The Winter Olympics are upon us, and this has me thinking about all
the events we are seeing and how the winners are being determined. That
means making “judgments.” However, I am not talking here simply about
Judging in the type sense of the word, but about judging in terms of its
uses in “contests.” Of course that usage does include making decisions
(or judgments) so in a roundabout way we are still on the topic of
I was privileged to attend the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008 and watch nearly all of the track and field finals as well as synchronized swimming. Track and field people, by the way, are purists in terms of what they believe are true Olympic events. They believe events should only be included where there is no human factor in the judging. That means whoever is fastest, or jumps the highest or longest, or throws the farthest is the winner.
In these sports there is no room for judges to make scoring verdicts. Without this type of judging there would be no gymnastics, no diving, no synchronized swimming, etc. And in the Winter Olympics, that would mean no figure skating, a favorite of mine.
Track and field (a.k.a. athletics) has been plagued by athletes taking drugs to enhance their performances, so I find it interesting that they are calling themselves “purists.” When some of us left an athletics banquet to attend the synchronized swimming finals, the joke there was that anyone attending the latter event should be “drug tested.” Truly, watching the synchronized swimming finals was almost intoxicating!
Now, who decides which drug is “performance enhancing” and which is not? The decision is likely based on a Thinking judgment, since there are logical standards used. But what about the Feeling component of how people accused of using drugs are treated and how we create harmony (or not) in our relationships when the test comes back “positive?”
Of course, many winter event athletes might also be tempted to take drugs to enhance their performances. I wonder if some of those ski jumpers and snowboarders might want something additional to calm their nerves and enhance their bravado before taking off, let alone something to make them go higher (perhaps a pun is intended here)! Is that a Thinking decision or a Feeling one? I can see that decision being made either way!!
In the U.S., the commercial networks usually limit our Olympic coverage. But in some European countries, there is a pledge to cover every event’s gold medal performance, no matter how esoteric the sport and no matter which country’s athlete wins.
It seems that the decision here on TV coverage is made both from a Thinking perspective (which sports will bring the most viewership and thus more commercials watched) as well as from a Feeling perspective (which sports have a “human interest” component and will make people feel good in watching them). However, that still leaves some events out.
When I watch the Olympics, I admit I’ll be making lots of judgments, such as those about the beauty and the grace of the figure skating routines as well as how crazy those snowboarders’ jumps look to me. I think too about the sacrifices each athlete and his/her family made to get there, and also the joy of that process. Here are people doing what they love - what could be more wonderful!!
I truly don’t care who wins. I just hope a good time is had by all and that somehow the international spirit of the Olympics helps create lasting bonds of friendship, or at least of understanding. After all, the latter is what type is about, too.
We had a friend over during the holidays, and she was telling us
about her problems with her 11 year-old stepdaughter. “We have rules,”
she was telling us proudly, “and if she breaks them, there are
consequences.” Then we listened to stories of the stepdaughter breaking
the rules: not cleaning her room, using her smart phone too much, and
hitting her stepmother in anger when she tried to impose the
“consequences,” which included taking away her new cell phone, not
taking her on a cruise with them, and not having her join them at
I was cringing at these stories, but they were being told with incredible self-righteousness, as if giving a kid orders and harsh punishments when they don’t obey them is universally understood to be the only sane way to raise a child.
I don’t like to hear about parents telling kids what to do, simply because I have never wanted to be told what to do. My father tried telling me, “As long as you’re living in my house, you’ll do things my way,” and as a result, we fought for most of my teenage years. Finally, one night he sat on my bed and cried, and said he was sorry, but he just didn’t know how to be a good father to me. That was the first time he asked for my help instead of telling me what to do, and he never had a problem with me again.
Even in a work setting you couldn’t tell me what to do. An employer once asked me to do something a certain way, and I said that wouldn’t work. He said, “Maybe you should just do it because I said so.” I laughed. I thought he was kidding.
I try not to tell people what to do, because I don’t like to be told what to do. So I wonder, is our friend behaving in an authoritative way with her child because that’s the way she, herself, wants to be treated? Are there some people who actually like to be told, “Do this because I said so,” and are they a certain type?
I don’t think it’s intuitives, because I’m an intuitive and I will strongly resist any threat to my autonomy. It’s not SPs either, because for them, rules are just something to cleverly dodge. Can it be SJs? Our friend is an ESFJ who was raised in a very relaxed household. Is she reaching for rules because that’s what she intrinsically needed as a child, and didn’t get?
Then I remembered that I raised two SJ’s, and I can’t recall having a single rule in our house. Except for a few time-outs when my son was little, I also don’t think we meted out a single punishment or reward. We had good habits and predictable routines, but we never formally said, “You must do this or you will be punished.” We wanted to be connected to each other, and we quickly learned to avoid the behaviors that broke that connection. When we had more serious issues, we talked about it one-on-one. After those talks, I noticed that without even being aware of it, we both changed our behavior a bit to accommodate each other. What else do you need, especially in a family?
When I hear people talk so reverently about rules and consequences, I wonder, did I do my kids a disservice by not having rules for them? Is a parenting style that is authoritative, with formal rules and tangible rewards and punishments, the best way to raise an SJ child?
So I decided to ask my kids, who are in their mid-20’s, “Would you have liked more rules when you were growing up?”
“God no,” said my ISFJ daughter. “I hate that stuff. I don’t even like it that I have to be at work at a certain time. I like to be in control of my own life and rules just make me feel like I don’t have control. Here’s an example: I just took an online course and I loved it because I could work on it when I wanted to. I finished it three weeks early and was sorry it was over so soon.”
“I’m not going to break rules if they’re there, but I wouldn’t say I like them,” said my ESFJ son. “Right now, I’m coaching a team of 8-year old boys in basketball and they are very active and talkative. I know some of the parents want me to be stricter and lay out rules and discipline them, but that’s not really my style. I’d rather find exercises that keep them engaged than give them a penalty for not paying attention.”
So if there is no type that needs to be raised with absolute authority, why do people still brag about keeping their kids in line with a strong, unyielding will?
It might be that they just can’t think of another way. It’s a scary business when children do something that makes you feel like you don’t have control, like disobey you or put themselves in danger. We all race around looking for relief from that feeling. Unfortunately, the first thing that comes to mind is to take back our control with a show of strength to scare kids into submission.
I think what all parents need are some options, some way to feel in control without taking all control away from their child. A book that always helped me feel in control again was the type-and-parenting book, Nurture by Nature. The authors, Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger, describe the strengths and challenges of each type of child in such an appreciative and forgiving way that after you read your child’s profile, you feel ready to approach them with love and calm. For example, when my ISFJ daughter was 11, I was about to storm into her room and put my foot down about her pickiness and how annoying it was. Instead, I got out the book and read about how difficult it is for an ISFJ to compromise on tastes, smells and textures. Later, I was able to tell her my concerns in a nice way, and listen with understanding as she told her side of it. How do you thank someone for that?
I think I might send a copy of Nurture by Nature to my friend, with a note saying, “This helped me a lot when my kids were teens. Let me know what you think of it.”
Editor's note: There is a personality type assessment for kids. The MMTIC® type indicator for children measures type in students from grades 2 through 12. Learn more.
One of the best things about knowing type is accepting that people do
things differently from you – they are not trying to be contrary,
undermining or annoying in the process. But that is not the same thing
as truly experiencing those differences.
As an ESTJ and an Experiential on the MBTI Step® II™ tool, part of the way I understand things and their meaning is to try things out. So here goes my attempt at trying out different preferences within my opposite type:
To experience Introversion, I notice what it feels like to lose myself in a book or to lose myself in a writing project. There is a focus and a calmness that comes over me. I concentrate deeply on what is inside my head. I lose track of time.
Yesterday when I was writing, I was startled to see the time and chagrinned to realize that I should have left for appointments much earlier than I did!
To experience Intuition, I feel myself stepping back from a situation and noticing the patterns of behaviors and asking myself, “What does this mean?”
I even use metaphors in my communications (or at least appreciate them). Reading a Louise Penny mystery recently, I chuckled at the metaphoric description of a chubby child in her winter pageant costume of a snowflake; the writer said she looked more like a snowdrift.
To experience Feeling, I recall the sad time putting a beloved family pet “to sleep.” Logically, it should have been an easy call – the pet wasn’t eating, needed to be carried outside, etc. But it’s not easy when you love a pet. Trying to find harmony within the decision and how it affects everyone is wrenching.
I also experience (introverted) Feeling when I’m describing a particularly moving event to someone else. I feel goose bumps of recognition that “yes, this is important!”
To experience Perceiving, all I have to do is go on a driving trip with a Perceiving type, stopping wherever the spirit moves us, making decisions about where to stay at a time when driving is no longer fun. I’ve discovered more interesting places and things that way.
For example, I bet you didn’t know when the first sundae was served (on a Sunday in 1881!), and where: Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Yup, Perceiving led me there and let me experience eating one there as well!!
To experience my opposite, INFP, well that is a stretch. A good friend, the late John DiTiberio who was an INFP, once told me he would coach me in how to do so. He said I’d need a prop – a newspaper. I was to sit in a corner of the room absorbed in it, not peaking over the top.
At his Memorial Service, there was a picture of him with his three-year-old INFP identical twin daughters. You guessed it – all three were “reading” newspapers.
How do you experience your opposites? If the preferences I portrayed are yours, did I get close in my descriptions to at least some of what you experience?
Christmas is over and it’s my favorite time of the season, when the
house is empty and I get to sit back and look at my tree, remember all
the good food and gifts, and think about all of the people we celebrated
with. I’m an Introvert, so I have the most fun when I’m reflecting on social occasions.
The very first thing I remember about the people this Christmas was the smiles. People’s smiles are the most beautiful thing about them. They are what sunshine is to nature, what lights are to the Christmas tree. And when I think of the standout smiles that greeted me this season, I realize they were mostly on the faces of the extraverts. What would Christmas be without the happy smiles of the confident extraverts, at the front door, across the table, across the room? That’s the gift they give to me that I treasure the most.
Then I remember the quiet people, who glow rather than gleam, who aren’t vying for attention or center stage, but are happy to sit back and enjoy the people-show. They bring a bit of peace to these get-togethers. They’re like the fires in the background that make the room feel cozy and warm. Most of the quiet watchers in my world are Introverts, and that’s the gift they give me that I treasure the most.
The Sensing types…where do I begin? Christmas is an amazing opportunity for them to express their talents in making things pleasing to the senses. This year, my Sensing daughter gave me six outfits that fit me perfectly and make me look better than I ever have. A Sensing friend cooked a meal that tasted like the best thing in life, another decorated their home in a way that captured the very essence of the Christmas spirit, and another did gift wrapping that was so beautiful it was a gift in itself. For all of the tastes, sights, smells, sounds and textures of Christmas, I thank the Ss for their amazing gifts.
The Intuitives, well, they gave some “out of the box” gifts that were really a hit. One N gave a gift that was so funny we were all laughing to tears. (I can’t describe it because it’s tasteless.) Another gave us several packets of seeds taken from the favorite flowers in his garden, with pictures on the packets of his kids holding the flowers. How did he think of that? For most of my Christmas experiences of the unique and the unusual, I thank the Ns.
The gifts of the Ts at Christmas are a little harder to recall, but then I start to remember that while all of the hugging, wild exclaiming and present opening was going on, there were some pretty wry and witty comments being uttered in the background. You know what I mean. Some of the Ts in my life provided a little saltiness to balance out the excesses of sugar at Christmas, and for the chuckles they gave me, I thank them.
Christmas is about expressing our love for the people in our lives, and no one does that better than the Fs. I especially love how most Fs receive gifts. They don’t have to remind themselves that it’s the thought that counts; they are genuinely grateful for the time, money, thought and work that someone put into trying to please them, even if it’s a gift they won’t get much use out of. They know how to make you feel as if you are the best gift-giver in the world, and for that, and all of the other honest expressions of warmth and kindness, I thank the Fs.
Christmas is an organizational challenge for everyone, even Js, but it’s wonderful to see some of the events that they put together. Whether entertaining at home, bringing gifts and food to someone else’s party, or arranging a get-together in a restaurant, there are a lot of to-do lists involved, and it’s the Js who amaze me with their ability to bring together a large amount of people, places, food and gifts to make a memorable get-together. For most of the well-orchestrated events that I attended this season, I thank the Js.
Then, for all of the people who so good-naturedly went along with all of the planning that the Js did, I thank the Ps. Also, I thank them for showing up unexpected, or calling and inviting us to meet them at an impromptu get together. They threw me off my guard, but I had so much fun with them that I doubt that planning could have made it better. For those delightful surprises, I thank the Ps.
To all of the types that made my Christmas great, thank you for your Christmas gifts differing.
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.