The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assesses a person’s personality along many different factors including their preference towards introvert recharging and extrovert recharging. While extroverts used to be the biggest news makers, as of late, more and more stories have come out about the power of introverts.
Two such power introverts, Amma Marfo and Sue Caulfield, teamed up to compile a collection of stories from fellow Student Affairs Introverts on what it means to be an “I” in Student Affairs. Their ebook was just released today on Amazon.
Before they get swooped up by 60 Minutes for an in-depth Charlie Rose interview, I got a chance to ask them a few questions.
In 140 characters, how would you describe the book?
SC: Amma describes the highlights, challenges and coping mechanisms of introverts in student affairs. Using reflective examples of her own and tales from our colleagues, she tells the tale of why it’s good to be an I in SA.
AM: Sue says it well! The goal of the book is to help introverts understand and embrace their natural selves, & help extroverts understand too.
Where did the inspiration come from?
AM: I started looking into temperament as a topic of interest while in graduate school, and was especially interested in how it affected (a) students, and (b) the professionals that work with them. As that latter interest became more public among friends and colleagues, many people came to me with hopes of getting advice on how to understand and work with introverts. I wanted to commit it to paper/bandwidth/screen as a resource that all could draw from. And so, in March of 2013, the writing process began,
How long did it take to make happen from idea to published on Amazon?
AM: The writing process took about nine months. It came in waves, and I supplemented my words with testimony from student affairs professionals and non-student affairs specific research on the topic. As I moved toward the time when I wanted to share my work, I realized with the help of Jeff Lail (who had published something over Kindle last year) and a blogger I follow named Paul Jarvis who had done the same, that Kindle Direct Publishing was the best route for me right now.
SC: I was beyond pumped to receive a few passages from Amma, with a note asking for some illustrations. I knew I was going to fall in love with this project – the first narrative was the one comparing introverts to pasta! I think she definitely played to my Italian heritage on that one…
It took me about a few weeks to brainstorm and sketch everything. We decided on a cover last minute and the rest is history.
Why did you two decide to work together on it?
SC: Amma and I owe the beginning of our friendship to the #SAchat community and the growth of it to our side projects. When she announced her goal of writing a book early last year, I was truly in awe. Someone that I know? An author? Why not! As she delved deeper into writing, I became more entrenched in producing “sue-dles.” Our projects crossed paths when Amma approached me about illustrating for her book. I was (and still am) honored to work with her. Seeing “Illustrated by Sue Caulfield”…Now that’s something.
AM: In one of the moments where I was going cross-eyed from looking at all the words, I recognized the need to illustrate some of the ideas I was presenting. I did NOT want to subject people to my art, but I knew someone whose art would be far more appropriate. 🙂 As Sue mentioned, #sachat brought us together as colleagues, friends, mutual motivational forces for one another, and creatives. She has a wonderful gift, and this felt like the perfect opportunity to showcase it in “print.”
Are you both introverts?
AM: Oh yes. I write early on in the book about how I had a hard time coming to terms with that reality, but my bookish nature, need for naps after social gatherings, and need for time to focus are hallmarks of the introverted mind. I wanted to include the thoughts and ideas of extroverts in this book in a way that few other books on the topic have, but it is a book by an introvert, for introverts.
SC: Yes! I have always tested as an I – an INFP. Amma actually writes about how I can’t get in touch with my F when my I is drained. (You’ll have to check out the book for the rest!)
Do you think I’s are well represented in Student Affairs?
SC: Before this year, I would’ve answered no to this question. However, there has been an increased volume in conversation revolving around introverts and student affairs. I think social media has encouraged this conversation, due to the fact that it is a natural comfort zone for introversion. It’s awesome to see how many professionals are proud of their type, especially introverts.
AM: Again, I agree with Sue. There are more of them than many people realize. I love that a dialogue has been started where introverts can talk about their strengths and challenges, and how it helps them work with students. Our ordinarily quiet voices are getting louder, and I love that.
What value does an I provide over an E in terms of working with students?
AM: Both types have their strengths and challenges, but I know that being an introvert has helped students feel heard in a way that others may not. Introverts are natural listeners, and like to minimize distractions for their own effectiveness. As it happens, however, these two qualities are also immeasurably helpful in forming relationships with students. When they know you’re paying attention, and really want to hear what they have to say, that’s where trust and opportunities for relationship building are born.
SC: I’s connect with students on a deeper level. We tend to seek out the smaller groups or individual interactions rather than the large group settings. It’s not just about programming and retreats. It’s about fostering growth. Modeling introversion for students can allow for relationships that may not occur with an extroverted professional. Taking a lunch break or closing our door signals to introverted students, hey, we get it and it’s okay to do those things.
When do you feel that I’s are most challenged at the job within Student Affairs?
AM: One of my favorite Sue-dles in the book is a conversation between an introvert and a door, and the person is saying “I <3 You.” The open door policy absolutely challenges me. I love getting to talk with students and seeing them in a moment between class to catch up. But when working on long term projects or trying to research something for a report, it is challenging to move from emails to phone calls to meetings to quieter work. But I talk about finding ways to structure schedules and voice needs in a way that mitigates those challenges in the book.
SC: It’s a toss up between the marathon hours and the open door policy. Personally, there are days at work when I am more thankful that I have a door than…well, anything else in the world. My coworkers have actually seen me hug my door – it’s that serious of a relationship. It’s not that introverts don’t understand the necessity of the odd hours or open lines of communication. Running Orientation can translate to a 60 hour work week. Counseling a crying student at a social event on a Friday night may mean 11pm office hours. But, knowing that you need a break and recharging after those moments can mean the difference between being an effective professional or a burnt out introvert.
What most surprised you about all the information you collected for the book?
AM: Honestly, I think that introverts and extroverts are sometimes viewed as having no idea how the other half lives, so to speak. While some extroverts I spoke to for the book admitted that they wanted to better understand how introverts worked, some of them really do get it. I think we all have a way to go in understanding the people around us and how they can help us be successful. However, don’t assume that others don’t understand you- they may know more than you think!
Technically speaking, I’m sure there are other SA Pros out there that would love to create an ebook on Amazon. Can you quickly walk us through the process of how you got published on Amazon?
AM: I did a lot of the initial writing through Google Drive, then moved into Microsoft Word to format the content and add images later on. Kindle Direct Publishing is a service that you have access to if you have an Amazon account, and they offer detailed instructions on how to format your work for publication. It is free, and you can make changes as needed. For example, there were a few formatting errors that I was made aware of for the iPad version, and I’ve already been able to fix them.
It’s a highly intuitive system, and one I’ll absolutely use if I do this again. And I’m actually thinking about that already…Sue, you in? 🙂
Lastly, What do you wish every Student Affairs Professional would know about I’s that maybe they don’t know now?
AM: We don’t hate people. I promise. I explained it to students this way over the weekend: no one enjoys the process of becoming tired. But when introverts are in situations that, from a physical and neurological standpoint, are literally draining the life out of them, you’ll see the effects of this. We have the power to create level playing fields for introverts and extroverts in our day-to-day activities; it’s time to put that power to work.
I say that about meetings, post-work functions, and workspaces in the book, but that is equally applicable to student training sessions, interviews, and classrooms. Think about the content presented in terms of how it affects you, but also think about it in terms of how it affects students, and how you can affect their experience by recognizing their types.
SC: Recognizing your type – whether that be I, E or both – is an important asset in being able to do your job in Student Affairs. As Amma eloquently points out in the book, introverts have needs and challenges that can be brought to light by our field. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, new professional or seasoned veteran in the field. Being aware of your needs, limits and coping mechanisms can help you succeed. And it doesn’t hurt to have a few friends who completely get it when you spend Friday nights in the library or have your phone on airplane mode for a few hours too.
As I said in the beginning, their ebook is available on Amazon. Thanks again to both Amma Marfo and Sue Caulfield for taking the time to interview and compile an ebook that I know is going to be beneficial to many introverts out there in Student Affairs.