It looks like I began writing this in 2013.
New ways of seeing can become new sets of blinders. MBTI was like this for me. It opened my eyes to realizing that people are more varied than I had previously imagined. It helped me understand and explain people better than I was ever able to before. It almost felt like a superpower: I felt like I was better able to predict (to a minor but noticeable degree) how interactions between people would play out. The blinders had come off.
Eventually I would nurture a deep understanding of the system. Rather than memorize the 16 types, I studied the 8 functions that determine them. Once you understand the functions and how they play off of each other, you can recreate the mbti profile.
For example, ENTPs have extraverted intuition as their dominant function. They’re good at seeing connections and linkages between disparate ideas. So they tend to be witty, clever, quick on their feet. The opposite of extraverted intuition is introverted sensing.
People tend to not develop the inverse of their dominant function. If you love introverted thinking you’re probably not a big fan of extroverted feeling. These are assumptions, and they’re about preference, not aptitude. People’s weak suit tend to be the inverse of their strong suit. This is a blatant, blunt assumption. I estimate that it’s correct about maybe 65% of the time. The more developed the person, the harder it is to make any predictions. Barack Obama for example is difficult to type, and I’m not sure if there’s any point in trying.
So if these assumptions hold- ENTPs are witty and quick to connect the dots, but they’re perhaps less disciplined, less consistent, less self-aware. Vague stuff like that. If you have great introverted feeling- powerful sense of ideals, values, virtues, etc- you’re probably not a big fan of extraverted thinking: execution, decision-making, making deals and tradeoffs.
The map is not the territory
Does that sound about right? It’s fun and interesting to explore as a model, but it’s ultimately just that: a model. People are more complex than these models predict, and we don’t really fall into these neat tidy categories. Also, aptitude tends to matter more than attitude when predicting an outcome- just because you like logic doesn’t mean you’re good at it.
Finally, worst of all- such models are unintentionally prescriptive. People aren’t well equipped to accept that they could be wildly different- remember, you’re always just one traumatic head injury from becoming a completely different person! So we tend to pick narratives- usually whatever’s been chosen for us- and reinforce them.
I’m not saying that people are blank slates- I think spending time with young children, even infants, makes it very clear that different people have different mannerisms and personalities from the start.
The problem I think is oversimplification: mistaking the map for the territory. This is where a new way of seeing becomes a new set of blinders. We start living in the map. It’s okay to make plans, projections and predictions but it’s more important not to be a sucker- to realize that you’ll never know when your neat, tidy model will fail you… until it does. And sometimes this sort of failure can be devastating. So it’s very important to protect against downside. What’s the worst that happens when your model fails, and how do you protect against it? These are important questions!
That which liberates you can also shackle you.
What is something that you’ve cut out of your life?
I used to be a huge mbti nerd, I can still talk about it for hours if necessary. But I feel like there’s something that isn’t captured in that dichotomy that ruins the picture for me. I don’t really think it’s even adequately captured by any of the type differences.
I’m talking about pushiness, a propensity or willingness to interrupt others. To impose one’s will on another and not take no for an answer. Different people are forceful in this manner to different degrees. They have different ideas about what is acceptable.
I know self-identified introverts who are pushy and self-identified extroverts who are not. I think I fall into that last category. I talk a lot. I’m very noisy. I have a low signal-to-noise ratio. I used to be a Facebook power user. I know, I was really annoying by posting too much stuff that most people weren’t interested in, but might’ve felt socially obligated to put up with.
But I believed (or I think I believe) in the relative sanctity of personal space. I believe that sparing people shame is the greatest good.
I don’t like obligations. I don’t like making promises. As a consequence I can be really irresponsible- it’s a problem. I walk away from things. I miss deadlines.
But I don’t impose my will on people. If you don’t wanna hang out, its cool with me. It’s strange for me to realize on hindsight that two of the guys who gave me the most shit for being unavailable were self-identified introverts. I know extroverts who do the same thing of course, but with them it kinda comes with the territory.
Butthurt alone doesn’t change reality
I guess the important takeaway for me is to realise that I live in a world that doesn’t necessarily see things the way I do, like things the way I do. I think it was my boss who pointed out that I have a different perspective on broken promises, etc compared to other people. And the thing about reality is that it doesn’t give a shit- things don’t conform to my perspective just because I wish it were so.
Perhaps I could make it so by building an empire under me, where people conform to my expectations or GTFO- but that is a whole other challenge altogether. In the meantime, if I want to get what I want in a world that doesn’t care, I’m going to have to learn the ways of others. It’s only polite, really. Less butthurt, more acknowledgement of reality.