Reading Type into Reading

I don’t usually spend a lot of time typing the people I meet either in person or in a book.  And the people I spend time with are grateful for that! 

But sometimes I just can’t help it.  That just happened when I read A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman and “met” Ove and his wife, Sonja.  The book is about the impact (planned or not) one life can have on many others.

Ove seems like an ISTJ to me with his focus on structure and details and doing what needs to be done with little fuss and fanfare. He likes following the rules and seeing his world in straightforward ways. (Okay, so he goes a bit over the top into curmudgeondom, but still, his basic personality is intact.)

Sonja is probably an ENFP, loving color and change and creativity and seeing potential in people.  She cares about enjoying life wherever she is and in whatever circumstances she finds herself in.

He is loyal to those he loves, although the concept of love is a tough one for him to acknowledge.  She accepts people for who they are and the concept of love is not a just a concept, but a reality. 

She speaks and he listens, and they love one another deeply.  We grow to love them both too.

Just to keep going with this opposites theme … if you know the RIASEC model, there’s another chance to see differences!  (RIASEC refers to Holland's six personality types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional.)

Ove is a “Realistic,” dedicated real, tangible things with his building, and fixing.  Sonja is the opposite, a “Social,” into helping people grow and develop through her teaching of “unteachable” kids. 

But he ends up building things all the time that help people!  Someone’s car breaks down, and he fixes it just to shut them up and stop asking for help.   And no matter what he does, he seems to inadvertently help others.  And in the process we see type development happening! 

While getting acquainted with their characters, I was also reminded of some research on couples by Drs. Julie and John Gottman.  They documented that on the average 69% of the issues couples have with one another will never be solved.  But they can be discussed in civil ways and perhaps even accepted.  Expecting the other person to change usually is unrealistic!!

That research was particularly helpful on a recent trip I took to Russia with my sweetie and another couple.  When we would find ourselves being annoyed with our partners, we would pipe up, “okay, that’s one of the 69%.” 

We would observe other couples bickering and think to ourselves, they probably were at 89%!  But beyond that we did not type them.

I don’t know if you read type into fictional characters, or real ones for that matter, but I can recommend this book, which is a good reminder that learning to accept differences helps in enjoying life! 


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The Perennial Pleasures of ISTJs

Every year, my ISTJ sister spends a week at her condo in Florida and for the last few years, I’ve been joining her. We do the same things she’s been doing every year: kayak on the Manatee River, swim in the condo’s pool, go out on a sunset sail, sit on the beach, walk along the sound, and eat crab legs at three different restaurants.

If you’re an ENFP, you may think that sounds like hell, repeating the same activities year after year. You would prefer to go to a place you’ve never been to, and explore all of its possibilities.

But wait a minute, let me make a case for the ISTJ way of vacationing, because I suspect that anyone, of any type, might enjoy it.  

First of all, because my sister has been doing these things for so many years, she knows how to do them right. For example, when we go kayaking, we go on Monday because that’s when we’re most likely to be alone on the river. The night before, she takes two bottles of “Simply Lemonade,” empties a little off the top, replaces it with vodka and puts the bottles in the freezer. The next morning, she packs a bag for each of us with a bottle of spiked lemonade, a bottle of frozen water, and a hefty serving of dry roasted peanuts. We each bring a small cushion to put behind us, which makes the seat very comfortable, and for three hours, we drift quietly down the river, paddling only to steer the kayak, admiring the trees and flowers, eating peanuts and getting a pleasant vodka buzz. It’s heaven, and I look forward to it all year.

Of course there are surprises; there are always surprises. One year the kayak rental owners had a peacock on the premises who was showing off his plumage, another year, an owl was perched in a tree right above us and hooted down at us. One year we saw an alligator sunning himself, and one year we actually saw a manatee. 

The point is, my sister has done this so many times she has worked out the kinks, and she knows how to make the experience simply perfect.

I once read a quote by a world famous chef. His advice to young cooks is to make a dish so many times that you have experienced almost everything that can go wrong with it, so you know how to avoid the possible errors. When it comes to vacations, my sister is like that famous chef. She has made all of the errors, and she knows how to avoid them.

ISTJs get a lot of flack for being resistant to change, but there are good reasons for their resistance. It’s because the routines and traditions that they have developed were hard won. They made all of the mistakes and learned all of the lessons, so now their finished product works every time. We need to remember that when we go in with our ideas for big changes. First, we need to ask why things are the way they are, and to acknowledge all of the painful lessons that have been learned.

I know that when I first arrive at the condo, the chicken salad and gazpacho that my sister has prepared will taste absolutely delicious and just the way I expect it. I know that while I’m with her I’ll never be hungry, thirsty, hot, cold, uncomfortable, bored or afraid, because my sister has experienced it all before me and now knows how to avoid it. I don’t have to repeat her mistakes, and that’s a great gift she gives to me.

This year, we did some new things, mostly because so many people had recommended them to my sister that their experience almost made up for her lack of experience. The new things were fun, but they weren’t perfect, like the old things. We came away with a little bit of dissatisfaction and things we would change if we came back next year.

For years, the people at my sister’s condo community complained about the temperature of their swimming pool. It always seemed too warm or too cold. But now the maintenance men seemed to have found the perfect temperature, where you don’t get any shock when you jump in, but it still feels refreshing after the hot sun. It took at least 20 years and a lot of aggravation to find that perfect temperature. I never jump in now without remembering what went into that lovely water. Thank god for the things that are perfect every time, and for the people (mostly ISTJs) who finally got them to that place.


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Writing My Way

It seems like there are two kinds of people in the world…well okay, there are at least 16 (or more!)…but when it comes to writing, people seem to fall into two camps. They love it and want to get published or they hate it and want to avoid writing (except for short texts to friends).

I have been in both camps.  For this ESTJ, I find the experience of writing to be both difficult and exhilarating. 

How did I get into writing?  By accident.  I remember disliking writing in school.  I could do the mechanics just fine, but it was coming up with something to write about that was the problem.  I needed a topic and a prototype to get me going.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do unless I had those. 

And forget creative writing – I can’t just make up stuff!  I once wrote a mystery in the 4th grade that probably had a really terrible Nancy Drew-like plot. 

Luckily I had several teachers who actually encouraged me, and an INFP Mother who loved writing.  I began to think that maybe I was being hard on myself. 

I started writing about type in part because I didn’t understand what Intuitive authors were saying about Sensing.  It made no sense to me, so I thought I would take a stab at it.  CAPT published some of my short works in the form of handouts.  Verifying Your Type Preferences and Talking in Type were the first ones. 

And then I got invited to write with Sandra Hirsh, ENFP,  in part because we were writing for an ST audience and having an ST co-author seemed like a good idea.  So Introduction to Myers-Briggs Type® in Organizations came about.

I remember reading Studs Terkel’s book Working when I was in college and thinking, now that’s the kind of book I’d like to write if I ever wrote a book.  It was about real people doing real things – nothing made up there! 

And eventually I did write about real people, only its focus was people’s personality types not people’s work lives.  Look at LIFETypes or WORKTypes or anything else I have written – they are all full of real-life examples.  It’s nice when something really does work out the way you wish it would!

I found it was editing my writing and making things clear and succinct that most appealed to me.  I worked for a consulting firm where our product was a written report.  My colleagues started coming to me asking me to shorten up their reports.  I acquired the nickname, “The Slasher.” 

I once got a call from an editor at CPP whom I did not know.  She began with a question: “Is it true that your nickname is The Slasher?”  Well, I didn’t know if she thought that was good or bad, but I did say, “Yes.”  She hired me to take over a stalled book project with ten authors contributing chapters.  I got it done.  And when we did the revision of the book, it even won an award. 

And I actually started writing more and more!  I was lucky enough to get invitations from publishers and co-authors to write.

So what is my process of writing like? My first draft is usually quite straightforward and boring.  It is like an outline but with short sentences instead of phrases.

Then I go back through and make longer sentences, trying to add in a few adjectives and adverbs along with examples from real life.  I ask myself what each paragraph is about and if I have an overview somewhere on the page.  And yes, I add that Intuitive overview as best as I can.

Eventually I get into a flow where I lose track of time.  I wonder if this is what it feels like to be an Introvert – being so into something that the outside world is irrelevant.

What is most fun for me, however, in the whole writing process is to critique and to edit– yes, I am a dominant Thinking type.  Is the phrasing correct?  Are there extraneous words?  Have I made my point?  Will readers know what I’m talking about?

I’ve also had the pleasure of working with several other really good writers who had different personality types than I do, and I appreciate what they have brought to our works. 

My MBTI® Step II™ co-author Naomi Quenk is an INFP.  We jokingly say, “When we agree, we’re right” because we say we have covered all eight preferences.  We bring different skills to the writing process and work hard to find words that convey what we both mean.  It is a joy to work with her. 

May you find joy in whatever kind of writing you do!



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Going with the Flow and Over the Cliff

My son’s girlfriend, Amy, is an ISFP. One night last summer, my son made a fire in our fire pit and we were all sitting around admiring it. “There’s a trick to making a good fire,” said my son. Amy jumped up and said, “Show me.” Pretty soon she was helping him move logs around the fire and collect sticks from the woods.

That struck me. It’s rare that people show that much interest in other people’s activities. Even if we think it would be nice to know the trick to a good fire, most of us would probably just ask. Getting up from a comfortable chair to actually participate in fire-making, well that’s something very few of us would do.

You might think it’s because she’s in love, but I see her do it with everyone. With my daughter – a real foodie – Amy has long, animated conversations about good restaurants. Even with our family on New Year’s Day, Amy seemed to really enjoy listening to us read out the family memories of the year that I have been recording each month, and asked me questions about how I keep the records.

Amy reminds me of two of my friends who are also SFPs.  Over the years, I have always been impressed with how “present” they are. When they are with me, they seem to be completely with me. The attentive, happy look on their faces makes me feel like there is nowhere else they’d rather be, and they are just having a marvelous time.

If I suggest an outing or a get together, they are always up for it. Whatever is going on in the moment is the most interesting thing in the world to them.

They are both mothers, and when I used to watch them with their kids, I’d think, “It must be nice to grow up with someone who looks like she just loves being with you, and would not want to change a thing about you,” because that is just the vibe they sent to their children. My SFP friends send that vibe to me as well. When they leave, I always feel as if I am perfect just the way I am.

I wish I could return that vibe. Unfortunately, there is one thing that I would really like to change about them.

That sensing and perceiving ability to enjoy the present moment, to go with the flow, to adapt to what is in front of you, can be a real handicap when the flow is going in a bad direction. Over the years, I often heard my SFP friends complain about the way they felt in their marriages. I can’t count how many times I said to them, “Did you tell him? Does he know?”

They never did tell them though, and over time things built up to a point where it became intolerable for them, and they suddenly walked out. Their spouses were completely shocked. The children were too, and took sides with their dads, and my friends are now, for the most part, alone.

I could never understand why they never said to their husbands, “This is the way I’m feeling when I’m with you,” or “This is what I need and am not getting.” I also didn’t understand why they never confided their feelings to their children. But I realize now that talking about negative feelings is a lot easier for me than for them.

We both share the feeling types’ dread of confrontation, but being an intuitive, I’m more comfortable with language and discussions about anything. The secret to initiating a difficult conversation is finding words that aren’t going to bring retaliation on your head, and even though I tried to give my friends examples of things they could say to their spouses, like, “When you said that, I felt unwanted,” they didn’t seem to trust words or expressing vulnerability. It was more natural for them to express their feelings in sudden and dramatic action.

Part of the reason they didn’t trust words may have been that they both had a history of getting “out-talked” by their husbands and being confused and silenced by them, whereas no one has ever been able to leave me at a loss for words, at least not for long.

Also, being a judging type, I’m more comfortable with directing the action than going with the flow. I believe that bad things just keep getting worse unless you do something to stop them, whereas my friends seemed to believe that if they just waited long enough, things would sort themselves out on their own.

Thank goodness that Amy, my son’s girlfriend, doesn’t remind me of my friends in that way. When my son has done something thoughtless and bone-headed, she tells him soon afterwards, in a nice way, that the action hurt her, and they talk it out. Amy only reminds me of the things I love about my SFP friends - that it’s wonderful to be with someone who thoroughly enjoys you and whatever you are doing.


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The Plight of the Condiments

I am in the midst of a merge – a merge of stuff from an ESTJ and an ENFP.  My ESTJ view of stuff – keep it because it’s useful and practical. The ENFP’s view of stuff – keep it because it has potential.  Altogether, we have too much stuff!

And as an INTJ friend pointed out about our problem of “too much stuff” – “this is a first world problem!”  That really puts it in perspective!!  I should quit complaining about his stuff, but please indulge me a bit. 

One of the many fine qualities I admire in ENFPs is their sense of adventure and in trying out new things.  However, I have also discovered that when this applies to condiments, a problem occurs. 

Plight of the CondimentsWhere do you put the millions of bottles of condiments related to adventures with the palate?  How do you even locate the right bottle to use among the collections in the refrigerators and cupboards?

How many kinds of mustards does one really need? Are eight kinds of vinegars that essential?  What on earth would some of those bottles add to the taste buds?

One friend suggested I sneak a bottle out a night and throw it away.   However, it is difficult for me to throw out something already purchased and that has not yet passed its “sell by date.”  And taking the time to empty and clean the bottle before recycling it…well that might be noisy and my plot discovered!

Another friend began looking for “use it up condiment” books for me, but finding none, located instead some websites with many suggestions.  I went grocery shopping with her recently and she kept pointing out foods to buy that would use dipping sauces.  Trouble is there is only so much dipping one can do and it takes numerous meals to get through those bottles. 

And besides the condiments, think of merging spices!!  Some were easy to throw out because they were long past their “sell-by” date, and spices do lose their potency. 

Another sure sign was turning the bottle upside down.  If it didn’t move, the spice went.  Actually I took a knife and loosened up the spice and dumped it into a big bowl.  That was kind of satisfying. Different spices have different colors, textures, and smells.  (No, I did not taste them!) 

Three large mixing bowls later with dozens of spices gone, the remaining ones were still too many.  However, as much as I love to sort and categorize things, I was done.  I gave over cupboard space to extraneous spices.  Some acts of sorting just take too much time and energy!

He (the ENFP) took the bowls and since they were organic material threw them on his lawn.  He has sold his home and we do not plan a return trip to see what has sprouted (or been killed by this act). 

So I am trying to develop my NFP side and be open to other possibilities for condiments and spices – at any quantity.  Send me your suggestions, please, along with step-by-step directions!! 


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