Entries for month: July 2013

The Amazing Power of ENTJs and the Price They Often Pay

Shulamith Firestone I read a profile in The New Yorker of a woman named Shulamith Firestone. She was the author of The Dialectic of Sex, and she launched some of the first major radical feminist groups in the 60’s. I was really intrigued by her story, because all the organizations she started either disbanded following internal dissention, or the members drove her out of the group. I wondered what type Firestone was, and what went wrong.

I guessed that Firestone was an extravert because she was described as a “firebrand,” “fireball,” and “incandescent.” One woman said, “It was thrilling to be in her company.” Not all extraverts are like that, but the people that I would describe with those words are all extraverts. When they walk into a room, others immediately feel energized by their confidence, talkativeness, and direct gaze. 

I would guess that Firestone was an intuitive for one simple reason. She wanted our society to change completely, so that gender would make no difference at all to a person’s position in the family or at work. She called for an immediate and total break from the past. A sensing type, on the other hand, would more likely be engaged in trying to bring back the good qualities of the past, preserve the present, or make gradual changes toward the future.

The evidence in the article suggested that she was a thinking type, because, like many thinking women, she was often perceived as having the masculine quality of seeking power. Women accused her of having “male hormones,” “male ambitions,” and being “too male identified.” Also, it seemed like harmony and cooperation were not high priorities for her as they would be for a feeling type. She was described as being “divisive,” and “unsisterly.”  Once, after a feminist group was cleaning up after a meeting, she announced, “I’m an intellectual – I don’t sweep floors.”

The evidence in the article also suggested that she was a judging type, and her judging helped her to be an effective organizer. One woman commented that, “She already had the arguments, already had a plan.” Another woman said, “She knew that groups have to have an organizing structure and principles… or else you are just higgledy-piggledy all over the place.” On the down side of judging, people said she “wouldn’t bend, and was “very, very opinionated.”

I think that Firestone was an ENTJ, and the reason this article hit home with me is that I have personally known four ENTJs who suffered the same fate as Firestone. They were all going along full speed, rising very fast in their work, but completely unaware of the discontent brewing around them. When they were suddenly “fired” from their organizations or marriages, it was such a shock that one had a mild heart attack, one attempted suicide, and one had a mental breakdown. We all get shot down sometimes, but it seems to be especially dramatic for ENTJs, because they tend to rise higher than most people, and have farther to fall.

People feeling powerless find ways to take back their power, and ENTJs can make people feel powerless. It’s easy for them to be unaware of this because they are so focused on the forward progress of their work or their cause. Also, it can be hard to get through to them. It was said of Firestone that she had a “tendency to be dismissive of others’ grievances,” and that was certainly true of the four ENTJs we knew. Their colleagues and spouses often mentioned that they were not heard or taken seriously.

Firestone never recovered from her experiences with the feminists, because she suffered from schizophrenia later in life, but the four ENTJs I know have recovered. They are all on top again, with a difference. Now they are more tuned into the people around them. They have developed the habit of listening and drawing people out. When one of our ENTJ friends comes to visit, after she has described all of the world-changing work she is doing, she takes the time to ask, “So, Sue, what’s exciting in your life?” Then she listens with genuine interest, as if I can tell her something really useful. Who knows, maybe I can.  

We can all learn to be better listeners, but the stakes are especially high with ENTJs, because they have an amazing talent for leadership. If their vision, energy and verbal dexterity are balanced with the habit of good listening, they can attract hundreds, thousands, even millions of people to come together and move mountains. ENTJs can have incredible power…if they take the time to tune into the power of others. It’s a lifelong struggle for them, but no one said it’s easy to change the world.



Lessons Learned From My INTJ Father

My Dad is 98 years old.  He lives in his own home (with lots of help).   And he still works as a research biochemist.  I’ve learned a lot about INTJs from him and how my ESTJ preferences work somewhat differently!!

INTJs are future-oriented, more so than any of the other types. I am much more present-oriented.  Dad has been railing against the effects of trans-fat in our diets.   (These are hydrogenated fats contained in many processed foods; they extend the shelf life of foods, and they are spreadable even when they are chilled.)  He has known since the late 1950’s that these fats, while providing energy, are metabolized in unhealthy ways. 

He has a petition before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban these from our diets entirely, but it has yet to be acted upon.  Currently, if a serving of food contains less than half a gram of trans-fat it can be labeled as containing no trans-fat.  These servings can add up. He wants it eliminated entirely.  Hydrogenated fats can be made trans free, but it is more costly.

INTJs form a vision of their world and act accordingly.  His vision is to save the world through healthy eating and finding the causes of heart disease.  His research has long supported that.  When he disagreed with the prevailing wisdom of the times (he always said we should eat eggs and butter and not to be concerned with cholesterol levels), he lost major grant funding for his research. But he found private foundations that listened to him and he carried on.  This ESTJ cannot imagine such a wide focus and such persistence.

INTJs are original. If something blocks him, he finds another way around, rather than accepting “no” as an answer.  And guess what - butter and eggs are now being seen as healthy!  Just wait…high cholesterol levels might be seen that way in 50 more years as well!  This has been helpful to me; without his influence, I might have accepted the status quo much more than I tend to do.

INTJs have routines.  For sixty years, he ate the same breakfast (eggs, oat cereal and fruit), swam at noontime and ate the same meal (Swiss cheese on rye bread with lettuce, apple and milk), and dinner (meat, potatoes, several kinds of vegetables, and fruit). He’s had to cut out swimming but now bikes on a stationary bike.  His diet is much the same! While I have routines, they are much more flexible than his.

Perhaps it is this use of routines that help him cope with the details of life.  He is not one to balance his checkbook or one to remember his wedding anniversary.  But, through his routines, he managed to live frugally and have enough money in his accounts to avoid tracking them very closely.  And he married an independent woman who managed just fine without anniversary cards.   In contrast, the details of life come easily to me. I have always balanced my checkbook and remembered important dates. 

INTJs like to learn.  One of his caregivers is in college; she reads her anatomy books to him, and he learns something each time.  He loves public television documentaries. Having watched him all my life (ESTJs learn from observations), I place a high priority on learning, too.

INTJs are independent and determined.  Most people at his age and in his physical condition would be in an assisted living or nursing facility.  He has arranged his life to avoid those.  There’s no way to tell him to change that!  Many of my friends would say that about me as well, and I got that from observing him.

So I am grateful as an ESTJ to have learned so much from him about how to live in the world and how to ignore it as needed.