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Which types seek solitude?

Which types seek solitude?

By Donna Dunning

In my MBTI® Certification workshops we often have in-class and lunchtime conversations on the importance of having time and space for solitude and reflection. During one conversation, a woman with INFJ preferences described how she found it highly enjoyable and meaningful to take a week or two away in a silent retreat. A couple of ENFPs in the program gasped and commented that a week in a silent retreat would, to them, be excruciatingly painful.

Since this experience, I have asked several INFJs if they would enjoy an extended silent retreat. Many say yes and comment they are quite comfortable not speaking to others for several days.

Generally people with Extraverted preferences crave and seek out frequent interactions in order to think out loud and process information. On the other hand, people who prefer Introversion can find an active, interactive, situation makes it difficult to concentrate. They want quiet time to think about and process what is going on around them.

Everyone needs some time alone to reflect and process information internally. I am curious about which personality type preference combinations link to a craving for solitude.

Is it the deep internal conceptual processing of the Ni that links to their need to take time away from other distractions?

Or do all Introverted types crave solitude as much as INFJs?

What other personality type preferences (besides E and I) might lead to an interest in quiet time alone?

What are your personality type preferences and when and how much do you seek solitude?

Perhaps a need for solitude links to our situational stresses and our developmental stages. I know, for myself (ENFP), when my kids were very small and constantly demanding my time and energy, I craved time alone. When I did get time away, however, I wanted to interact (with adults) or do something. As I get older I find myself more comfortable with quiet time alone, although I still tend to grab a book or put on my favorite music to add a stimulus to the situation.

Unfortunately those who crave solitude may struggle as those around them take action and process out-loud. We are all introverting and extraverting some of our functions some of the time. As we reflect and act we need to understand and manage these type differences so everyone can find a comfortable balance between interaction and solitude.

If you are interested in reading more about whole type interactions, see my Getting Along post and my Introduction to Type and Communication booklet.

If you live in the USA, Introduction to Type and Communication is now available on Kindle.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 at 8:33 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

27 Responses to “Which types seek solitude?”

  1. Melissa says:

    As an INTP (so Ti), I find it really important to take time away to write, read, reflect, and just think. It’s an important precursor to appearing competent when I interact with others (Ne). Without that time to internalize the knowledge thoroughly, I end up with logical gaps when being enthusiastic about a new idea, something that frustrates the S’s in my life (my hubby and my director). I don’t do my best creative thinking alone, something I really enjoy doing, but would be crippled without time alone to process.

  2. Robert says:

    I am an INTJ and I frequently seek solitude. It helps me think. My internal dialogue is at least as intense as the external dialogue that extroverts seek. Not that I don’t “think out loud” sometimes.

  3. Paul says:

    Having INFP preferences, I find time alone gives me the chance to get to know myself again, to check in with how I’m doing in many areas. It’s surprising sometimes what an extended quiet time reveals.

  4. Paul Reinerfelt says:

    I am an INTP and I need solitude, preferably several hours a day. It is necessary to integrate new knowledge and make it my own, by replaying and/or rehearsing it internally.

    If I am denied solitude for more than a couple of days, I start to feel like my nerves are on the outside of my skin.

    Since the pattern-matching Ne is my input-channel from the world, I tend to picture it like this large funnel, constantly picking up patterns, analogies and associations like a vacuum maschine and generating hunches based on partial memory-matches. Meanwhile, Ti is the gatekeeper to the mind/worldview, scrambling furiously to evaluate, sort, categorise and fill in missing details in that stream. And before it is let in, it must connect to something already in. If “he” cannot keep up, things back up in the funnel, it gets clogged , I can’t grasp anything more, and I need to retreat to process stuff where there is nothing new entering the funnel. Did that make sense?

  5. Dalice says:

    Solitude is definitely essential to good health and well being – I’m an INFP. Can’t live without it. Just wish all those organisations that insist on open plan offices would recognise that people are different 🙂

  6. Sherry says:

    I am an ESFP/J and enjoy a decent amount of time alone and quiet, I love reading and listening to music by myself. As a home educating mother of 6 children ages 4-18, I find solitude a difficult commodity and I treasure it when I am able to enter into it.

  7. Christy says:

    Above, Paul said, “If I am denied solitude for more than a couple of days, I start to feel like my nerves are on the outside of my skin.”
    That’s a perfectly brilliant description. I may have to use it in the future. I hover between INFJ and INTP, and if I’m with a large number of people all day or if I am doing a lot of talking with acquaintances or strangers, as often happens because I frequently train people in web development and have many meetings with my programming team, I start to feel as if something is crawling under my skin. I’ll be fine for quite a while, and then all of a sudden the need to get away will jump out at me. Because I tend to have between ten and fifteen meetings a week (most of which I enjoy), I really need to have two days of absolutely no meetings and preferably no other people. Those days make me ready for the rest of the week. Some weeks it’s a bit of a struggle, because it can very easily be perceived as laziness or not picking up the slack to say, “No, I’m not having any meetings today.” I am learning not to apologize for it.

  8. Kara says:

    Hi Donna! With preferences for ENTP, it actually shocks people that know type concepts that I crave solitude, especially after big events such as a conference or long vacation. It’s almost as if I max myself out and am in energy overload! Now, I do admit that a week long retreat alone would not be ideal for me, however I enjoy alone time for a day:).

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Molly Potter says:

    I have strong ENFP preferences which mean that I really ‘go for it’ in social situations (and I certainly did when I was younger). But I also find that my ENFP-osity means that I can often find myself over-stimulated and overwhelmed with all that I have taken on or decided to focus on and when I get like that…I automatically withdraw for a bit and really enjoy quiet time. I did read somewhere that ENFPs were the only extravert that needs to regularly introvert…perhaps it is this tendency towards ridiculous expansive thinking and the thirst for the ‘there’s always more’ that makes introversion a survival necessity for an healthy ENFP!

  10. Pam says:

    ENFJ here (with some facets of I). The more stressed I am, the more I seek time alone. Even on a good day, I sometimes find that my family, co-workers or clients can really drain me. When I get emotionally or mentally drained on an otherwise good day, I may want to be alone to read, exercise, do yard work (or even clean a bathroom!) for a short while to recharge my batteries. (Choosing some sort of housework typically guarantees that the rest of my family will scatter.) I wonder if the fact that I’m a feeler contributes to this tendency to get drained especially in situations of conflict. I manage a college career and employment centre and am mom to three teenagers.

  11. Sheri says:

    I’m an InfJ, and though I do crave solitude, I seem to do okay without it. However, my husband and oldest son are both INTJs and that creates a fairly peaceful environment… maybe I get more solitude than I realize. 🙂 When I spend a lot of time with extroverts, I feel much more drained… as if I haven’t had enough time for my own thoughts because theirs take up all the space in my brain. I’ve read though, that INFJs are the most talkative of all the introverts (and can mistype as an E – which happened to me the first time I tested). As a homeschooling mom, one of my favorite gifts is a day off, with everyone gone, quiet house, and freedom to choose my activities (crafting, gardening, or cleaning – it doesn’t really matter).

  12. Susan (INTJ) says:

    I have enough conversations going on inside my own head that dealing with external noise as well can quickly become too much. 🙂 I too liked Paul’s description of feeling like your nerves are on the outside of your body! The constant clamor of internal noise — ideas, analysis, arguments, counter-arguments, to-do’s, questions… it’s easier to work with in silence most of the time. I mostly like to be with others when I want to either shut off my internal work and give in to rest or play or when I need a sounding board and input from others to work through something.

  13. Sophie says:

    As an INFP, yes, I definitely need plenty of solitude – there’s so much to attend to in my inner world, (creative ideas, creating things, musings about life, meditating, just being) I need time to process and engage with it away from sensory stimulation and other people’s energies. I almost find I start to find it hard to breathe too, as if I’m taking in more than I can process with the space available. I just love space and silence to balance activity and engagement. Its all in the balance – a middle way between the two, I guess that balance differs for different types!

  14. Lee says:

    Another INTP here, so perhaps sensing a trend? 🙂 I can happily spend several days alone here on the farm, with only the animals for company, for instance if my spouse is away on work travel. I concur about the open work spaces, a “worst nightmare” work set up for many of us. I’m lucky enough to have an office and a door (which I make use of, although it’s a glass door so it kind of defeats the purpose) but we have a culture of interruptions at my workplace. I work in PR on constant deadlines and like others have mentioned, often need time to process what’s gone on that day in order to effectively deal with it, write about it, answer questions from media, etc. So having people drop in willy-nilly without making appointments makes me frustrated and ultimately, crabby. It goes with the territory, though, but makes recharging in solitude or at least semi-solitude, quite precious at night and on weekends.

  15. Spades says:

    I don’t think it’s only and E/I thing. I think I’m an extrovert that mistypes as an introvert because I really value and need a lot of time to myself to introspect. I get energized by activities like meditation and yoga, but also by interaction with the outside world. I’m quite possibly the most un-stereotypical ENTJ you will meet (my functions are very balanced).

  16. Sherry Rhodes says:

    I’m an INFJ, although my T & F are nearly equal after earning two master’s degrees (all that analytical thinking!). I definitely need solitude every day, at least a couple of hours, especially w/a 14-year-old daughter. (Unfortunately I give up sleep to get that solitude.) Probably the best example of my balance between solitude & company was shown years ago, when I worked as a maitre d’. I’d be “on” for anywhere from five-twelve hours a night five nights a week…most of the rest of the week I spent alone to recharge. I used to term getting ready for work as “putting on the face I keep in a jar by the door.”

  17. Santosh says:

    With a preference of INFP and Idealist(Kirsey type) … I crave always for solitude , in fact I feel/think that focused solitude is as essential as daily food and we shall practice it to nurture our souls….

  18. L Tuttle says:

    I’m an INFJ, but often get mistaken for an E because I very relationally oriented and do have a need to verbally process at times. My need for solitude varies based on how much stress I am under and the level of social interaction I’m getting on a regular basis. If solitude extends for too long I can feel depressed and claustrophobic, but too much social interaction without down time largely contributes to my stress level. My 4.5 year old daughter is an E (I’m thinking she’s an ENTJ!) and her endless energy, chatter, and experimentation around the house typically leaves me utterly exhausted. Almost as soon as she started walking and talking I realized that my INFJ self is not capable of providing all the stimulation she needs (yay for preschool!). Yet, a stronger need for me than absolute solitude is to have someone I trust either sitting with me in silence or helping me verbally process (ideally my INTJ husband or INTJ & INFJ best friends). Connection on a deep level is something I can’t really live without.

  19. Joanna Stensland says:

    I think I’m the only ISTP so far who has commented. I do crave solitude, but in bursts. Long stretches without interruption, like a week of silent retreat, would be hard for me which leads me to think that the question you raise about the Ni preference being an influence in the amount of solitude is an appropriate one. My husband on the other hand is an INTJ and he can spend very long periods alone, weeks even. He has so many ideas, concepts, dreams inside, all of which are interconnected, that it takes him a long time of solitude to access it all and get in touch with what is going on inside.

  20. Julie says:

    I am an ISFJ and definitley need plenty of solitude, If I have to be around people for an extended amount of time (at conferences, in meetings etc) I start feeling very stressed and like Paul also start to feel that my nerves are outside of my skin. I also work in an open plan office, and I find it stressful, especially when I need to concentrate and have constant interruptions. I need time alone every day to recharge and process my thoughts. I can happily spend a few days by myself not speaking to anyone. It is not that I don’t like being around people, I do enjoy the company of others, just not all the time.

  21. azules1977 says:

    As an ENTP, I need a great amount of interaction with others. However, I need regular solitude in order to decompress, reflect, and engage in my hobbies of reading, sometimes writing, and walking for 1-2 hours each day. In particular, I consider my HOME my sanctuary — the place where I get to sleep, eat, decompress, and gather my thoughts, not entertain. Ironically, I love for my kids’ friends (ages 7-9) to come over, probably because kids entertain each other (and are themselves entertaining), are easy to feed, and aren’t judgmental. 🙂 While the kids are playing, I sit in the other room reading, etc. I can hear what’s going on, and if they need something, they ask. If they’re playing outside, I either join them outside or leave the window open so I can hear what they’re up to, checking in from time to time.

  22. Gerrit says:

    Networking event? Gala dinner? Just leave me here and I’ll read my book! (INFJ)

  23. Bryan Lim says:

    I’m INTJ. I seek solitude because my self-conversations occur in real-time movies with zoom and freeze functions. No one else can converse, discuss or even hold a discourse to the level satisfactory. So, I don’t bother.

  24. Grace says:

    I am an ISFJ. I think I need a balance between solitude and spending time with others. If I have a long day of interaction, it’s most likely I would spend my night alone in my room, reading a book or using the computer. :p But if I am alone for too long, I would start to crave for human interaction again.

  25. Karen says:

    As a fellow INTJ, I too crave silence. I work in a stressful, open office setting 9+ hours a day with company phones/cell phones ringing, speakerphone use, loud talking, etc., that renders concentration on my very detailed work quite difficult. Do companies have any idea, or care, how office productivity is negatively impacted by all the noise?

  26. Andrew says:

    As an ENTJ a very typical extrovert (of a technical disposition) now that I am in my forties and hold a senior leadership position with 3 managers and 20 staff I find that I crave solitude to re-energise and not crowrds. Interestingly I am very shy/awkward at social events such as drinks at work or a party where I know no-one yet if giving a presentation, sermon in local church, having a meeting or leading I am extremely comfortable. Probably as I control the crowd! Curious as I never thought I would crave the solitude so much

  27. POG says:

    I supposedly have an INTJ personality in the extreme, like to build things virtual and real, an architect type, with no real (intellectually close) family and am overall misanthropic with good cause. I like my solitude, don’t bother anybody – but will gladly build a prison (on a distant planet) for all the religious, political and social busybodies who want to infringe on, violate or change my life and habits. I have no idea if the INTJ label fits me properly, probably not.

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