Entries for month: June 2011

Another Interpretation of "Gifts Differing"

Let me begin with a confession – I don’t understand a lot of metaphors and in particular I have some difficulty with the “gifts differing” one when the topic is really about differing personalities. I do, however, understand why Isabel Myers selected that phrase for her book title, and I know we are opposite types. In my concrete ESTJ manner, I am going to describe the gifts (literally) that an ESTJ friend recently gave.

First, a description of the giver – Judy is an Australian ESTJ who has lived and made friends in several countries.  She recently turned 60 and wanted to celebrate.  Stop a moment and think of how you have (or didn’t) or will (or won’t) celebrate a milestone birthday and what that says about your personality. Now think about characteristics of an ESTJ and see how her birthday celebration is illustrative of her personality – planful, attentive to detail, gregarious, logical, efficient, practical, active, etc.

Here’s what she did. Two years before the actual event she decided to invite ten of her international friends to come to Australia to help her celebrate, and she began spreading the word. She checked her resources and decided she would dip into her retirement funds and give each person $2000 (about on par with the US dollar); she issued the official invitation ten months before the actual event.  Eight of her friends were able to come to her home in Melbourne, and most were strangers to one another. To include the missing two in the party, she purchased (used) Barbie dolls with blonde and brown hair (the hair color of the missing women) and cut the hair to match their hairstyles.  They went along and “posed” for pictures at the various festivities. 

About four months before the event, she began inquiring about where in Australia we would like to go and purchased tickets for us (out of the designated money pool) for trips to the Mornington Peninsula, the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Ocean Road, Tasmania, etc. (If you don’t know your geography, now would be a good time to look at a map and check the locations!) She organized buses, rental cars, airplane tickets, houses, apartments, etc. She realized that at our ages, we would all appreciate sleeping in beds so she made sure we were comfortable. At one point, the complexity of it was overwhelming and her INTJ husband helped her put it all on a spreadsheet and strategized about ways to include her wonderful local friends as well. 

Upon arrival, we each got a backpack. What would you give a visitor to your country?  We got a water bottle, a beach towel, sunscreen, a tiny stuffed koala bear, a t-shirt (in the correct size, of course) with a graphic of the beach houses at our first stop, homemade notecards with pictures of Australian animals and birds, candy (her father had run a candy, a.k.a. lolly, shop), a copy of our itinerary, relevant tourist brochures, cash left over after the airplane tickets, and a book of her writings compiled from her grade school diaries to her published writings to her travelogues to a list of stories she had told too many times at her parents’ eulogies.

The first two days included a dozen of her local friends, prescribed activities, and an itinerary based on the most efficient routes (she had consulted tourism experts as to the best routes to pack in the most interesting stops—would you believe a wonderful goat farm/cheese-making operation was one!) as well as incredible meals and lots of champagne. Then things loosened up and we were presented with possibilities; we began choosing how to spend our time and Judy would pick the most efficient routes and schedules; the plan was to go with the flow with occasional strong hints, such as consuming genuine Aussie fish and chips on a moonlit beach.

I spent three glorious weeks this way with the lasting gifts of more international friends, fabulous memories, and a wonderful model of the ESTJ personality and generosity.  Thank you Judy and my traveling companions for your tangible and intangible gifts differing!

Learn more about Isabel Myers' ground-breaking book Gifts Differing, and about the ESTJ personality type.

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A Space Where People Can Be Their Best

My husband, John, was having lunch with his colleague, Richard. They got on the subject of type, so John asked Richard what type he was. Richard said he was an INTJ. John laughed and said, “You’re not an INTJ!” “What do you think I am?” asked Richard. “You’re an F,” said John.
When John told me about this later, I asked him why he thought Richard was an F. “I’m a T,” he said, “and I tend to think, ‘This is the right thing to do and you should be doing it.’ Richard almost never tries to tell people what to do. He has a nicer, softer style.” I wasn’t sure if John’s description was really a T behavior, but I kept listening.

“I find that telling people they are wrong and that I know the right way is very psychologically satisfying for me,” he continued, “but it creates a barrier that the other person has to get over. Richard doesn’t create that barrier. Instead, he tries to create a space where people can be at their best.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Can you think of an example?”
“There is a guy named Joseph,” he replied, “who does all of our video conferencing. He can be very negative and say things like, ‘We can’t do that because the budget isn’t there and besides, it’s a stupid thing to do and we should be doing something else.’

“We’re all thinking, ‘That’s Joseph again, being overly critical and difficult to work with.’ But Richard seems to see Joseph’s angry energy as a good thing. It means that Joseph wants to do some good in the world. Unfortunately he doesn’t know how to go about it, so he comes out attacking people and further isolating himself. Richard tries to redirect Joseph’s energy toward the group’s goals instead of against them.

“He lets Joseph keep talking, asks him questions, and paraphrases what he says. Eventually, he makes suggestions like, ‘So maybe we’ll only have one video, and shoot the film at the meeting so we don’t have to travel.’ Joseph stops complaining for a minute because he sees that he’s being taken seriously, and then he offers more suggestions for how to save money.

“When Joseph says, ‘But the fact is we should be doing this other thing instead,’ Richard says, ‘Thank you for bringing that up. It’s an important point. Would you be willing to take charge of making that happen?’

“Joseph looks surprised and says, ‘I didn’t say I wanted to be charge of anything.’ Then Richard says with a smile, ‘But you will, won’t you?’ Since it’s his idea, it’s easy for Joseph to agree. ‘I guess so,’ he says, and sits down with his mind directed toward positive action rather than negative complaining. Richard always manages to get people excited about what they are for instead of what they are against.

“Do you think this is something that comes naturally to Richard?” I asked. “No, he works hard at it,” John said. “He reads books like Slowing Down to the Speed of Life and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and whereas I think those books are interesting, he really tries to live them.”

“So Richard is working from a theoretical model of leadership,” I said. “That sounds like something an INTJ might do.”

“Now that I think about it, Richard does love theoretical models, and is frequently putting them on the board,” said John. “I guess he could be a T.”

“Like many NTs, he may have a vision for the future of the organization,” I said. “He realizes that in order to see his vision realized he needs cooperation from others, so he has acquired some sophisticated people skills. That’s type development, where you develop your weaker functions in the service of your personal growth. Richard may have learned early on in his career that he needed to behave in a more feeling manner in order to achieve the goals of his intuition and thinking.”

When I asked Richard later how he could be so good at both thinking and feeling, he told me that he had begun reflecting on that when he was still in college. He ran for the student senate and thought that he made a very logical case for his election, but he lost. “I realized that logic alone doesn’t move people to action,” he said. “If I want to accomplish the mission, I have to be more mindful of the human side.”


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