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January 14, 2014
By Jennifer Grigg

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Jan. 14, 2014, Port Severn, Ont. – Those most often attracted to the firefighting profession are those with the classic Type A personality – outgoing, driven, motivated; in other words, extroverts. These people would rather be doing than talking about doing. They prefer the show-me-once-then-let-me-try-it approach to training, rather than the death by PowerPoint approach. Typical hands-on people, firefighters like to get in there and do the dirty work.

Jan. 14, 2014, Port Severn, Ont. – Those most often attracted to the firefighting profession are those with the classic Type A personality – outgoing, driven, motivated; in other words, extroverts. These people would rather be doing than talking about doing. They prefer the show-me-once-then-let-me-try-it approach to training, rather than the death by PowerPoint approach. Typical hands-on people, firefighters like to get in there and do the dirty work.

They aren’t ones to stand back and just take it all in, which is good because officers need something to do, too . . . ha ha ha . . . just kidding.

Both physical and mental strength, determination and focus are important qualities for firefighters, allowing them to do the job well and to navigate the often-changing dynamic of the various type of incidents to which they respond.

Having said all that, is there a place for those with introverted personalities in the fire service?

I’m happy to report that I am a classic introvert and I have been successful in finding my place among a great many extroverts in the fire service.

I wouldn’t really describe myself as outgoing. Ingoing would be a more apt description, if that were a personality trait. I tend to do a lot of reflecting on my actions and the things I say. I find that there is always something to be learned from every call I attend, and there is always an opportunity to improve my skills and abilities. Therefore, ingoing or reflective, is a good thing. Not typical, but still good. It works for me.

I’m driven in some areas of my life, or at certain times, but more often I’m OK with someone else doing the driving. I like to sit back and take it all in (and no, I don’t want to be an officer). I tend to work better when I can see the big picture. Being a firefighter usually means being given a task and getting it done without always seeing the wide view, so it’s a good thing that I can follow orders, too.

As for being motivated, I’m not one who jumps out of bed with a fierce determination to make the most out of every moment of every day, but I am motivated to help others and be of service to my community. I’ve been given a lot in my life and I believe in giving back. That’s my motivation. It’s more of a calm and quiet kind of thing rather than a Yeah, let’s do it! kind of thing.

I like talking about doing almost as much as the doing itself. I’m a bookworm who loves to read and research. I often pick up on things that I’ve read in the Essentials of Firefighting or on websites that I wouldn’t have necessarily learned if I was only shown a new task and asked to do it. Anyone who has done a trainer facilitator course or any adult education course understands that there are different ways that people learn, and good instructors varies their methods to make sure that they effectively facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills.

Physical strength is something that I have to work on – not that introverts aren’t strong, but I am about five-feet two-inches tall and not super muscular. I prefer a somewhat relaxed take on fitness; I like yoga or Pilates over kickboxing or P90X, but I do own a treadmill and a weight machine. Being strong is a vital component in fire fighting, both physically and mentally, which is why it’s important for all personality types to take good care of themselves. You have to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of others.

Last, but not least, there’s determination and focus. I am determined, not in a Jillian Micheals, the tough-talking personal trainer from TV’s The Biggest Loser, kind of way, but in a more subdued kind of way. I realized that there is such a thing as being too determined and missing the forest for the trees. It’s important to be determined, but it’s also important to keep your eyes open, in a situational awareness kind of way, right Dr. Gasaway?

As for focus . . . the focus of my blog is to demonstrate that the fire service is diverse and welcoming for extroverts and introverts alike.

Jennifer Mabee-Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. E-mail her at jhook0312@yahoo.ca and follow her on Twitter at @jenmabee


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