How Well Do You Know Yourself?

The wife recently asked me to take the Jung/Myers Briggs personality test available here. Probably wanted to find out what’s wrong with me. It was relatively pain free and the results mostly jived with my sense of self. Take it and tell me what you think of the results.

I’m an INFJ or “Idealist Counselor”. Here are some excerpts from the “Idealist Counselor” description:

Counselors have an exceptionally strong desire to contribute to the welfare of others, and find great personal fulfillment interacting with people, nurturing their personal development, guiding them to realize their human potential. Although they are happy working at jobs (such as writing) that require solitude and close attention, Counselors do quite well with individuals or groups of people, provided that the personal interactions are not superficial, and that they find some quiet, private time every now and then to recharge their batteries. Counselors are both kind and positive in their handling of others; they are great listeners and seem naturally interested in helping people with their personal problems. Not usually visible leaders, Counselors prefer to work intensely with those close to them, especially on a one-to-one basis, quietly exerting their influence behind the scenes.

Except for the fact that I could be a much more patient listener, that’s accurate to the point of almost creepy. Helps explain why I prefer small dinner get-togethers to large cocktail parties and why I loathe self-promoters. There’s more.

Counselors are scarce, little more than three percent of the population, and can be hard to get to know, since they tend not to share their innermost thoughts or their powerful emotional reactions except with their loved ones. They are highly private people, with an unusually rich, complicated inner life. Friends or colleagues who have known them for years may find sides emerging which come as a surprise. Not that Counselors are flighty or scattered; they value their integrity a great deal, but they have mysterious, intricately woven personalities which sometimes puzzle even them.

Isn’t blogging going against the Counselor grain? Not necessarily. I share thoughts and emotions, but not my innermost thoughts or most powerful emotional reactions. I’ll probably peel more layers off over time, but never get to the core in this format at least.

Counselors tend to work effectively in organizations. They value staff harmony and make every effort to help an organization run smoothly and pleasantly. They understand and use human systems creatively, and are good at consulting and cooperating with others. As employees or employers, Counselors are concerned with people’s feelings and are able to act as a barometer of the feelings within the organization.

That explains in part why I’ve been in a professional funk. My workplace has lacked harmony for quite awhile. Outnumbered by those who think people’s feelings are unimportant, I’ve thrown in the towel on trying to help things run smoothly and pleasantly.

Blessed with vivid imaginations, Counselors are often seen as the most poetical of all the types, and in fact they use a lot of poetic imagery in their everyday language. Their great talent for language-both written and spoken-is usually directed toward communicating with people in a personalized way. Counselors are highly intuitive and can recognize another’s emotions or intentions – good or evil – even before that person is aware of them. Counselors themselves can seldom tell how they came to read others’ feelings so keenly. This extreme sensitivity to others could very well be the basis of the Counselor’s remarkable ability to experience a whole array of psychic phenomena.

Psychic phenomena strikes me as over the top. And do you think they purposely write all the descriptions as positively as possible so that everyone feels better about themselves? And you gotta love the examples of other Counselors—Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Goodall. Nice company to keep. I’m a confident writer and speaker, but as clearly demonstrated in Wednesday’s “Fall” post, I’m anything but poetic. And when it comes to others’ feelings, my antenna do seem more finely tuned than most.

For example, I picking up on things right now. You think I’ve been a bit self-absorbed in this post and I’ve gone on too long. Points well taken.

The Intrapersonal Conundrum

Recently I advocated accepting and adapting to people’s irritating behaviors rather than trying to change them. But what about our own irritating behaviors? How do we know when to accept them versus when to commit to trying to change them?

Of course, not everyone is introspective; as a result, some people lack self understanding. Ask them which of their behaviors most irritate the people they’re in relationships with and they draw a complete blank. I’m probably too reflective for my own good, regularly engaging in self-assessment. One limitation I’m keenly aware of is an aversion to personal networking. Closely related to that, I suck at self-promotion.

Among other ripple effects, this blog has a small readership and my professional successes exist mostly within my classrooms. A colleague of mine is the opposite, a brilliant networker and self-promoter. A mediocre teacher, she’s developed a national reputation as an expert in a very specific sub-category of education. She travels all the time and speaks to large groups for lots of money.

Am I envious? Not on a personal level, but maybe professionally. I would enjoy more consulting opportunities than the one or two a year I average. But not enough to change. I understand that there’s a perfect correlation between my lack of networking initiative and the number of consulting gigs I get.

Even though social and professional networking skills are more important than ever, I’m perfectly content not being a networker or self promoter. In fact, I don’t want to get better at networking or self promotion. I’m an educator, so I’m not anti-social, I just have no patience for the phoniness on which so much of it seems to rest. “Here’s my card.” “Who cares.”

Another limitation I’m keenly aware of is a deeply rooted counter-cultural propensity for saving. My dad grew up during the Depression, and it left an indelible mark on him, and so I blame his hyper-frugal modeling. But unlike my aversion to personal networking, this is a limitation I want to change.

Here’s one of millions of examples of my often irrational economic behavior. One day in Chengdu, China I argued at length with a Carrefour manager about socks I purchased. Despite being on sale, the socks were rung up at the regular price. Our language differences, the store’s employee hierarchy, and my stubbornness made for a combustible, and in hindsight, hilarious combination.

In this area of my life, I want to act more rationally, so I’m working on loosening up.

What explains my markedly different way of thinking about these two personal limitations?

I’m not sure.