Entries for month: July 2012

Being Lost

I once traveled a lot with an INFP. As an ESTJ, our styles were quite different.  I would notice, for example, that we could be within two blocks of the hotel and he would have no clue as to how to get there, yet he would never admit he was lost nor would he ask for directions.  Perhaps this was a guy thing, but perhaps it was a type thing, too! 

On one trip I finally asked him for his definition of “being lost.”  His reply:  “Gaining no positive benefit from my current surroundings.”  With that definition in mind, I could see how he rarely thought he was lost!  There is usually something interesting happening in the world around him. 

So what is my ESTJ definition of “being lost?”  Here it is: not knowing how to get from point A to point B in the shortest, most efficient way possible.

On that same trip, I suddenly found myself lost (my definition).  I applied his INFP definition and suddenly noticed buildings in a whole new way.  Landscaping looked different and more inviting. I took the time to people watch in a way I didn’t usually do.  All these activities were quite fun.  But this only lasted for about 15 minutes – I can pack a lot in quickly!  Then I started looking for someone who could direct me to where I wanted to go.  My definition ruled, once again!

The next day we had agreed to explore the city we were in on our own, meeting at a theater in the evening.  I was quite surprised that he wasn’t there when I arrived.  I know one of his values is to arrive early at every event; it is rude to be late!  He slid in the seat next to me just as the play was starting. 

At intermission I asked him what had happened in his day of exploring the city.  He said he had a wonderful time wandering around and began looking for the theater location early.  He couldn’t find it!  He was lost according to my definition!!  He decided to hop in a taxi to get there.  The cab driver said he’d be glad to drive him, but suggested he exit out the other side of the cab and walk the half block up the street to the theater marquee that was clearly visible – how could he miss it?! 

An ENFP recently added to this ongoing discussion by giving me her view of getting directions when going somewhere. “It's not just that I don't want to take the time to get directions or I don't think they're necessary – sometimes I actively work to avoid having directions (deliberately don't listen, leave them at home or whatever) so I can have the fun/challenge of figuring it out as I go. Of course, I'm an adult and sometimes I just have to be somewhere at a certain time... for that there are Google maps.”

So what is your definition of being lost and how do you react to asking for directions?



What is a “Risk?”

This appeared in my in-box recently from a friend, Lisa, who is an ENFP.  Her partner, Johnny, has yet to be typed, but probably has some opposite preferences given this description.

“Johnny and I, on considering our morning commute today:

“Johnny (who consulted the weather report online): There are thunderstorms in the forecast, and an x% chance of rain. You might want to consider taking the bus to work instead of riding your bike. (Luckily he knows better than to offer his opinion explicitly about what I should do.)

“Me (looking out the window): It isn't raining now. I'll bet I could make it.

“As I leave the house in my biking gear, I notice that Johnny has taken our son to daycare in the car, instead of walking with the stroller like he enjoys most.

“I was thinking about all this on my ride in, and noticing how the threat of rain actually makes my bike commute more interesting and exciting to me, and how that makes it worth the risk of possibly getting wet (and if I'm very wet, possibly feeling cold and uncomfortable until I can get in to work and change... assuming I have a change of clothes with me, which I don't always have...)

“I hadn't realized before taking the MBTI how I kind of like to push things sometimes. I knew that I thought all of Johnny's precautions and planning and preparation were usually unnecessary and only slowed things down; but I didn't realize that a part of me really prefers to do things by the seat of my pants.”

So for Lisa, the risk of getting wet is actually not a risk, but a challenge and a mystery and fun – it makes life more interesting and exciting.  For Johnny, it is a risk not worth taking, and it would make life more of a hassle. 

Oh by the way, this particular morning, Lisa did not get wet on her bike commute.  Some of you probably were interested in that outcome, others of you thought it immaterial!

NPs often jump at possibilities in front of them and take risks more readily than any other types. I’m defining a risk as the possibility that some type of loss will occur. I have heard many examples of NPs suddenly deciding to quit their jobs and move abroad when an exciting possibility caught their fancy.  They figure any obstacles they encounter will be something they can handle and actually make the move more fun. They might not even consider this a risk! It’s not a loss, but a gain! 

Their opposites, the SJs, usually carefully gather data and will take risks only after careful consideration. Planning is a way of preventing something “bad” from happening, and preventing a loss.  And something “bad” is not considered an opportunity to rise to the occasion relying on one’s wits and ability to adapt. If SJs factor in contingency plans to deal with the possibility of “bad” things happening, they could be handled adequately, but perhaps reluctantly. They are the least likely to take risks. 

I recall an SJ once saying that she recently engaged in the same risk-taking as an NP in deciding to move.  It was upon reflection that she realized she actually planted the seed in her mind a year earlier, had lined up contacts in the new area, and had found an acquaintance to stay with until she found her own place.  It wasn’t the same but nonetheless felt like a risk to her, but one that she navigated well!

So what makes a risk worth taking in your mind?  Or is it not really a risk?!


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Think of a Person Who Gives You Problems

“Can you give a talk on the MBTI to a group of women accountants?” asked my friend, a woman accountant. “We meet for dinner once a month and invite a speaker to address us afterwards for about an hour.”

“Sure,” I said, and admired her for belonging to such a curious and learning group. Later, I asked my husband, John, to co-present with me. He talks to groups for a living, while for me, talking to groups is like dying.

In the weeks before the presentation, I was thinking about all of the things I had to say to give a responsible presentation on type. I thought I had an excellent agenda planned with a fun exercise for each preference. I gave John my agenda and thought he’d approve of it right away.

I was very surprised when he made up another agenda that was completely different than mine. The first thing he proposed was asking everyone to write down the name of a person who gave them a lot of problems - not serious problems like abuse, addictions or mental illness -  just problems because of the way they do things.
My first reaction was, “We can’t start by getting everyone to think negative thoughts about people. We want them to be thinking about the positive contributions of people. That’s what type is all about.”

John said, “You need to start out with something that gets people emotionally hooked. If they think you are going to help them with a problem person, they’ll be paying close attention.” 

That started to make sense to me, and with a group of women accountants, who would mostly be ISTJs, it especially made sense. They might not be interested in a personality theory for its own sake, but they might be very interested in a tool that helped them with a difficult person in their lives. I was both anxious and excited by John’s agenda, but the excitement was stronger, so I said, “OK, let’s try it.”

On the night of the talk, John gave everyone a printed page that had three blocks on it. In the first block was the text…

•  The person who gives me problems is ___________

•  What this person does that upsets me is __________

He had them fill that out, then he introduced me, and I stood up and talked about the difference between Extraverts and Introverts. I gave examples of the preferences from my own life or from our marriage, because John had stressed that people usually remember stories better than definitions or lists of words.

When I finished, he had them go to the second block, which said…

•  What I think this person’s type might be     E or I    S or N     T or F    J or P

•  My type is likely to be                                E or I    S or N    T or F    J or P

When they had made their best guess of Extravert or Introvert for themselves and the other person, he did another thing I never would have thought of. He had them share their decision with the person sitting next to them, and talk about why they had marked their pages that way. He says it’s important to give people time to process what they have learned by talking about it.
Each time I described two preferences, John would have them mark their page and share their conclusions, but each time, with someone different… the person on the other side of them, a person across from them, or a person from another table. He says that when people are in groups, you should give them a chance to connect with as many people as possible.

When they had a “best guess” four-letter type for themselves and the “problem” person, he gave them five minutes to fill out the third block…

•  Type might explain the things I find difficult about this person because  ______

•  Type might explain my reaction to this person because ________

•  Type might also explain the things I admire about this person because_______

Finally, John asked people to volunteer to share the greatest insight they were taking away from this meeting. That’s when my fears about negativity vanished. People were saying things like, “I’m going to stop taking my mother’s lateness as a personal insult. It’s part of her P, and I love that about her.” “I realize my boss is probably an N and that’s why he likes brainstorming ideas so much. I can help when he decides to put things into action.”

Before they left, we gave them printed descriptions of the preferences, and suggested they share those descriptions with the people in their life, especially with the person who gives them problems, because it could lead to very productive conversations.
So John was able to get people hooked at the beginning with a promise to help them with a difficult person. He was able to keep them hooked all through the session by giving vivid examples of the preferences, and letting people talk about their choices with several different partners. He was able to stir up a great deal of positive energy at the end by asking people to share their new insights. Finally, he made sure the learning would go on by giving people the materials they needed to share the preferences with other people.
I’d never seen anyone run a type presentation in this way before. The group was engaged and buzzing all through it. I recommend it highly, because learning about our individual type preferences deserves everyone’s attention, from start to finish. 

Note: It is important to remember that while we can make observations about how we perceive people’s behaviors in a given moment, we cannot presume to know a person’s personality type until they tell us their type. Sometimes it is not possible to administer the MBTI® assessment before a presentation like this one, but it is recommended. Remember, if someone in the group knows their type, it is up to them, rather than us, to share it.