Self-perception and others’ perception

I once got into an argument with a coworker, an ESFJ. She had said something I found offensive, I explained why, we discussed it and made amends. At the end of the conversation she said this was a new experience for her because, “I’ve never had anybody not like me before.” That sentence stunned me. She really believed that out of all the people she had ever encountered, not a single one disliked her.

It seems pretty common for ESJs to believe that they are universally, or at least overwhelmingly, liked. They can have this confidence not only because their personality allows it, but also because it’s probably mostly true. The ESTJ and ESFJ personality types are dominant both in terms of proportion of the population and their status in American culture. Our culture idealizes these types, specifically ESFJ for women and ESTJ for men. People generally tend to like others who are similar to themselves, and SJs are definitely in the majority numbers-wise.

In addition, Judgers are generally less attuned to others’ perception of them than are Perceivers. Whereas Perceivers are input-oriented, taking in the maximum amount of information from their surroundings at the expense of action, Judgers will only take in as much information as they need to form an action or response, and then are less open to new possibilities. So it stands to reason that Judgers are more likely than Perceivers to believe that others have a favorable opinion of them, because people tend not to openly show dislike of a person, and it may take careful observation of their facial expressions, tone, and body language to figure out what they’re really thinking.

Since Sensors focus on sensory information, I suspect also that they may be more likely to take others’ perceived opinion of them at face value. Whereas iNtuitives focus on what can’t be seen, and are more likely to assume that others have unspoken underlying thoughts, Sensors may assume that others’ outward expressions accurately reflect their inner feelings.

It seems entirely foreign to me that a person could go through life thinking that everybody likes them. I have gone through life thinking nearly the opposite. I assume that most people don’t like me, because as an INTP I am very different from most people, and because I have encountered relatively few people who I genuinely like beyond a first impression. Because I am always taking in information and analyzing sensory information for deeper meaning, in social interactions I tend to interpret any negative cues as an indication of deeper dislike. I am very sensitive to tone of voice and the unspoken messages in other people’s words. (Ironically, I’m not so adept at controlling my own tone of voice, and I often seem to convey messages differently from the way I intended.)

(On a side note, while people generally don’t tell you to your face that they don’t like you, they usually do tell you when they don’t like somebody else. I’ve found that it’s pretty common for someone to say “I don’t like people who [fill in the blank]” without knowing that I also [fill in the blank].)

I wonder how life would be different if I went about life assuming that everyone liked me. Sometimes people who have that kind of confidence (or overconfidence) think they can do no wrong, and use it as license to say things that are rude or offensive, believing that anybody who was offended would say so. I’ve encountered a few people like that. But I also think that if I believed others always had a positive opinion of me, I would have a more positive opinion of myself, and be less eager to mold myself for the sake of pleasing others.


1 thought on “Self-perception and others’ perception”

  1. Don’t forget that J types can be dominant perceivers (and vice versa with the P types). Like with the INTJ, although they’re a J type, their dominant function — Ni — is a perceiving function. Granted, it’s easier to see and pick up on their auxiliary J function since their Te is externalised.

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