Is Obama an Introvert?

In his recent New York Times article, titled “Education of a President,” Peter Baker paints a picture of President Barack Obama as an introvert: “Insulation is a curse of every president, but more than any president since Jimmy Carter, Obama comes across as an introvert, someone who finds extended contact with groups of people outside his immediate circle to be draining.” Baker continues, “[Obama] can rouse a stadium of 80,000 people, but that audience is an impersonal monolith; smaller group settings can be harder for him. Aides have learned that it can be good if he has a few moments after a big East Room event so he can gather his energy again.”

Hmmm. That does sound like an introvert—or someone more often energized by his quiet activities than his social activities and who is not necessarily shy. Baker adds, “Unlike Clinton, who never met a rope line he did not want to work, Obama does not relish glad-handing. That’s what he has Vice President Joe Biden for. When Obama addressed the Business Roundtable this year, he left after his speech without much meet-and-greet, leaving his aides frustrated that he had done himself more harm than good.”

Baker also says that Obama, whom he interviewed extensively for his article, is not much for chitchat. He refers to the president’s handling of his political troubles with equanimity. “‘Zen’ is the word commonly used in the West Wing,” he says. Yet how can an introvert endure the nonstop schmoozing on overdrive required to become president? Not to mention the commotion of inputs once you snag the job.

I’ve heard speculation about Obama being among the quieter half of the population before. And even more speculation, among enthusiasts of personality type, that he’s an extrovert*. Check out “Barack Obama, Introspective ENTP?” a story in the Huffington Post in which the author Michael Melcher argues that Obama “likes variety, spends a lot of time in physical activities, and seems to get energized from the world as a whole.” Melcher adds, “I would ascribe his success as a writer to focus and discipline as opposed to an inherent love of sitting by himself with a laptop for thousands of hours.”

We may never learn Obama’s true personality type because it’s often hard to tell with public figures—spinmeisters, sound bites, and all. Of course, if you’re up nights debating whether Obama is an introvert or extrovert, you can muse about this on a page dedicated to this question on Facebook. What do you think? Obama: introvert or extrovert? Maybe only Bo knows for sure!

*Also spelled “extravert” by Carl Jung and the communities of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and other personality assessments such as the Five Factor Model.

Copyright © 2010 Nancy Ancowitz

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