As a fun aside, you’ll probably notice where Sue hands off writing to me by my obvious re-spelling of ‘colour’ eh?
One of the very first lessons you are tasked with learning in an art class is the concept of the Color Wheel.
Primary colors are red, yellow and blue. Secondary colors are orange, green and purple. When two primary colors are mixed you can create a secondary color.
Red + Yellow = Orange
Yellow + Blue = Green
With the excitement of creating new shades and hues comes a warning from the teacher; “Don’t combine colors on opposite ends of the Color Wheel. They don’t mix well together.”
Purple and yellow? Brownish gray. Orange and blue? Grayish brown.
The Color Wheel was a tool I learned to trust in my early days as an artist. I relied on the guidelines, staying away from testing out combinations that had grayed out results.
Still, I wondered, what was so bad about this combination? Sure, it might be a little rough on the eyes at first, but I was never one to stay away from the boldness of color. I tested these theories out in some of my later works. I found drew inspiration from artists that seemed to feel the same.
One of Sue’s favorite artists, Elizabeth Murray, “Do The Dance”
Working with someone who is the opposite of your MBTI type can be similar to working with opposing colors on the Color Wheel. Each type brings a unique value to the whole picture. When opposing colors play off each other, they can bring vibrant movement, balance and provide symmetry within a piece. The piece uses the strengths of each hue to enhance the beauty of the work as a whole.
However, this balance is not easy to achieve. If one shade overpowers another, a brownish gray mess occurs. The result is weakness instead of strength, and the piece is stripped of what could have been a potential masterpiece. It is easy to choose a shade that you are comfortable with as an introvert or extrovert, and ignore the “colors of others” in your personal or professional life.
Passing the palette to Lisa!
Though perhaps far less artistically inclined, the metaphor of a colour (I’m Canadian if you couldn’t tell) wheel is a fantastic descriptor for working with Introverts. As someone with a very strong preference for Extroversion, our need to externally process and apparent comfort in socializing can liken us to the brighter, bolder colours in the wheel. Conventional wisdom argued we weren’t meant to mix with the ‘softer’ colours, as they would only dilute our strength and polluting our lightness. Those other colours, the pastels perhaps, were an unneeded and ugly weight. Even on their own, they were a toned down, less noticeable version of who we were and who we could be. If only they were a little bit brighter.
Conversely, our loud, over the top hues as Extroverts could be far more blinding than enticing. We can be like blinking neon lights, restlessly demanding attention and always on – always buzzing with ideas and opinions that everyone ends up knowing about. Like plugging into a perpetual power source, our neon sign is continually charged by interaction, creating a cycle of giving and receiving energy from anyone and everyone who walks by and takes notice. We love people, and want you to love us too.
These contrary, colourful descriptions ignore all of the shade gradients on the colour wheel – and for good reason. Too often, Extroversion and Introversion are seen as ‘black and white’ concepts, dull in definition yet uniquely vibrant in practice. You are either one or the other, and, depending on what leadership book you read or ‘how to’ manual for advancing in your profession you follow, probably the wrong one.
Working with colleagues and students identifying a strong preference for Introversion over the past year has added many new colours to my student support pallete. While perhaps a more subdued colour or a more subtle tone, Introversion offers meaningful opportunities for deeper, more careful introspection that patiently waits for the observer to notice the fine detail in their masterpiece, rather than rushing broad brush strokes on canvas. Introverts remind me to take time away and help remove the stigma of being alone. They tease apart ‘being alone’ from ‘loneliness’, often keeping me accountable in my own self care. They remind us, and myself more often since I need it, that the artist requires as much, if not more, care as their paint brushes, crayons or clay.
Continuing the metaphor, the canvas that we display our work, our hopes, our wishes and perhaps even ourselves on is perpetually unfinished. It requires both the bold strokes and the fine lines, the maddening chaos of colour and the subtle nuances of lightness to create a masterful, if not always a masterpiece, life. We don’t need to draw Introverts out of the shadows, nor must the Extroverts step out of the sun. The interplay of light and dark, bright and more subtle hues, draws the most beautiful picture.