Entries for month: September 2011

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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The Best Advice

About 20 years ago I wrote a series for The Type Reporter called “Older and Wiser.” I interviewed four people in the type community who were over 60 years old, and asked them questions about their type development. The last question I asked them was, “If you could give advice to a young person of your type, what would it be?”

I was thinking about that series the other day and I suddenly realized, I’m 60! It’s my turn to be “older and wiser.” What advice would I give to a young INFJ?

I didn’t have to think very long. The most useful thing I have learned in my life was right on the tip of my tongue. It’s great advice, not only for an INFJ, but for any person, of any age, of any type.

The best advice I can give is… don’t give advice.

I have to give myself this advice at least once a day. Whenever I hear someone describe a problem they are having in their life, it pains me because I care about them. I want to give them some relief, so I start thinking about how to solve their problem. My husband might be having trouble with a client, my daughter might be miffed at her friend, or my friend might be complaining because she’s gaining weight. Right away, I’m trying to crank out a solution for them, hoping it will ease their pain.  

Around the subject of type, people often ask questions like, “What can I tell my ISFP friend who is in a dysfunctional relationship with her husband?” “What can I tell my ESFJ wife who is having problems with her co-workers?” “What can I tell my INTJ friend who is always arguing with his teen-aged daughter?” Like me, they want to give people the “gift” of advice, and they are hoping that the type theory will help them do that better. 

But I have learned - and it took many years to learn this – that advice, even type-specific advice, does not give people relief from their pain. It may even add to it, because it makes them feel like children who have to be told what to do.

What really helps troubled people is to know that they are not alone inside their heads, that they can externalize their problems and other people will listen and understand what they are going through. It’s the simple act of sharing their problems that brings the most emotional relief. Then they can begin the challenging business of solving the problem themselves.   

I’ve learned that when I’m listening to a person tell me their troubles, instead of communicating advice, I should just communicate understanding of what they are going through, saying, for example,  “That sounds frustrating,” “That’s a tough situation.” Or “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”

But it’s hard to keep my cool when I’m listening to anxious people, because I “catch” their anxiety. When my daughter was going through a difficult period in her life, I realized that I had to find some words to tell myself when I was listening to her, something that would calm me down and give me some distance from her problems. After many experiments, I finally came up with a little mantra that works like a charm.  When I’m listening to someone and I’m anxiously trying to come up with a solution to their problem, I tell myself…

Of course it is. Their problems make them who they are. They have to use all of their powers to rise above them, but when they do, they feel like they’ve accomplished something. When I try to solve people’s problems for them, I am inadvertently getting in the way of them mastering their own fate. 

I don’t know why, but my first reaction to people’s pain is “They can’t handle it!” I have to remind myself that they can. They have brains, natural gifts, life experience, and a world full of resources to help them. I can relax because they have everything they need.  

There are as many ways to solve a problem as there are people on the earth, and it can be fun to watch the way other people do it, especially if you know type and can see patterns. For example, my ESFP sister always wants to do something right away about her problems, while my ISFJ daughter needs to think a long time about them first. My ENTP husband always sees them as a chance to accomplish great things, and I always want to gain a new insight about people from them. 

So that’s my advice. Don’t give advice. Instead, tell yourself…

This is their problem. They can handle it. It will be interesting to see how they do.