Entries Tagged as "Learning"

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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Different or Difficult?

We know that personality type helps us realize that people aren’t really trying to drive us crazy – they just see the world in a different way!

But does that excuse some behaviors that really are difficult, even though they are different?

And isn’t it sometimes true that a strength can really become a liability when overused? 

I have a friend who is an ENFJ.  She is so good at making people comfortable in her presence and in getting under their skin to their essence.  This is quite helpful to her as a divorce attorney.  However, when a friend visited with her recently, she left feeling like she had been with a “vibe sucker.”  She felt absolutely drained.  It wasn’t a matter of a different style; those behaviors became difficult.

As an ESTJ, I value efficiency and can be pretty good at attaining it in many things that I do.  When I am driving somewhere with someone else who is not efficient in their routing, I become difficult.  I offer unsolicited advice and occasionally even unsolicited criticism. 

An INFP friend was so focused on his values that he cut off valuable allies who could help him realize his dreams of creating an egalitarian community.  He became difficult to work with. 

Years ago, my friend, the late Susan Brock, came up with a STOP model to help us identify when type was being misused – and to stop it.  Here it is with my modifications:

S – Stop strutting your type.  Yes, you can be proud of who you are -- some call it being psychologically patriotic.  But you’re not the only one who does things well.  And at some point in the future you’re bound to have a need to try other approaches that may not be natural ones, but nonetheless are what will be needed at the time. 

And even more to the point, you’re bound to meet someone of your exact same type who might appear to be a complete jerk, turkey, wally (or whatever label you want to use).  Learning to stop the strutting will likely save you some embarrassment in the future. 

T – Talking about everyone’s type.
  This is about labeling and gossiping, which at times turn can into statements like, “what do you expect…she’s just a Thinking type!  She doesn’t care about people and what she said in that last meeting just proves it.”   No one likes being gossiped about. And stereotyping is not what type is all about!

O – Obsessing about type.  Type doesn’t explain everything.  Putting the type model on every little thing that people say and do just doesn’t work.  Not all ESTJs love chocolate (or maybe they do!). 

P – Pushing tasks on people because of type. This is the one where we might say, “Oh you’re the Extravert; you should give the oral report.”  Or “Sensing…let’s see, that means you should take the notes at the meeting.”  We all need skills in a variety of areas.  To not encourage the Introvert to give the report or the Intuitive to take notes unnecessarily deprives them of a chance for development. 

Let’s try to recognize when different is different and when difficult is difficult and not get them mixed up.


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Watching Feeling in Action

To the uninitiated (in type), I suppose this title is a bit risqué.  I am not talking about being a voyeur, but about the wonderful display of the Feeling Function. 

Let me begin with a slight digression. I recently started downhill skiing again – I was never very good at it, but my beau is and loves it, so using my Feeling function to create harmony I go skiing in the Colorado Rockies once a year.  We typically stay in an apartment with another couple, Kathy and Dave.

Each morning, I watched Kathy go off to the slopes with her backpack.  I asked why she did so and what was in it.

She gave a one word answer…”Raymond!”  And then told me the story.  One day several years ago, Kathy was going up the chair lift with a friend.  Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a young man lying on the snow at the side of a steep mogul run. (Moguls are mounds of hard compacted snow that take much skill to maneuver around.)   Kathy is a nurse and she is a Feeling type.  She and her friend skied down to the young man as quickly as they could. 

He was wearing only cotton sweat pants and a sweatshirt with no gloves or hat.  He was unresponsive, clearly suffering from hypothermia.  Kathy sent her friend to get the ski patrol there are quickly as possible. 

Kathy said to him, “Hi, my name is Kathy and I’m a nurse.  What’s your name?”

He mumbled, “Raymond.” 

Kathy said, “Raymond, you need to do exactly as I say.   I’m going to lie down in the snow with my jacket open.  You are to lie on top of me and put your hands between my legs.  You are suffering from hypothermia and I need to get you warmed up quickly.” 

Raymond did as he was told.  Kathy kept up a conversation with him including, “You may tell your friends whatever you wish about this.” 

Think about it…how many young men are invited into such a position with an older woman and encouraged to talk about it!! 

Just then, Kathy’s husband, Dave, was riding up the ski lift with a friend.  The friend looked over and said, “Isn’t that Kathy lying on her back with a young man on top of her?”  They skied over. 

The ski patrol was slow in coming but eventually they arrived.  They took the young man down the hill, reading him the “riot act” telling him they always had extra clothing to loan out and that he could have died.

As a thank you, ski patrol gave Kathy certificates for complimentary hot chocolate drinks for her entire party at the local ski chalet. 

At the end of the day, Kathy and her party walked in to have their drinks.  When they did so, they received a standing ovation from other skiers who had seen the drama.

Then some of the women from the honoring party came over, and said, “Our husbands want to know where you’re skiing tomorrow.  They think their hands will be really cold!” Kathy just laughed.  But now she carries a small warming blanket in her backpack to help the future Raymonds.  

Kathy used her Feeling function (and her nursing skills) to make Raymond comfortable and she is continually invited to tell that story, forming a bond with others who join the skiing group each year.  Her story draws us together.  What a wonderful use of Feeling!!


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Alfred Adler and the Crucial C’s

Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and Alfred Adler have all contributed to our understanding of human nature. The first two names come to mind for a wide variety of contributions.

But I think Adler’s psychological principles are the most widely used in our day-to-day lives, and they are the least likely to be attributed to him.  To help with this, psychologist Betty Lou Bettner has translated some of his principles into simple language in order to teach parents how to “raise kids who can.”* In essence she provides a system for creating more functional, responsible, and capable families.

Here are her “Crucial C’s,” their Adlerian principle, and my take on how personality type can help people achieve those C’s.

Connect:  Everyone feels a need to belong and have a bond with others. When we feel secure, we can reach out and make friends.  These connections help foster a concern for the welfare of the community.

Yet when you’re the odd person out because your type is different from everyone else’s, it can be difficult to feel this Adlerian principle of belonging and developing social interest (a.k.a. Gemeinschaftsgefuhl). 

As an ST in counseling psychology grad school, I felt like a fish out of water; I had difficulty feeling like I belonged there.  I did not know then that I was working against typical type in a field where NF and NT were far more prevalent.  Hindsight has given me a different perspective, and I now understand how to get past those feelings.

Capable:  We all need to acquire skills so we can accomplish our goals. It is important to feel confident and self-reliant and to have self-control when things are not going our way.  The Adlerians talk about turning a felt negative into a perceived positive. 

I have the privilege of working in a program that develops community leadership in small towns in Minnesota.  A lot of my work consists of showing those who give so much to their communities that they are highly capable; they often don’t see it in themselves. 

Many who are Introverts are reluctant to claim their leadership skills because they have a view in their heads that leadership belongs to Extraverts.  Not true!!  Understanding that Introversion is how they gain energy is an eye opener for many. They see the value in their thoughtful, listening style and that knowledge helps them embrace their capabilities as they help create healthy communities.

Count:  Everyone needs to be valued and feel like they can make a difference.  Adler talks of finding significance.  The principle of social equality also prevails; we are on a horizontal ladder, not a vertical one in terms of relationships.  We are motivated to do our best. This is different than having to win and to best others.

Psychological type gives us each a way to both count and to contribute to the whole. And it reminds us that other types count and contribute as well.  All types are equally good.  We have a horizontal relationship, not a vertical one in which one type is better than another. 

Courage:  We all need to be hopeful, resilient, and be willing to try.  We need to cope with difficult times and learn from them.  We need “the courage to be imperfect,” and we get at least some of that courage through encouragement. 

Type gives us a roadmap showing what strengths might develop first and most effectively.  It also reminds us where we might not do so well; we are not perfect!  And that can free us up to try things that might not come naturally but are important for us to learn to do.  We can be encouraged to have courage.

I’ve found these four C’s to be quite helpful in reflecting on jobs that went well and those that didn’t, and on relationships that went well and those that didn’t.  If one or more C’s are missing, things do not always go so well.  Try them out on your own life, and see how type can help you uncover the missing C’s.

*B.L. Bettner and A. Lew (1989, 2005), Raising Kids Who Can, Newton Centre, MA: Connexions Press.


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