We know two ESFPs, Rockley and Suzi, who are married to each other. This summer, my family has watched them go through a crisis, and we’ve had a chance to learn a lot about their type.
They found out that Rockley had cancer of the throat, which is dreadful news. They felt all of the grief and fear that any family would feel after such news.
What amazed my family were the faces they showed to the world throughout the ordeal. Instead of behaving downcast and sad, they never stopped smiling, laughing, chatting happily and having fun with each other and their friends.
After I first heard the news, I phoned Suzi. She was cheerful as she told me about the kind doctor who had diagnosed Rockley’s cancer, and their adventures in finding the best doctors for his treatments.
A few weeks later, their three kids came home for a visit and to discuss the future. The whole family and some of their friends came to our house loaded with pizza boxes, bottles of beer and home made cookies. We sat in the back yard and talked happily about their plans to re-paint Rockley’s bedroom, find a deal on a Vitamix so they can make him liquid meals during his chemo, and the availability of a milkshake from Smoothie King made especially for cancer patients called “The Hulk.”
In the weeks that followed, people were coming to see them, and they were entertaining everyone. On the evening before he checked into the hospital for surgery, Rockley was partying until dawn with his family in their hotel room.
A week after his surgery, they were all over at our house again for another fun get-together. Rockley, sitting there with a healing scar on his throat, excitedly told us about new computer programs he had found to help him work from home while he convalesces, and new people he had hired at the dance studio he owns. He had even found a way to make more money from all of these changes.
He was taking part in several drug trials so he was on the phone making arrangements with the nurses and doctors in charge of those trials. His kids had spent the week cleaning out their parents’ bedroom and repainting it, and they were showing iPhone pictures of all of the bags of clothes they took to Goodwill.
In the weeks that followed, when he was undergoing chemo and radiation treatments, every time I called to get an update, Suzi had me laughing with some funny story about Rockley. A month into his treatments, he had so much energy from the steroids they were giving him that he was cleaning out their house and finding things they thought were lost for ten years. When he wasn’t doing that, he was watching re-runs of “The Big Bang Theory” and laughing his head off.
Even when he had to be admitted to the hospital with a blood infection, after Suzi told me the grim details, she told me what a lovely private room they had given him, and how it was like a luxury hotel.
When the chemo and radiation were finished, the doctor said he should take it easy. Suzi asked the doctor, “Does that include moving furniture, scraping fences and power washing the deck?” In order to get him to sit still, his son brought over a 4,000-piece puzzle of Times Square. “It’s all over my dining room table,” said Suzi, “We have no place to eat because the kitchen table is covered in his papers. I have got to get this man out of the house. You can’t string him up. That’s against the law.”
“Who were you talking to?’ my husband asked, wondering why I was in stitches on the phone. “It was Suzi,” I said. “We were talking about Rockley’s cancer.”
For this ESFP couple, cancer has been many things, but most of all, it’s been another reason to be with friends, meet new people, and learn new things and laugh. I don’t know what it’s like for them in the dark, when they’re alone. All I know is that I’m amazed by the genuinely sunny faces they show to the world, and I’m grateful for what they have taught me. Even when we’re facing the worst, life still has endless possibilities for positive experiences, and it seems that ESFPs will always remind us of that.
Every morning I open my e-mail. I suppose that experience always qualifies as a surprise since I never know for sure what will be in the inbox. One morning I found a request from the son of a friend of mine. He was organizing a surprise birthday party for his Mother but wasn’t sure how to get ahold of her friends to invite them.
Would I please forward the invitation? So I did, carefully eliminating his Mother’s email from the address lines…or so I thought…but of course, I missed one. She got the email!
I felt awful. No way to recover from this one. Except of course, that there is. It turns out that she hates surprise parties.
Her family used my mistake to have a conversation about the type of party she would really like to have and who to invite. I would have missed some of her friends since our circles do not overlap.
The party was lots of fun. Her husband jokingly shut the door in my face when I walked up the sidewalk, but then gave me a hug. Stories were told about my mistake.
A few days later I was listening to a public radio show on travelling and memorable trips. The travel expert was making the point that the most memorable trips are those in which something goes wrong – there’s a surprise.
Yes, I do recall quite vividly being the victim of a theft on a train to Amsterdam, losing my purse with my passport, my money, my ticket, and my wallet photos, etc.
But it was the kindness of the police and the helpfulness of the KLM employees that helped me get through it and get on a plane a day later with an upgrade. And when the purse made it back a year later via the U.S. Embassy with the things I most cared about inside, well, that was a wonderful surprise.
One of the things I like best about traveling is that there are always surprises – a spectacular view, a special museum, an incredible sunset, a new experience (tandem bicycling), some interesting people, getting lost (and reoriented), and more.
On a recent trip, we came across a real surprise of a museum – the Grohmann in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Who knew that sculptures and pictures of people working could be so fascinating! And the commentary explaining some of the work was incredible.
For example, in describing the work of a cooper (those barrel makers of yesteryear), there was a whole paragraph just about the sizes of the barrels and the particular name for each size. I felt I was in another world.
And the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan…ever heard of an art museum where the washrooms are among the highlights and where you’re encouraged to visit both the men’s and the women’s?
There are different kinds of surprises - some you welcome, and some you don’t. And there are different kinds of people.
So, do Extraverts like surprises more than Introverts because surprises engage them quickly with the outside world?
Do Intuitive types like surprises more than Sensing types because a surprise offers a new possibility?
Do Perceiving types like surprises more than Judging types because surprises lend themselves to flexible approaches?
What do you think? Does your type like surprises? Do you?
A few years ago, my friend told me that there was a book festival coming to our area. I wasn't very interested until she sent me a list of the authors that would be speaking, and I saw the name, Jane Smiley. You might as well have told me that Shakespeare was coming to town. Jane Smiley has been my favorite author for almost 20 years. She is remarkable because she can put herself into the minds of all her characters, even animals, and see life from their perspective. She captures perfectly the personalities you are likely to encounter every day, yet her observations on life are the kinds of things you would go on pilgrimages to learn.
After Jane Smiley spoke at the book festival, she signed books. When it came my turn, I asked her if she knew anything about the MBTI assessment, because it seemed like she had such insight into personality. She said she didn’t base her characters on personality types, but she had taken the MBTI instrument years ago, and came out an INTP.
I was stunned. I never would have guessed that she was an INTP. I just assumed that anyone with that much insight into people had to be an F. I remembered INTPs in interviews for The Type Reporter, telling me things like, "I have never understood people, and it doesn't get any better with age." I remembered the blunt comments of the INTPs in my social circle, uttered so guilelessly that I didn’t really take offence. Even Jane Smiley, when she was answering questions, said some things that could ruffle feathers a bit.
On the other hand, I also remembered that Carl Jung, the creator of the type theory, identified himself as an Introverted Thinking type, and since he was so abstract and symbolic, I’m assuming he was intuitive and thus an INTP. Also, David Keirsey, the creator of temperament theory, identified himself as an INTP. I have never had someone or something "get me" like the type and temperament theories do, and both of them were the creations of INTPs.
How is it that INTPs, who seem to be the least interested in how people work, can sometimes understand so much about how people work? How is it that they can sometimes so successfully describe other people’s thoughts, even people who are completely different from them? It's a mystery that has been at the back of my mind for decades.
It could be that empathy, which is the strength of the feeling type, helps in understanding the feelings that unite us. But INTPs, who will admit that empathy is not their strong suit, might be freer to notice the thoughts that divide us.
Or it could be that INTPs don’t often turn their very focused attention to the human mind, but when they do, they are able to do the same thing they do when they become interested in anything... detect the patterns, the underlying structure, the architecture of the system. I don’t think Jung and Keirsey got the bulk of their insights from observing people’s personalities, as much as they were able to find the patterns in theories of personality.
Another thing about INTPs that might help them understand people is that they are not hampered by our shared thinking or accepted conventions. All intuitives ask "why," but INTPs ask why the most; they are the ultimate questioners. In fact, if I ever ask an INTP a question, and they don't immediately question my question, I'm going to die from shock.
I read a profile in The New Yorker magazine of an artist named Tino Sehgal. At the age of 11, Sehgal wrote a letter to his parents saying, "I don't want to be part of this Christmas thing."
"I rejected my presents,” he remembered. “This whole kind of Christian colonizing of what was a collective, pagan ritual...I was enraged, somehow, by that."
When I read that I thought, “This guy has got to be an INTP.” Even the title of the article was, "The Question Artist." Someone that independent in their thinking, that free of the collective, might be the only one who can stand back far enough to notice the principle roles that everyone plays in the collective.
That's my current thinking about the mystery of the INTP, but I expect that INTPs will question it. Even the author of The New Yorker article wrote, "I should acknowledge that there's a good chance that Sehgal would quarrel with everything I've just said."
Nevertheless, I want to thank INTPs for what they have contributed to humanity, not so much in social situations, but to our god-like understanding of so many things, including ourselves.
I’m an introvert, but you would never guess that if you saw me at a party. I’m talking to everyone, telling stories, asking questions, and making jokes. That would be great, except that every time I leave a party, I’m filled with self-doubt about all of the talking I did. I wonder things like, “Should I have made that joke around Theresa when she’s so religious?” “Was Dana quiet because I was dominating the conversation?” and “Should I tell funny stories at my husband’s expense?”
Every time I come back from a party I make resolutions to hold my tongue next time and behave with calm dignity like a true Introvert. The minute I get into a group, however, I break my resolutions. When I’m with people, I have to talk, and that’s all there is to it.
There is no doubt in my mind that I’m an introvert, but I wonder why I have this very extraverted behavior, and why it is a problem for me. I do other “untypical” things all the time, to survive or to be a better person, but this is the one untypical thing I do to be myself. It’s also the one untypical behavior that I regret afterwards.
I was really looking for some answers when I remembered that there is an instrument called the MBTI® Step II™ assessment, which breaks down each MBTI preference into five different subscales. This means that you can have a definite preference, like introversion, but still have some “untypical” or extraverted behaviors. It offers a more customized portrait of your type. I pulled out a book from my shelf called the MBTI® Step II™ User’s Guide, and started reading the subscales of extraversion and introversion.
On four of the subscales, I found myself more in the introverted descriptors. But on one, I found a perfect description of myself on the extraverted side, as an “Expressive.” It said that Expressive people need to express their thoughts and feelings out loud, so they are easy to get to know, and are admired by others for their ability to keep a conversation flowing. On the other hand, they can be indiscriminate at times about what they share.
So there it is. I’m an Expressive Introvert. I could probably be more careful about what I share, but I don’t need to clam up. If I’m easy to get to know and good at keeping a conversation flowing, that’s a good thing.
If my party behavior isn’t the problem, then the problem is in criticizing myself afterwards. To deal with that, I decided that instead of thinking about what I did wrong, I would spend the hours after a party reminding myself of everything I did right. I would recall every appreciative thing I said to people, every time I made them laugh, every time I got a good conversation going, and every time I encouraged someone to share their story. Amazingly, when I started to count the things I did right, I concluded that it’s a good thing I’m not quieter.
If you’re having problems figuring out why you (or someone else) seems so untypical sometimes, for example, an “Imaginative S,” “Tender T,” or “Methodical P,” you might find some real understanding in either taking the Step II assessment from a qualified professional or in just reading the guide. For me, it got me off a path that goes round in circles, and onto a path that leads to a much brighter place.
One of the differences we often talk about between Thinking types and Feeling types is their approach to a “problem.” Usually Thinking types want to fix or solve the problem and Feeling types prefer first that someone just listen and offer empathy. They are both showing how they “care” but do so in very different ways.
This came home to me years ago when my daughter, a Feeling type, asked me to download pictures of a trip with her boyfriend onto a laptop and then erase them from her camera. I am technologically challenged but did the best I could; at least I knew enough not to trash the pictures from her camera.
I then promptly left town to visit an elderly aunt. When I arrived, I got a desperate tear-filled voice message from my daughter, “Where are those pictures?”
As a Thinking type, I rushed into problem-solving mode (even with my limited technological expertise). Did she try this, that, and the other thing? (See, I am limited!) I had actually only downloaded one. But I had not trashed the pictures so I was somewhat saved (literally and figuratively).
Her boyfriend (a Feeling type), on the other hand, sent her flowers with the message, “I’m so sorry. We’ll make more memories together. Love, S.” Keep in mind that he lived 6 time zones away and did this in the middle of the night. The flowers arrived before I returned the phone call.
Guess which one she preferred!
So I now monitor myself, some of the time anyway – it’s hard to suspend using a natural preference! Is it the “empathy thing” or the “fix it thing” that works the best for that other person in that particular moment?
I also pay attention to how others are dealing with me – do I just want someone to listen or do I want help and give advice on moving forward to rectify the problem? And sometimes I find myself annoyed when the other person is using the “wrong” approach. Ahhh, that’s how it feels – I know how to fix the darned problem, but I just want some TLC (tender loving care)!!
I also know that not everything can be fixed or solved, but at least I can listen to the person and empathize.
So why the title of this blog? Check out this video about a woman who has a nail stuck in her forehead complaining about headaches, snagged sweaters, etc. Her partner is trying to get her to simply remove the nail. She just wants him to simply listen!
Ah yes, two different approaches…which one is appropriate and when? Thinking or Feeling?