Entries for year: 2011

Christmas gifts!

“I hate Christmas!” a man once told me. “It’s so materialistic.”

I was thinking about him yesterday when I was out browsing in gift shops, looking at all of the materials. I was taking it easy, hoping something would jump out at me as being just right for someone on my Christmas list. And then something did. It was a painting of an old fashioned farm, and it reminded me of my ESFJ friend, who loves traditional decorating, and has a nostalgic bent. I thought of her fondly as I looked at the painting, not the part of her that can be annoying, but the part of her that has found the piece of this vast universe that she most loves, and in her joy, spreads it to others when they visit her lovely home. 

Then it hit me. Christmas is anything but materialistic. Every time I go to buy a gift for someone, I have to think about them. I think of their personalities, like “romantic”, “nostalgic,” “funny” or “classy.” I think of their interests, like baking, gardening or reading spy thrillers. I think of their loves, like bluegrass music, bulldogs, or the color green. Looking for Christmas gifts forces me to remember the joy that people get out of life, and that they share with me. They force me to find a material way to say thank you.

Since shopping for Christmas gifts makes us think about people’s personalities, it seems like a good time to think about type as well. Back in 1988, I wrote an issue of The Type Reporter called “Christmas Gifts!!!” I asked people what kind of gifts they most appreciated, then I organized their responses by the four temperaments. If you’re stuck on what to get someone, this might help.

In interviewing SPs, I found that they prefer gifts that they will use during their leisure time, gifts for playing and fun, like camping gear or a tennis racket. They also like gifts that are a treat for the senses, that help them look and feel physically good, like a gift certificate to a spa or a salon. An ISTP woman said a massage would “touch her soul.” An ESTP man wanted a reclining chair that had rollers for your back and vibrators for your legs and a pocket to keep magazines in.

I just saw a commercial for a gift that looked like it might appeal to SPs. It’s the Zumba Fitness 2 video game, where you exercise and have fun at the same time. It has lots of choices in dance routines and levels of effort, and SPs like choices. Also, you can pause it and come back any time, so you don’t have to make a commitment. That’s another plus for SPs, who like to follow their impulses.  

In interviewing SJs, I found that they liked gifts that help them carry out their responsibilities better, in less time and with more comfort. They like to get something they need, but of a little better quality than they would purchase for themselves. Don’t be too extravagant though, SJs have a keen sense of too much and do not appreciate it. For example, one ESTJ woman said that if she needed a new watch, she would buy herself a Timex. The perfect gift would be a Seiko because it’s a little nicer than what she would get for herself, but a Rolex would be too much. Another man mentioned a briefcase that he’d get a lot of use out of, but that he wouldn’t want to plunk money down for.

I’m getting my ISFJ daughter a moderately priced designer purse because she’ll use it every day, but she would never buy it for herself.

In interviewing NFs, I found that they are a cinch to buy for, because they are likely to be grateful for any gift you give them. It’s the fact that you were thinking about them that means the most to them. If you want to really hit the mark, however, you can give them something that reminds them of your relationship and what they mean to you, like a framed picture of the two of you together, or a plaque with a meaningful quote on it.

I’m an NF, and when I see ads for those digital photo books, I think how much I’d love one of those with pictures from vacations with my husband, or pictures of all of the Christmases with our friends.

The NTs are probably the hardest to buy for because they love ideas, not things. An e-reading device like the iPad might be a good gift for them because it can facilitate a connection with new ideas; a gift certificate to a bookstore or Amazon.com might work well, too.

My ENTP husband also recommended a well-written book that came out this year. It’s called The Information by James Gleick. It’s the story of information technologies that have changed the nature of human consciousness, from African drums to the Internet. Gleick talks about “technologies,” drawing a very big picture and making a lot of connections. What more can an NT ask for?

So have fun this Christmas thinking about all of the people in your life and what brings them joy, and how they share that joy with you. 



20-Somethings and Type

My kids and their friends are in their mid-20’s now, and I watch them with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I envy them because they are attractive and strong and they know it, and their lives are filled with discovery, excitement, and anticipation.

On the other hand, I feel sorry for them. I sit in the home that I love, with the spouse that I love, and go to a job that I love, while they are anxiously looking for all of those things. Before they find their “big three,” (career, spouse and home) most of them have to go through an assortment of jobs that don’t fit, potential partners that disappoint, and homes that don’t feel like home.

I’ve noticed something though, and it’s about those jobs-that-don’t-fit and their types. I’ve noticed that even when they are doing jobs that don’t use the talents of their types, they still find ways to exercise those talents. It appears that you can’t keep type from expressing itself, even if it’s not getting paid to do so.

For example, the talents of an ESFJ include organizing people around projects that help people, but the first job my ESFJ son Paul had was financial auditor. He worked with numbers, not people, and when an audit was finished, he usually had to tell people they were doing something wrong.

At the same time, however, he was also busy organizing the people in his company to do volunteer work in the community, play on sports teams, and go on hiking adventures in scenic places. 

The talents of an ISTP include the skillful handling of tools and weapons, but the first job my son’s ISTP friend Chris had was stocking a warehouse. On his days off, however, he worked for a contractor, learning how to paint, plaster and lay bricks, and then went home to play war games on his computer.

The talents of an INFP include helping people in creative ways to understand themselves and realize their potential. But the first job that my daughter’s INFP friend Rachel had was to edit proposals for a large consulting firm, a job that was detailed and rule bound, and didn’t allow for exploring human potential.

In her spare time though, Rachel was reading voraciously and discussing ideas about literature. She was also organizing unusual theme parties for her friends, like a New Orleans Carnival, or making creative birthday cards for them that captured their special talents, as well as the most significant moments in their relationship with her.

The talents of an ISFJ include taking care of people’s physical and emotional needs, but the first job that my ISFJ daughter Perrin had was just pushing paper in an office and watching her boss publicly humiliate the other employees.

In her private life though, she was usually taking care of people’s emotional needs with empathy, support and frequent praise, and their physical needs with home-cooked gourmet food for meals, birthdays, wedding showers, parties, picnics, and tailgating.

Some day these kids are going to find a way to incorporate their talents into their occupations and not just their hobbies. It can take some time though, because even though they may know what they want to do in their free time, finding a way to do it for money can involve a lot of trial and error, and let’s face it, some things just require more maturity. 

In the meantime, I get a kick out of watching how their types manage to emerge, even when they can’t get out at work. So many things are uncertain for these kids, but the talents of their type, I’m beginning to realize, are not among the uncertainties. You can bank on them.


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Getting to Know You, Getting to Know Someone Like (or Different From) You

It is interesting being in your 60s and suddenly finding yourself single and potentially in the dating world.  So yes, that is me and this is my story, so far.
Exactly how does one enter into that world?  With caution in my case as an ESTJ.

An NT friend has offered any number of books and strategies on the process. The stages of dating she described were most interesting, but rather X-rated, so I’ll skip that description here.  She has a quarterly dinner with friends in which they compare dating stories (I’m not sure about the X-rated parts) and whoever is voted as having the worst one, gets dinner bought by the others. 

An SF friend has a group of friends who get together once a month, edit each other’s dating website profiles, offer each other advice on who to date (often based on personal experience – he wasn’t for me, but I think you’ll like him), and encourage one another.  The movie, “Must Love Dogs” sticks in my memory of how those profiles work – very entertaining and amusing.

A time-honored technique is the one where friends using their NF sides imagine various combinations of their single friends and introduce you. That was the one I used; since I had heard about him for years, I thought he might be a good, safe start.

And how does the Myers-Briggs® instrument fit into all of this, you ask?  Of course, it plays a role since I would need to know his type. He admitted that when a friend asked him if he were dating, his reply was, “Yes, and she had me take a psychological test after the first date!”  Okay, so the MBTI® instrument is not a test, but to those new to it and new to dating after decades, it feels like one.  And it’s true, I did send him my SkillsOne® link right away.

Of course, it has been enormously useful.  I’m ESTJ and he’s ENFP.  We joke often about my desire to plan and his desire to go with the flow, but realize that with busy schedules we need some planning.    Since he’s a lawyer and I’m a psychologist, we’ve both had to develop S-N and T-F to a degree, which does help.  I still take things more literally than he does, however.  For example, one day he remarked that on his morning run around a lake, he thought of how nice it would be to share it with me.  My response was that I hate running, so I’m glad he didn’t.  Of course, you just saw some T-F differences creeping in there too.

As a practical person, I’ve also hit upon another technique to checking out a date.  It does mean attending “The Great Minnesota Get-Together,” aka, the Minnesota State Fair, or a similar event in your community.  There are lots of political booths at these kinds of events asking your opinions on any number of hot political issues.  Just fill those out side by side and you’ll learn a lot.  (Whew, our politics agree!) 

And then there are those quizzes on your favorite things in the State – there we diverged a bit, but that’s okay.  Having different favorite state parks is not a deal breaker in my opinion. 

And he showed me his feminist leanings when he picked the Minnesota Lynx as his favorite sports team “because it’s the only professional women’s team listed!” 

It also didn’t really matter to me that when taking quizzes on our knowledge of cows (yes, we are an agricultural state with lots of animal displays at the fair), he bested me.  This process showed me how cooperative he was as well as how his logical mind worked - important characteristics for me to see. 

I bet some of you reading this have your own stories and techniques.  I’d love to hear them and how type fits in.


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What is Their Secret?

I made a new friend recently, and she told me she is an ISFJ. Good grief, I thought, every time I am in the presence of a person that is just a delight to be around, it turns out that they are an ISFJ.  It’s happened to me about eight times now, where I know someone who is kind and attentive, a good listener and a fun person to listen to, and I find out that they are an ISFJ. What is it about these people? What is their secret?

The thing I like most about the ISFJs in my life is that they are very good listeners. Most of them not only ask questions to bring you out, and listen attentively when you talk, but they also respond in the way you would hope they would. If you thought something was interesting, they seem to think it is too. If you thought it was sad, they sound sympathetic. If you thought you were clever, they say things like, “Good for you.” They seem to have a gift for matching people’s words with appropriate responses, and it’s a rare gift to have.

When they’re doing the talking, they take just as much care to be considerate. They usually give enough information that you are not confused, but not so much that you are bored. I’ve noticed that my more talkative ISFJ friends have a delightful ability to tell a funny story. They may not be very good at remembering jokes, but if it’s about themselves or the people in their own lives, they can make me burst out laughing. “I was making chicken Parmesan the other day,” said my ISFJ friend. “My son came down the steps and said, ‘Who threw up?’ ‘No, honey, that’s dinner,’ I said.”

I love being with ISFJs because they’re quick to say “thank you,” to give compliments, and (my favorite) to flash a radiant smile. My ISFJ sister used to cry every year when I would leave after Christmas visits, and her honest tears meant more to me than any words she could have said.

Besides the many ways they have of being agreeable to others, I’ve noticed that ISFJs also seem to have an amazing ability to manage people effectively. When my ISFJ daughter was growing up, she was able to get everything she wanted from me without ever saying an angry word. She would simply ask something like, “Mom, can I have a piercing?” “Absolutely not!” I would say. She didn’t argue or stomp out of the room, she just said “OK” and left. But a week later, she might say, “Rachel got a piercing the other day in her bellybutton and it looks really cute.” A week after that, she might show me a picture in a magazine and say, “Look at the jewelry they have for bellybuttons, aren’t they cute?” I would keep protesting and protesting, but each time it got weaker. Finally, after this had been going on for a few months, she would say, “My birthday is coming up, and all I really want is a piercing.” By that time, I would be all out of “no’s.” “Oh, all right, just go get a piercing,” I’d say.

One of my employees did the same thing when my business was young. We wanted to accept payment with credit cards, but the credit card companies were hesitant to take us on because we were a new business. Our ISFJ office manager accepted their “no’s” in a friendly way, never insulting them or showing impatience, but he kept calling back every month and gently talking up our credentials. Finally, after five months, they gave up and allowed us to accept credit cards. This ISFJ trick of gently letting people use up their “no’s,” is incredibly effective. I call it “sweet persistence.”

When she’s angry with people, my ISFJ daughter just naturally talks in the “I” statements that the rest of us have to struggle to learn. “When you laughed at the outfit I wanted to wear, I felt stupid - like I don’t know anything about fashion,” said my daughter when she was only 17 years old. I was 50 before I could reveal my inner child like that. I marveled that, without saying an unkind word, she got me to be a lot more careful in how I gave her “feedback.”

On the other hand, if she makes people angry, my daughter apologizes immediately and humbly, and it usually allows people’s anger to vanish like a bubble. When she was driving with her learner’s permit, she rammed into a car that ran into another and another until there were five damaged cars stopped on the road during rush hour. She jumped out of the car said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” to each of the drivers. To my amazement, not one of them showed irritation or anger at her, and one of them even tried to comfort her.

I think ISFJs should be teaching courses and writing books titled, “How to be a delightful person, but still be incredibly effective at managing people.” Unfortunately, they don’t know how special they are, and they are far too humble to presume to tell others how to behave. We’ll just have to watch them to learn their secrets.



Experiencing Art

I do not have a bone of artistic creativity in my body but I have a great deal of appreciation and even envy of those who do.  I am still grateful to my 7th grade art teacher for encouraging me to at least try. Actually she did coax a few pieces out of me. 

And I am quite pleased that my two children did not take after me in this regard; they have talent and skill.

In spite of my lack of artistic abilities, I do, however, enjoy going to art museums to look at the creativity of others.  Actually my favorite type of art comes in the form of an outdoor sculpture garden. 

As an ESTJ these museums offer an odd kind of efficiency – I can get some exercise, add to my vitamin D levels (good old sunshine – no walking in the rain for this patron; however, I also use sunscreen if needed), delight in the art, savor an outdoor experience, and enjoy my companions (while I do go to museums on my own, doing so with others is much more fun for me).  Goodness, that’s five accomplishments all rolled into one experience! 

I confess…one of my real pleasures of the sculpture garden comes not from the art, but from the words titling and/or describing the art.  I often make it a game; I stroll casually over to the installation, glance at it trying to figure out what on earth it is supposed to be and then read the title. 

With my companions I ask for their interpretations and title.  Then I read the actual name, congratulating those who come the closest. 

Imagine my disappointment when sculpture is marked “Untitled.”  Was the sculptor illiterate (just kidding!)?  Did he/she want to encourage our imagination?  No matter the reason, I’m still disappointed.  The piece seems unfinished without a title, even a “bad” one.  And finishing something is important to ESTJs. 

Another favorite art viewing activity is an annual event at our local museum, the Minneapolis Museum of Art.  They sponsor an “Art in Bloom” display.  Florists and anyone with an interest in flowers are invited into the museum to pick a favorite piece.  They are then to create a floral arrangement to complement, mimic, illustrate, (or whatever) their chosen object. 

Some artists pick up on the colors, others on the shapes, others on the spirit, and others on something I have missed entirely. 

I quickly learned the best time to go when the crowds are the fewest and the flowers, the freshest. (Did you know that the artists have to pick off the stamens because they hold pollen that may get into the ventilating system of the museum and damage the paintings?  Yes, ESTJs like facts like those!)

I make it a tradition to attend each year.

What are your art “habits” and joys?  How do they reflect your personality? 


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