Introspection. You hear about it a lot in Objectivism. Oists talk about how difficult and long a process it is and how important it is to know thyself. And I totally agree. But what nobody ever says is HOW to introspect. This might sound kinda silly, but nobody ever tells you exactly how to think systematically and rationally. They just tell you to do it and call you out when you don’t get it right.
I’ve always found introspection hard. Yes I have a brain and I’m smart, but when I sit down to think about something, my mind often shoots out in a zillion different directions if I don’t have some kind of structure. Hence, it can take me a while to reach a definite conclusion. And thinking about myself and my personality has always been the worst. I’m with me all the time, so I see all sides of myself in all contexts. Pinning down myself, my traits, and my character has always been difficult. (Despite the number of Myspace surveys I’ve filled out!)
Enter Kelly and Jenn all a twitter (literally) about Myers-Briggs personality types. First, I was extremely confused why Twitter had suddenly erupted with all these letters. Then after reading I was mildly intrigued, but not at all sold. To me the personality type quiz was just another Facebook test, not really accurate, but fun to take and compare with friends. I got INTJ the first time and reading the personality profile I thought, “OH MY GOD THIS IS SO ME!” My friends who knew more about the types rolled their eyes in the background. And with good reason. I am so not an INTJ. But the fact that I jumped on the somewhat similar profile type indicated I didn’t know much about myself. And as I became more interested and knowledgeable about the types, I grew to learn myself better.
At the thrift store I happened upon a book called Do What You Are. It’s about using Myers-Brigg personality types to find a career that suits you. The first few chapters broke down each trait of the classic four-part personality types. It gave in depth descriptions of each of the types and provided examples of how a person possessing a certain trait might act. Then at the end of every chapter it presented a continuum between the two traits and you marked where you thought you fell on it, similar to this:
Rather than taking a quick test, I read about each trait and really thought about where I fit in on each continuum. After going through the the first few chapters, I pegged myself as an ENFJ. In the later chapters of the book there were in-depth profiles of each type, as well as a career profile giving examples of what each types strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes were. Reading on, I didn’t identify much with the ENFJ profiles. I followed the book’s suggestion in this situation, which was to go back and read other profiles, changing out traits where I was borderline. After lots of reading and flipping back and forth, I decided upon INFP. It was the most like me, and reading through the career profile I had flashbacks to various working experiences which fit the profile almost perfectly. I hate conflict. I like flexible schedules. I work best when I think it’s in line with my deeply held values. I get caught up in ideas and skim over details. I prefer to work alone, but occasionally with others for meaningful feedback. Reading through the profile and doing some of the exercises I became more clear of what I needed in a job and I was clearly able to see why previous jobs were enjoyable or completely miserable. It was a revelation!
At the moment, this is where I think I fit into the types.
Since reading the book I find the Myers-Briggs types to be particularly useful in understanding myself. I think I’m Introverted, but only slightly. Still working that one out. I definitely straddle the I/E fence a lot. Different contexts bring it out one side or the other. For example, among friends or discussing something I really care about, I’m an ebullient chatterbox. But at a frat party I clam up and drift off into my own world. And in situations with new people, I can be equally shy or open. I sway back and forth and I’m still trying to figure it out.
I’m very Intuitive. I love big ideas and projects and often get swept away in my imagination of things. I tend to connect everything together by similar concepts and very rarely focus on minute details. I’ve found this can be both a very good and bad trait. The good: I can come up with super creative ideas and projects and see the bigger picture at the end. The bad: I tend to overlook reality or cut short projects when I get to the nitty gritty work.
I’m a pretty moderate Feeler. This is probably the most important trait I’ve discovered about myself. I’ve ALWAYS had issues dealing with my emotions and getting past them. Example: it took me a solid year to get over my first boyfriend and we only dated 5 weeks.In discovering that I’m a Feeler, I’ve realized the reason handling my emotions was always so hard is because I rejected that side of myself. I would never let myself fully experience a feeling and get it all out, thus it clung on inside me, bothering for months on end. Since learning about the personality types, I’ve discovered that when something happens, I need to have an emotional reaction right then and there, and let it be as intense as necessary. Over the past few months I’ve worked to do this and I’m much more emotionally stable!
And last, I think I’m a P, but only a little. Similar to Introversion/Extroversion, I’m on the fence when it comes to Perceiving/Judging. I’m a compulsive list maker and often need to know what is going to happen in the future, whether it be today, next month, or 10 years from now. But at the same time I can be very easygoing and I’ve really learned to just see where things go. The move to Atlanta definitely proves that. I also feel like I would be on time a lot more if I were very J. This one I still need to think on quite a bit.
I’ve also found the personality types to be incredibly useful in figuring out and dealing with other people. By taking the time to consider what type someone might be, I’m forced to think about their behavior and consider their motivations. By the end of the process I feel like I understand them better and I know how to interact with them. For example, I know Kelly’s P-ness is huge (hehe), and so I expect her not to want to plan things out very far in advance. With that knowledge, I know we’re more likely to hang out if I don’t call her several weeks out. Understanding her personality type leads to more fun and less stress. Hooray! Another example: Reid is introverted. Not as much as most other math dorks, but he is definitely in his head. Which means he is often oblivious to the outside world and misses things. Instead of getting flustered, I know he just needs to be reminded sometimes of certain things. Again, understanding him and his type reduces the stress and makes our relationship move much smoother. The more I talk and think about the types, the more discoveries I make in myself and other people. My dad and I had a big discussion about it in the car and telling him about it helped us mend some rifts that were caused between the clash of him being a Thinker and me being a Feeler. Awesome. Sauce.
I’ve found the personality types to be a great tool for understanding personalities and improving relationships. I consider the types a guide for understanding people, but not a dogma. I think people can change and their types along with them. But overall, the types are a very Good and Useful Thing.