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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  1. Sarah Trujillo

    #1 by Sarah Trujillo - June 23, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    Jean -- thanks for the post! I was in your Step II class right before you left for your trip. It is so great to come to the blog and get an update on your trip. It sounds fabulous! Thanks for sharing....what a great friend for sure :).
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