People have often wondered aloud, “Can’t we all just get along?” Especially in times of turmoil, it seems to us that there are members of society that have difficulty fitting in. They are different from us, and rarely do we understand why. Very few people take the time to understand their own personality type, so human interactions can get out of hand very quickly. Understanding yourself, and the other personality types that exist can go a long way toward making everyone’s lives happier and more peaceful. At least… that’s the theory.
Having terminated a relationship with a beautiful, young woman, she sent me a book titled Please Understand Me. It was my first introduction to the idea of personality types. The book describes personality types that are very similar to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI) that I am more familiar with. Since then, I have taken this kind of test several times under different circumstances. My first job after college was at a nuclear plant, where every employee was required to take a similar test. The goal was to improve performance and efficiency at the plant. The idea being, if you understand yourself and others, then it will be easier to work together with fewer hostile confrontations. I scored zero percent on the conformity scale in that test. In other words, I am totally immune to peer pressure, and I’m not the least bit politically correct. This should be no surprise to anyone who has actually met me.
Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers identified four primary personality traits, with two options in each category. This results in “only” sixteen different combinations. Everyone has aspects of each trait, however we all prefer one aspect over the other. I am “borrowing” most of this information from Wikipedia, where you can find more information on the subject than you are probably willing to absorb. Please note that there is no right or wrong. No type is considered better or worse than another. (I tend to disagree with this of course, but I’m willing to let people suffer through life using the personality type they prefer,) Here are the four major categories:
The extroverted types learn best by talking and interacting with others. By interacting with the physical world, extroverts can process and make sense of new information.
The introverted types prefer quiet reflection and privacy. Information processing occurs for introverts as they explore ideas and concepts internally.
Sensing/Intuition The second continuum reflects what people focus their attentions on.
Sensing types are good at concrete and tangible things. They enjoy a learning environment in which the material is presented in a detailed and sequential manner. Sensing types often attend to what is occurring in the present, and can move to the abstract after they have established a concrete experience.
Intuitive types are good at abstract things and ideas. They prefer a learning atmosphere in which an emphasis is placed on meaning and associations. Insight is valued higher than careful observation, and pattern recognition occurs naturally for intuitive types.
Thinking/Feeling The third continuum reflects a person’s decision preferences.
Thinking types desire objective truth and logical principles and are natural at deductive reasoning.
Feeling types place an emphasis on issues and causes that can be personalized while they consider other people’s motives.
Judging/Perceiving The fourth continuum reflects how a person regards complexity.
Judging types tend to have a structured way or theory to approach the world. They will always try to make accommodation between new information and their structured world, which might only be changed with discretion.
Perceiving types tend to be unstructured and keep options open. They will be more willing to change without having a prior structured world.
Let me give you three examples of how this has applied to my life in the past.
While running for President in 2003, I had a young college student acting as my chauffeur from convention to convention. The first day I set out flyers, buttons, bumper stickers, and spent nearly sixteen hours “shaking hands and kissing babies”. When my assistant and I returned to our hotel room very late at night, I was buzzing with energy like a child after a day at Disneyland. My assistant said, “Holy shit! Are we going to have to do that EVERYWHERE we go?” I said, “Yes. That’s what a political campaign is all about.” I know that there are few people as extroverted as I am, but I never imagined the level of introversion that was possible. I promised him that if he drove me to the convention, and picked me up afterwards, he could stay at the hotel all day to work on the computer. This made both of us very happy. It helps to know how other people are different than you. Not wrong. Just different.
A Second Amendment patriot was planning a rally where everyone attending would be armed. A website was created to collect the names of a million people willing to participate before any event was planned. After careful consideration, I added my name to the list. During dinner with a friend, we argued for two solid hours about me adding my name to the list. I was confused. I didn’t understand what the argument was about. It is my life, and my decision. I am a person who likes to make a decision as quickly as possible. As a skydiving instructor, this frequently happens in tenths of a second. My friend likes to collect as much data as possible before making any decision. It took me a long time, but I eventually realized that he was not angry that my name was on the list. He was disturbed by the fact that I hadn’t asked anyone for advice before I made my decision. Now that I realize this about my friend, our relationship is much smoother. I often feel like I already know the answer while he is still analyzing the data before coming to a conclusion. Everyone processes information differently.
After reading the book, I mailed Please Understand Me to my mother. She called a few days later indicating that it was “the best book she had ever read”. Apparently my mother imagined herself the only person in the world who saw things the way she did. While reading the book she discovered that there are other people who share the same personality type. Mom was thrilled to realize that she was not alone. In fact, I was dating a woman who had exactly the same personality type as my mother. They were “two peas in the same pod”. If you have a sense that you are a unicorn – so unique that you feel ostracized by the world, it may comfort you to know that a percentage of the population feels the same way that you do. You are not alone. Just “special”.
I invite you to visit this website to find out your personality type, especially if you’ve never done so before. It’s a good idea to have family members take the test, too. Please leave a comment to say what your personality type is, and why you perceive the world the way in which you do. As an added bonus – anyone who can correctly guess MY Myers-Briggs type before the end of the month will get a free copy of my audio book.
Only one person confidently guessed my correct Myers-Briggs profile. Only a few people had timid guesses. I have always felt like my profile was tattooed across my forehead. I guess not. If you are at all interested:
An extrovert “charges his/her batteries” when they are around people. An introvert likes people, but they need to have lots of “alone time”. Being in a crowd wears them out. My first presidential campaign stop lasted all day as I was shaking hands and kissing babies. I felt like an eight year old who had just spent a day at Disneyland. I was pumped on adrenalin. If you don’t know that I’m an extrovert, then we’ve probably never met face to face.
I do extremely well with abstract ideas, but I insist on examining concrete, tangible things first. This makes me an “N” for this category.
Once again, I am emotional guy. I openly cry at movies. But… I never let my emotions cloud my thought process. I considered Star Trek’s Mr. Spock to be an emotional crybaby. Thinking types desire objective truth and logical principles and are natural at deductive reasoning. This makes me a “T”, without question.
Judging types tend to have a structured way or theory to approach the world. I am very confident about my conclusions, which other people find suspicious. They are not as confident, so they can’t imagine that I am. I am a very solid “J” here.
I am proud to be an “ENTJ”, which is only two percent of the population.