Myers-Briggs #7: “But it doesn’t work!”

I take such delight is discussing ideas with people I know in real life.

Sure, you can find someone willing to discuss most anything on the internet (and for that I’m profoundly thankful), but there is something extra special to me about watching someone respond to my thoughts and ideas in real time.  Getting to see how their brains work.

A month or so ago at church, I was “speaking the language” of M-B with someone across the table, and the woman next to us asked what was going on.  So we explained some of the basics I covered in my first article, and the three of us ended up spending about an hour on the topic (it was potluck Sunday).

Friend #2 (the one new to the topic) ended up taking one of the on-line tests and being impressed (as I think we all are upon first exposure) by how accurate the type description was for her.

When we spoke again on the subject it was plain she’d been educating herself. She’d gotten to the place of recognizing people of other types and the four patterns in adults and children and so on.  She saw it as an interesting tool, and I felt excited to have another person in my real world that knew the language.

Then, before long, I got a frustrated e-mail from her.  The description of the type she tested as– though accurate– was off on several key points. And, she said, the quadrant description of the group she was in got her wrong in several important ways.

And I laughed out-loud.  Not at her frustration, but in vivid recollection. Here’s how I responded.

MB is descriptive, and provides a vocabulary.  It opens our eyes to a set of dichotomies that many people are not aware of. (This is the primary goal, and that’s been fulfilled in what you’ve learned.)

The main challenge you have is that maturity (as I see it) has a great deal to do with “fluency” along the whole length of each spectrum (T<—>F, P<—>J, etc).  The more mature and balanced you are, the more difficult it will be for one side to jump up as 100% *you*.

The best way I’ve found to find an elusive M-B preference is to look for which specific areas require more thought or concentration.  As an N-dominant person, I now know why I get exhausted working out details in real-life (as opposed to organizing novels, which is also work, but not nearly as draining), and with that understanding I was able to tell Jay, in the case of Melody’s teeth issue, “I’m worn out dealing with detail-gathering [S & P demanding stuff], can I please just pick somebody who made a good impression [N & F application] and move forward [J]?”

When he said yes, the pall that had been hanging over me for days evaporated.

Most people start out in M-B with Wow, how could a generic description be so accurate?! Then, as this enthusiasm leads to looking closer, they notice inconsistencies between the depths of who they are, and descriptions that are so detailed they seem like they should cover everything.

When I first discovered M-B and recognized it’s accuracy and implications, I was beyond excited.  I think I experienced what Isabel Myers and her mother felt, when they began the project in a genuine effort to promote world peace.

Really. According to her son (in the book linked above) this project was was the direct result of WWII.

Understanding core identity and motivations is a huge part of getting to peace in most relationships, so I can understand this thought process. But what happens (coming back to myself and my frustrated friend) when you don’t fit into one of 16 neat little boxes?

First of all, you can know this is normal.

How do I know? There are pushing-past 7 billion people in the world.  You’re not going to squish that many individuals into 16 boxes and have everyone in each box look the same. So type descriptions make an effort to collect behavior components connected to that combination of four preferences.

I always enjoy it when someone tells me their type and it’s the same as someone else’s that I know. It’s helpful to be reminded that what might bug me about one (that, admittedly, I’d blamed on type), does not exist in the other.

It is my continual reminder that individuals are individuals.  Even when they fall into patterns.

Which I still believe they do.

On one level, once you know the categories and typical motivations (and weakness), M-B theory has done its most-important job for you.  It’s guided you outside of your automatic way of seeing the world, and opened your awareness to different ways of experiencing reality beyond your own.

Congratulations: you are one step ahead of a lot of folks.

But for a lot of us (me included), that’s not good enough.  We see the potential of getting our our type *exactly* pegged, and there is an impatience (approaching at times desperation) to eliminate ambiguity.

If you are frustrated by what you don’t know, I have two thoughts.

  1. Feel free to ask for help or additional input from those who know you (and M-B language) and will listen to you.
  2. Remember that your M-B type doesn’t tell you how to live or who you are (really). It is to provide a language and patterns to understand interactions. Give yourself time. And if it’s painfully hard to wait and watch, that might be an indication you lean toward the J preference of the final scale.

M-B #6: What Not to do with Myers-Briggs Personality Theory

As I hinted at the end of yesterday’s post, there are definitely weak spots in each type, because there are weak spots in all of us.

One of the biggest temptations when one is sure of one’s type is to use the “typical behavior” of the type description to excuse personal flaws.

That flaws are endemic to a type (and to humanity in general) does not make them required or admirable. If anything, they should be considered a warning to take special notice and focus on character issues to address.

One book I read put it this way:

Personality is what you’re born with. Character is what you do with it.

In my mind this is vaguely connected to the line I saw somewhere on Twitter:

Don’t confuse my personality with my attitude. My personality is who I am, and my attitude depends on who you are. (Ha!)

  • If you are an Extravert, that is not an excuse to railroad anyone, or do their talking for them.  Learn to listen, and slow down.  Exercise what discipline it takes to be comfortable alone with your life and thoughts.
  • If you are an Introvert, don’t use that as an excuse to hide from the world or wait for it to pursue you and expertly draw out your brilliance. If your skills are that amazing, you owe it to the world to develop enough social ability to communicate your discoveries in way understood by the culture you live in.
  • If you are a Sensor, think beyond the past and certainly the present.  Recognize your life is what you’re building now, and be careful of immediate gratification at the cost of future security.
    • Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.
  • If you’re an iNtuative, figure out where the ground is, so you can walk on it. This is where most of your life must be lived, so know how to keep your balance.  Learn how to be present in the present; don’t give in to discontent that the “next big thing” has not yet arrived– and that *life* won’t arrive until it does.
  • If you’re a Thinker don’t assume logic alone will solve all problems. After all, “Logic is the way to go wrong with confidence.” Don’t trick yourself into thinking that relationships are optional or only for the weak.
  • If you’re a Feeler, remember that people on the opposite side of your issue feel as strongly about subject as you do: and passion alone is not enough to justify (or sustain) either side of the cause.  Remember there are people you can never please no matter how you try, and you will eventually have to make a stand or you will disappear into all the selfish people who only want your energy.
  • If your outward orientation is your Judging function, remind yourself there will always be things outside of your control.  And this is a good thing.  Be thankful you don’t have the responsibilities of God without His wisdom. Remember that most people enjoy running their own lives as much as you enjoy running yours.  Let them.
  • If your outward orientation is your Perceiving function, remind yourself that you are not the only one whose comfort matters. It’s no one’s job to accommodate you and your flexible view of life.  If you can’t keep a promise, don’t make one. If you say you’ll be on-time, or that you’ll deliver, prove your word. Learn how to make a decision and follow through.

Why get this specific? Because I believe that what we call *maturity* is essentially an acquired fluency along the full spectrum of each set of preferences.  One will always be easier than the other, but we shouldn’t let that trick us into devaluing the preference that demands more effort from us.

All types will do well to remember:

When you screw up, you always have a reason you want a chance to explain.
Assume other people are the same.

Myers-Briggs #5: MIT

With my talk now officially less than two weeks away, I’m coming back to this topic. {wink}

The Most Important Thing about the Myers-Briggs tool (to me, obviously, I’m the one writing this) is the necessity of understanding and accepting our differences.  Especially when it comes to our children.

There is a quote I picked up some time ago, and tucked away in my noveling notes, because it fit one of my characters so well:

I don’t think the deepest hunger of the human heart is to have love for one’s self. Rather, it is to be loved. My goal is not to sit in a room or on a hillside and tell myself how much I love myself. My goal is to mean something to the people who mean the most to me.

My hunger is to have somebody big and powerful and important in my life say, “I love you,” and then I will have the confidence that I am loved. When that big and important and powerful person hurts me and humiliates me and beats me down, it creates the deepest and the most excruciating pain I can ever experience.

(From Pain and Pretending, p. 142; emphasis added)

The point is I don’t see the value in (directly) teaching anyone (our children included) to love themselves.  I think (especially for our children) our job instead is to communicate our high esteem and value for them as they were created. 

When they perceive that we value them, they will have a solid foundation to learn how to value themselves.  (This in contrast to having yet another “to-do” on their list that we don’t do– like going to school.)

Our tendency as human beings is to see where we’ve got it together, assume (not unreasonably) that this is the definition of “together” and try to guide other people to the truth we have discovered.

This is not necessarily bad, because we all can learn from one another.  Where it becomes harmful is when we don’t notice that we are shaping someone into our own image, rather than letting them grow as their differences would take them.

And this does not mean surrendering to the weaknesses of any type: this is where sensitivity and wisdom must combine.  Just because I know my ENFP daughter doesn’t inherenely or automatically “think things through” doesn’t mean I give her a pass to be loopy.  It means (ideally) I have more patience with her as I specifically coach her through this weak spot.

If I can emphasize anything about understanding your child (or any other person in your world, for that matter), get to know who they really are, and strengthen them to become the best version of that they can be.

The post that needs pictures

…that I don’t know how to take.

This is going to be a very chatty, busy post, because that’s what I have today.

You see (actually you can’t see) our house is (by USian standards) very small.  We have one bedroom, that the kids all share.

What’s funny about all this is that I still read those “simplify your life” blogs (or posts) and consider what else I could do to maximize the space I have.  And this Christmas break (Jay’s been home) we’ve done quite a bit and I’m *thrilled* with the results.

Only there’s no way really to show you through the computer, so you’ll just have to come visit, ‘kay?

Since last month (you know, back before our massive rabbit expansion) here’s a list of the space-makers that have improved my quality of life:

  • Changing to a full-size stacked washer/dryer
  • This is huge to me: I can sort (and fold!) laundry in the laundry room now.  Baskets fit in the laundry room instead of spilling into the hosting bathroom.
  • Jay put counter top in the wellroom, so I have a place for my Vitamix and Kitchenaid to hang out and stay easily usable.
  • I moved the miscellanea cabinet into the wellroom, which left my main kitchen feeling more roomy and got my measuring cups and mixing bowls closer to where I use them most.
  • We hung up lots of stuff. Which means it’s contributing to the environment, not cluttering it.
    • There was the stuff that makes the spaces more comfortable/attractive, like my gordian knot quilt in the main room, a miniature knot in the kitchen, and a two hangings in the wellroom (to mute the intense yellow all around).
    • And there were the little things that just made life easier: my Thread Elephant (okay: one of my New Year’s resolutions is officially to get my camera to talk to my laptop.  You all need to hear the thread-elephant story, and it just doesn’t work without a picture.) and a few other things, but the BIG ONE is that Jay hung a florescent tube light fixture in my office (which also happens to be under our double-size loft bed).  This is a big deal because we’re going to add full-spectrum bulbs once we go to the store again, and I’ll be getting that oh-so-important light therapy while I do my writing and computer time.

    Another life-enhancer is just the plain cuteness of bringing in glossy baby angoras.  I’ve been reading about rabbit agility (don’t roll your eyes. You love me, remember?  Just smile at my quirkiness and be supportive, please), and it made me think of the work I used to do in a similar vein with Joule.

    Yes, I miss her.  No, we’re not likely to get another dog.  Jay is loving the pet-free house far too much.

    Rabbits are proving to be a good match for me: they can go from bare-minimum interaction to lap-pet with remarkable dexterity.

    Two of the three new angoras look to be torts (half-way down this page, if you’d like an estimate), and very high-energy.  I expect I’ll experiment with one of these for agility.

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