2006 is a “Before & After” day for me.  That was the day I was told I was to be laid off from a company where I’d worked for 18 years.  That day marked a major turning point in my life – I will never be the same person I was the day before.

Externally everything pretty much stayed the same for some time.  My employment didn’t actually end for another three months so I still went to work every day, parked in the same lot, walked the same steps into the building, interacted with the same people.

Internally, however, everything was different.  My world had changed, what was true the day before was now an open question.  The part of my life that had contained work to be done and assumptions about the texture and patterns of my days was now open space.  I found that while this space was scary, it was also exhilarating.

In this space I could create what I want.  It was full of choice, I could choose another job in a new place, choose to do something completely different, choose to take some time to rest, decompress (ahh…) , choose new work to be done, new textures and patterns for my days.

This open space that hits in the “After” period is rich with information and inspiration.  It’s a time where there are only questions, and no answers yet, and it can provide you with valuable information.  Even if new plans and life structures are readily available, at this point we have an opportunity to pause and ask ourselves, “How do I want my life to be different?”

Some Tips for Making the Most of Your Before & After:

#1  Don’t assume that the Before & After day is the day of “the big event” –  By the time I physically left the company, I was well in to the “After”.  The Before & After day isn’t when the external change hits – the wedding day, the day she moves out, the first day of college or that new job.  It’s when the internal change occurs – the day he proposed, the day she told you it was over, the day you were accepted to college or received the offer for your new job.  This is where change starts, when we first hit the bumpy pavement of uncertainty.

#2   Even if you have solid plans for your After, see what information is available during the transition –   Even those folks at my company who were moving into new positions seemed to also connect to deeper, bigger dreams for their lives during this period.  One friend immediately got a new job, but during her transition also reconnected with her dream to be a baker.  Practical for now?  Maybe not.  Yet come retirement time, how great would it be to have already tested those recipes and developed a business plan?

#3  Experience the transition – don’t hide from it –  I have a good friend who recently went through a breakup, and I was impressed by how completely and intentionally she experienced all the emotions that came up for her.  She didn’t try to feel better or escape her feelings of loss, she explored them for meaning and information.  She understood that while these feelings were painful, they also held knowledge that would help her succeed in her next relationship.

How have your Before & Afters impacted your life?  A few questions to think about when you consider your Before & Afters:

  • What did you learn during your transition about yourself and others?
  • What commitments did you make as a result of that learning?  Are you still keeping them? Are they still relevant in the “After”?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What do you wish you’d done differently?

I know that exploring your Before & Afters for information is easier said than done.   Major life transitions are emotional, they provide a breeding grounds for insecurity and self-doubt.   But the ability to pause and pay attention in the midst of chaos not only helps you discover new information, it is a powerful skill to have.

Listening With Curiosity

I’ll be honest – until a few years ago I thought I was right most of the time. And not just about my life, but also about what was best for others. I was humbled when I finally I stepped back and really listened to other people’s ideas – I realized that while my conclusions and solutions might be right for me, they often weren’t right for them.

When I was training to be a life coach in my first coaching class we were taught to “stay in curiosity”; to simply ask questions without drawing conclusions or trying to guide others to “see it our way”. This was a rude awakening for many of the students in the class – we’d come to coaching because we felt we had wisdom to share. What I learned was that people’s thoughts, perceptions and conclusions often had no resemblance to my own, and what I thought was right for them was often flat out wrong.

Staying in curiosity isn’t just for coaches. Staying in curiosity will help you be a better partner, parent, boss, co-worker or team member. Learning to stay open with others is powerful for both you and them – you have the benefit of learning about others, and they have the treat of being really listened to with respect and openness.

Try these 5 tips for staying in curiosity:

#1. Don’t assume that you know what the other person is thinking or feeling
It’s true that when you’ve known someone a long time you might have a good idea about what’s going on with them. But what’s key here is that you might not. You might have been making incorrect assumptions about them for years! And we all change, what was true about someone yesterday might not be true today.

#2. Listen
So often when someone is talking to us we are mentally crafting our replies, evaluating what they are saying, or, sometimes, we might even be off composing our grocery list.
To really listen:

  • Keep your mind clear of opinions, answers and conclusions. Seek to discover what information the speaker is providing.
  • Stay neutral, don’t shift your focus to your emotional response or start trying to figure out solutions.
  • Let the other person finish, don’t interrupt or jump in with your thoughts.

#3. Don’t provide solutions or give advice
Ouch! We all love to provide our insights to others, especially when we think we can help. And we may even be right some of the time! However, the fact is that all of us are much more inspired by solutions we design ourselves than those provided by someone else. There’s a great deal of value to be gained by going through the process of figuring out what to do – we learn more about ourselves, the situation we are in, and how to succeed when we seek our own solutions.

#4. Avoid soothing
It can be uncomfortable to listen to other people’s hurts and problems; we want to make their sorrow go away. Sometimes we try to sooth them with statements like “Everything will be ok.” Or we inadvertently invalidate their feelings with comments like “I know you’re sad your best friend moved away, but you’ll find other friends.” As hard as it is, it’s a wonderful gift to someone to just be there for them when they’re in pain, and listen to them work though it without trying to fix things or make the hurt go away.

#5. Stay curious
As people talk to you, get curious about what they are experiencing. The best curious questions are short and simple and are directed at the speaker’s current experience and feelings. Some examples of curious questions – “How do you feel about what she said?”, “What’s the most stressful aspect of this situation?” or “What’s your biggest concern?” Notice that none of the questions attempt to lead the speaker to a solution, they just allow space for them to process their experience.

Staying open when listening to others isn’t easy. I still find myself dishing out unasked for advice, or cutting people off when I think I know what they are going to say. But really being curious is a lovely gift to give to the people around us, and you’ll be surprised what you can learn when you aren’t stuck in your own preconceptions.

Test your knowledge of curious questions below. Identify whether each question or comment is:
A) Disguised advice B) Curious C) Soothing

1. Are you sure you don’t want to do it this way?__________________

2. I know it was bad, but it will be better tomorrow!_____________________

3. How did you react when he said that to you?____________________

4. Oh don’t say that – you know it isn’t true!_____________________

5. What is important about this?_________________

6. Do you think you should tell your manager?________________

Answers: 1 A, 2 C, 3 B, 4 C, 5 B, 6 A

Field Guide to the Loner: The Real Insider (Psychology Today)

This is a terrific article from Psychology Today on Introverts.  Even though in the article we’re called “loners” it does a great job of illustrating the fact that much of the time we’re quite happy to be alone.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200703/field-guide-the-loner-the-real-insiders

Networking for Introverts – Mixers & Meetings

I am an introvert. And, until I started my own business, I usually avoided groups of people I didn’t know. That changed, however, when I realized that the best place to make new contacts is networking meetings and mixers. I found that all it took was a shift in my perspective to make networking events not only easy but fun (yes, fun!).

To make the most of networking events:

#1    Relax
Most people are at networking meetings and mixers for the same reason you are – to make new contacts and build their business. Unlike parties, where people often cluster in groups that can be intimidating to break into, at networking functions people tend to mix and chat in smaller groups. Still, walking into a room of strangers can be intimidating.

Some key things to remember :

  • Keep things in perspective – you have nothing to lose. At worst you’ll waste a couple of hours, but you could end up meeting someone who’ll contribute to your success.
  • No one is focused on you, and no one will notice if you stand alone for a few minutes. And if you do stand alone and look pleasant, it’s very likely that someone will come up and talk to you.
  • It doesn’t really matter if there’s someone you don’t click with. We sometimes worry that others won’t like us, but if they don’t, so what? Just move on and find someone you have more in common with.
  • And, finally, remember, you can leave any time you want!

#2  Focus on connecting with people rather than selling them
I’ve met people at networking functions who instantly launched into an obviously memorized long-winded sales pitch for their product or service. Not only was I turned off, but I also didn’t want to recommend them to anyone else and subject others to their pitch.The best use of networking meetings is to connect with other business people who can refer potential clients to you. I’m not saying that you can’t gain clients from these functions, but I am saying that you’ll only get clients if people feel a connection to you, and for that to happen they have to get to know you a bit, and not just hear about your product. Plus, it’s a lot more fun!

#3  Be prepared
Create a short (2-3 sentence) introduction that summarizes the benefits of your service and practice it until it’s easy to remember. At informal events you can use your introduction to describe your business as you meet people. At more structured groups you may be expected to stand up and introduce yourself – if you’re prepared it’s quick and painless. It’s also helpful to write up a list of the benefits of your product and practice saying them before the meeting.

#4  Avoid overwhelm
At the first few networking meetings I went to I felt that every two minutes I was getting information I needed to act on or invitations to participate in other events, classes, or groups. I would get so overwhelmed that I was exhausted by the end of the event, and my automatic answer for all invitations became “No”.

To head off overwhelm, plan to “unpack” the event in a day or two when you have more time. At the event simply tuck business cards and brochures into your bag or folder and make notes about items you want to follow up on. This takes the immediate pressure off and gives you time to recover before trying to process everything.  I also make it a rule to never accept or refuse an invitation at a networking event. I simply respond with a pleasant “May I get back to you in the next couple of days?”   This gives me time to consider the invitation outside of the pressure of the meeting.

Networking events are great place to practice extroverting, and the more I attended the easier and more enjoyable they got.  The trick is to take the pressure off yourself and don’t worry about impressing or selling, just connect with others and enjoy yourself.

Ouch, My “F”ing Heart

Heart

One of the best things about being an F is how tender-hearted we are.  And one of the hardest things about being an F is how tender-hearted we are!

Like all F’s I seek harmony.  And when one of my co-workers or loved ones is in a bad mood it’s really difficult not take it personally. My natural tendency is to make it about myself  –  “What did I do?” or “Why is he being so mean to me?”  But this is a form of self-absorption, we’re focused on our reaction, on how we feel, rather than what’s happening with the other person.  We need to shift the question from “Why is he picking on me?” to “What’s going on with him that’s upset him so much?”

Some tips for dealing with others’ upsets:

  • Shift your attention from how you feel about the situation by getting curious about what’s happening with the other person.
  • Don’t take their moods personally, even if they lash out at you or blame you – it’s not about you, it’s about them.
  • Don’t take on their pain. Your compassion helps, your hurting along with them doesn’t.
  • Don’t try to fix or soothe them – you can’t.  Telling someone the “look at the bright side”  or to “feel better” doesn’t do anything except minimize their emotions.
  • It can be really draining to spend time with someone who is dealing with a prolonged issue, so be sure to take care of yourself.  Give yourself a break and schedule fun time with friends or other family members to help you not get sucked in to the negativity.

I know, all this is easier said than done.  But it benefits everyone when you can provide a supportive, calm and grounded environment when someone close to you is upset – I like to think of it as giving the gift of being strong when they’re at their weakest.

So all you F’s out there, protect that tender heart by keeping it full of love, compassion and the kindness that comes so naturally to you.

It’s True – They Might Not Like You

As I tried to chat with the woman sitting across the table her gaze slid away from mine.  I scanned the rest of the women in the group only to realize that no one was talking to me.  It suddenly occurred to me that the only person interacting with me at this shower was my friend, the bride-to-be.

Then it hit – they didn’t like me!  It wasn’t that they disliked me, but they clearly didn’t like me.

So here I was in my worst nightmare.  I remember the fear as far back as elementary school, the belief that if I’m not liked, if I’m rejected, then…what?  The world would come to an end?  Time would stop?  I’m not sure what I believed would happen, but that jittering fear was always with me when I thought about social events.

So how did I feel, facing the rejection I’d feared for most of my life?

I was bored.

That’s all.  No shrinking into my seat in humiliation, no fervent wishing I was a million miles away.   I just realized that it was going to be a long afternoon.

And, as I thought about the group, I understood.  Most of the women were suburban moms in their early thirties with kids in elementary school.  And there I was, mid-fifties, divorced, with an adult daughter.  I was just too different, I think I made them uncomfortable.

Once I realized that no one wanted to talk to me, I settled back in my chair and just let the activity wash around me. Most of the women there had been friends for years – they chatted about their kids, planned potlucks, talked about their husbands.  It was pleasant, this murmur of friendship and sharing, even though it didn’t include me.  I was an outsider, but it didn’t really matter because no one was paying any attention to me.

I ended up loving that shower, but not for the usual reasons.  What I loved was how comfortable I felt even though I didn’t fit in. There was such ease in not loading up the experience with needs – the need for acceptance and approval, the need to be one of the gang.  I’d carried the fear of not being liked with me all my life; what a delight it was to find that when the time came to face my fears, they simply vanished.

Copyright © 2010    From The Easy Place

Converstation Made Easy

Yeah, an extrovert would have a good chuckle at the title of this post – what’s hard about conversations?  But most introverts have struggled through the leaden “thunk” of a conversation dropping into uncomfortable silence.

My favorite is when I find myself in casual conversation with another introvert  – that pause as we both realize that the other is an introvert and neither of us is going to pick up the reins of the conversation.

But conversations don’t have to be difficult.  The trick is to let them happen naturally.  Here’s how:

#1  Relax
Most of the time casual conversations aren’t important.  You don’t have to make the other person like you, you don’t have to be amazingly witty or charming.  You just have to talk a little. That’s all.

#2  Focus on being interested rather than being interesting
No this isn’t another version of “get him to talk about himself.”  It’s just it’s more fun when we shift focus from “Oh no, I have to say something” to “Hmmm…look at that job title on his name tag.”  Putting our attention on the other person often opens the door to a world of topics.

#3  Broaden your focus
What’s going on around you? Our surroundings always offer a topic of conversation.  At a cocktail party? Talk about how you know the hosts.  At a conference?  Talk about the workshop you attend or ask for recommendations on booths to visit. This is especially useful if you find you don’t have much in common with your conversational partner.

#4  Choose to say nothing
If you don’t have anything to say, or don’t feel like talking, don’t force yourself into conversations. It’s perfectly fine to sit and observe the activity or excuse yourself and move on.   We sometimes think that if it’s uncomfortable we have to force our way through it, but, unless it’s important that we hang in there, its ok to just let it go.

What’s most important is that we stick with what’s most comfortable.  Rather than trying to copy the conversational style of an extrovert, we need to figure out what feels most natural for us.

Finally, remember this simple rule – you are always your most charming when you are being yourself.