Entries for month: January 2013

Keep Them Guessing

My daughter’s best friend, Sara, is engaged to be married to a young man named Jeff. My family has been with him three times now in social situations, and we all like him. After the holidays, we found ourselves speculating on his type.

We couldn’t decide if he’s an Extravert or an Introvert because he’s a good listener, but he’s also a good talker. He seems thoughtful, but he also seems interested in other people’s thoughts.

We had a hard time with Sensing and Intuition, too. He seems to enjoy talking about both facts and ideas, and puts the right amount of detail and big picture into his conversation.  

We felt that he could be a Thinking type because he’s even-tempered, but he could also be a Feeling type because he’s considerate and kind.

We didn’t have any more luck with Judging and Perceiving because he shows up on time and can articulate his opinions, but he also seems to be open-minded and tolerant of others.

We weren’t able to guess Jeff’s type from just a social situation. We’d have to see him in other situations, at work or at home, to see his real preferences.

When we weren’t able to guess Jeff’s type from just a social situation, we realized…that might be a good thing. When we’re able to say about someone, “They’re obviously this or that,” it’s usually because they’re doing too much of something. They might be talking too much or too little, putting too many details or abstractions into their conversation, being overly critical or overly sensitive, or too opinionated or too noncommittal. If someone seems to be well-balanced, it’s harder to guess their type, but easier to like them. 

We realized that when we’re out for a good time with a group, we really don’t want to see people’s preferences. What we want to see is their ability to do the appropriate thing, depending on what the group is saying or doing. We remembered that the best times we’d had over the holidays in groups were not when one person stood out, but when everyone blended in a light-hearted harmony, when people were just good together. 

Jeff seems to have figured out something very early in life that most of us don’t figure out until later in life, (and some of us never figure out). Jeff has figured out that in social situations, you should wear your type lightly.

We got to talking about times when we had been too interested in proving that we were exceptional when we entered groups. I’m an INFJ and could remember when I had to have the best ideas for radical change in our society. My ENTP husband remembered when he had to one-up everyone in teasing. My ISFJ daughter remembered when she was trying to be such a good listener that she didn’t share anything about herself. My ESFJ son remembered when he was being so careful of people’s feelings that he would never express his own preferences.

Our special genius is always there and we are always drawing on it, but we don’t need to show it off. Especially in social situations, we should try to be present, enjoy the people around us, and keep in step with the fast-moving conversations and interactions. Then we might find that, like Jeff, no one will be able to figure out what type we are, but everyone will have fond memories of their time in our company.  


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Which type do you like best?

The inspiration for this blog came from one written by a friend’s daughter-in-law, a transplanted American in Norway.  Her life in Norway has been more difficult than expected because the Norwegian government will not accept her outstanding professional credentials, thus preventing her from getting a job in her medical field.  A recent posting describes her mixed emotions on her first trip back “home” in two years with her husband and four-year old.

Her four-year old daughter asks her…

…from the backseat, oblivious to the emotions spinning ‘round in my head and heart: “Mamma. . .  which land (country) do you like better: Norway or America?”

I sighed.  Such an innocent, simple question. If only the answer were so simple. “Ohhhh. . . that’s a really difficult question to answer. . .”

Undaunted, she pressed on, “Pappa? Which land do you like better?”

Her father responded, also a little torn, but prepared to give a slightly more diplomatic (and non-binding) answer, “Well, there are parts of both countries that I really like.”

And then the daughter responded, rather decided in her answer, “I like Sweden best.” (A country she’s never visited!)

Let’s face it!  We naturally rank things, and that includes type preferences, even when we lack a depth of understanding for all types.

Years ago when I was first teaching type, a participant said that learning about Extraversion-Introversion allowed her to become “psychologically patriotic.”  As an Introvert, she had put herself down, but now with this theory, she had an opportunity to see herself and her strengths in a new and very positive light. 

Elizabeth Murphy’s publication Questions Children May Have About Type Differences poses this one:  “What if I don’t like the type I am?  Can I make myself change?”  Her response:  “If you don’t like your type, it may be because you don’t know the good side of being your type. You can’t change your natural preference that exists inside of you. If you try to change the real you into someone else, you will use more energy and you can become frustrated and discouraged. It is better to like yourself the way you are, and help others to like you that way too.”

When Naomi Quenk and I were writing the MBTI® Step II™ User’s Guide we wanted to acknowledge that there are aspects to like and dislike about each facet pole and these likely depend on your own perspective. 

For example, Concrete-Abstract is a facet of Sensing-Intuition relating to the focus of attention.  We write, “Concrete people tend to see Abstract people as “off the wall,” wasting time, difficult to follow, and “pie-in-the-sky,” yet admire their ability to read between the lines and see other meanings.  Abstract people tend to see Concrete people as rigid, slow, boring, and stuck on details, yet admire their command of facts.”

So even though we may naturally “like” some preferences more than others, it’s important to recognize the good side of each – that “yet.”  Let’s all take the time to add to our “yet” understandings. 


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