This might be why I have no friends…

Last weekend I met a woman at a Meetup who I really liked. She seemed to meet all the criteria for someone I would want to be friends with, and I could tell immediately that she was either an INFP or ENFP. We had a really interesting conversation about different theories of personal development and she told me about one theory I’d never heard of. (The specifics are not important to this story.) After she explained it to me, I said, “That’s really interesting; I’ve never thought of that before. But I don’t think that’s true.” I explained why I thought it was wrong and proceeded to tell her about a theory of mine that contradicted hers.

I realized much later that I was kind of being a dick.

While I was listening to her talk about her theory, my train of thought went something like this: “Hmm, that sounds really interesting. No, wait. That’s a logical fallacy. When she stops talking, I’m going to point that out to her and give her this piece of evidence that refutes her theory. She’s trying to be logical but her logic is flawed. This study she just mentioned probably didn’t even have a control group.” And then I responded by telling her these things, but not quite as bluntly.

Why do I do that? Why couldn’t I just be supportive while she was telling me about an idea she was excited about instead of shooting it down? It’s not like it really mattered to me whether her theory was correct or not. Why couldn’t I have been thinking, “Hmm, that sounds really interesting. It’s fun to talk about abstract ideas like this. This theory seems to be important to her, so I should ask her some questions to find out why. If she’s interested in this topic, I think she’ll also be interested in learning about X.”

There are two tracks of thought that follow from conversation. My brain drives the train of logic and reason, and I can’t jump off and find my way to the train of friendship and empathy. Even if I could, I wouldn’t know what to say. Especially when I’m with more than one other person, it’s so hard for me to speak up that pointing out when someone else is being illogical is often the only time I feel really confident jumping into a conversation. I wish I could think—and more importantly, converse—in friend mode instead of fallacy-finding mode all the time.

On the other hand, I hate the idea that I need to change my personality in order to be liked. I’m a Thinker, not a Feeler. That’s my personality type and there’s nothing wrong with it. And while I think I do need to learn to be a better Feeler, I also think Feelers should strive to be more logical thinkers. Otherwise it further reinforces the notion that some personality types are objectively “better” than others, which is not true. I’m completely normal for an INTP, and I shouldn’t have to bend my personality to others anymore than they bend their personality to me.

But on the other hand, it’s also completely normal for an INTP to have no friends.

Is there a way to be more likable while still being true to my personality? Are there better ways to harness INTP-ness for friendship that I’m not seeing?

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Looking for friends

Making local friends has been one of my goals for the past few months, and I’ve been working really hard at it. I have not been very successful. It’s said that making new friends is hard for all moms, and all people over 30, but making friends as an INTP mom is impossible. It’s even harder than dating as an INTP. It doesn’t help that I’ve lived in 3 different states in the past two and a half years, and I never stay in one place long enough to develop lasting friendships. But I think the main problem is that I’m an INTP mom.

Making friends as an INTP is hard enough. I’m bad at initiating conversation, I tend to say things that alienate people, I hate small talk, and I’m not interested in things that most other people are interested in. Throw in the fact that I have a couple of small children, and that alienates the only people who I wouldn’t otherwise alienate by being me.

I’m also pretty picky about who I want to be friends with. There are some times in my life when I’m open to meeting all kinds of people regardless of their personality type, interests, or whether we had anything in common. In college I didn’t really try to make friends, it just happened with whomever happened to be in the same places I was. In my twenties I lived in such small towns that I couldn’t be picky at all, and pretty much had to be friends with everyone else in town, even if I didn’t want to. It worked out, and those friendships had their merits. But at this point in my life, I’m so low on energy and free time that I’m really not willing to spend time with people who I don’t like a lot.

The qualifying criteria for being my friend are someone who:

  1. either likes kids and tolerates my kids’ presence, or is accommodating of the fact that my availability is severely limited by them
  2. does not want to talk about kids or parenting
  3. is a Myers-Briggs iNtuitive
  4. enjoys some of the same types of activities/discussion topics as I do
  5. wants and has time for a new friend
  6. is not an anti-vaxxer or climate change denier

It has been impossible to find people who possess all of the above qualities. #2-4 are very difficult to find in conjunction, even without the other criteria. #1 is usually found only in other moms, and is almost always exclusive of #2 through 4. #5 is probably the most difficult to find because most people I’ve met either already have enough friends and don’t have the time to commit to a new one, or, as in the case of most adult INTPs I’ve known, don’t actually want to make friends and spend time with them. And #6 is surprisingly hard to find among moms. There are not many topics that really matter to me whether someone agrees with me on; I don’t care if someone has different views on religion, politics, breastfeeding, whatever. But I really can’t be friends with anyone who’s completely impervious to science and common sense.

I’ve tried everything. I created a Meetup group for people who would meet the above criteria. I joined regular moms’ groups and attended playdates, hoping to beat the odds and meet someone interesting. I joined non-mom groups that I found interesting, only to find that none of the meetings are scheduled for times that I can attend without children. I even re-joined Facebook, against strong personal convictions, for the sole purpose of joining more local moms’ groups. My last-ditch effort was the Craigslist personals, which sounded crazy at first, then seemed very promising, but turned out to be filled with the same types of people (Sensors) you can find anywhere else.

How do you make friends? Is my quest hopeless?

The Gilmore Girls’ Myers-Briggs types

In my last post I wrote about the Myers-Briggs types of Gilmore Girls characters, as seen in the original series. I have quite a lot to say about Lorelai and Rory.

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Lorelai: ESFJ. She’s very social, focused on relationships, stubborn, and has an opinion about everything. She cares very much about the appearance of things, music, and pop culture. She takes things at face value and doesn’t dig deeper to find hidden meanings. She doesn’t have abstract ideas or much desire for learning and self development. Continue reading “The Gilmore Girls’ Myers-Briggs types”

Gilmore Girls characters and their Myers-Briggs types

Earlier this year I binge-watched Gilmore Girls during long feedings and late nights with my newborn son. I had watched some of the seasons in high school and college because it was popular with my contemporaries, and it was fun because Rory was the same age as me– we both graduated from high school in 2003. Watching it again this year, I realized that I don’t actually like the show. The characters are obnoxious, they talk way too much about pop culture references that I don’t care about at all, and there’s not much substance or character development. But I kept watching, and I’ll be watching the Netflix revival later this week, because those aren’t the reasons I watch TV shows.

When I watch shows or movies, I watch them solely to analyze them. I analyze everything from continuity of the actors’ hair and makeup, to when sets are re-used and supposed to look like a new location, to factual errors, to discrepancies in backstories and timing of events, to whether the floor plan of an interior set is consistent with the facade of the exterior set, to how many articles of clothing are in a character’s wardrobe and which pieces are re-used. But I especially love analyzing characters’ Myers-Briggs types. The problem with that is fictional characters are almost never consistent with MBTI, which makes them both hard to type and hard to like.

I’ve seen other sites that analyze Gilmore Girls characters’ Myers-Briggs types, but I don’t agree with any of them. Really, there’s no right answer because the writers of this show obviously didn’t know about MBTI when they created these characters, which is probably why I find this show so annoying. But here are my best guesses. Continue reading “Gilmore Girls characters and their Myers-Briggs types”

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.

INTP vs. INTJ: Social Skills

This is part of an ongoing series on the differences between INTPs and INTJs, and how those differences are evident in myself and my husband. If you’re not familiar with them, you should first read this primer on Myers-Briggs and cognitive functions.

In my recent interactions with a number of INTJs, I’ve noticed a trait that they all seem to share: in casual conversation, INTJs often seem incredibly smug. This holds true for my INTJ husband, who often seems like a completely different person when he’s interacting with other people compared to when we’re alone. He tends to come off as a smug asshole when talking to people he doesn’t know well.

I thought this air of smugness might be because INTJs think they’re smarter than everyone else, but according to my husband it’s actually a façade of false confidence meant to hide their insecurities in social situations or when interacting with people they don’t know well. (When INTJs actually do think they’re smarter than you, it’s usually so obvious to them that they’re more matter-of-fact or exasperated than smug.)

This got me thinking about the differences in how INTJs and INTPs approach social situations. Continue reading “INTP vs. INTJ: Social Skills”

The awkward tribe

My husband and I wrote our own wedding vows, and one of the things we vowed was to always protect each other. There are many ways of protecting one another—protection from physical harm, emotional protection, financial protection, and even in the future for whichever one of us outlives the other, protecting the other person’s memory and legacy. But there’s one that I hold as a unique and especially sacred duty: we each protect the other from their own awkwardness.

Being an INTP and INTJ, we are incredibly awkward people. We don’t pay attention to social norms, or we just don’t care about them. We say and do things without being aware of how we’re perceived by other people. We don’t know a lot of common-sense things that everyone is supposed to know, and we make a lot of social blunders.

I often feel like I am the biggest victim of my own awkwardness. When I say or do something awkward in the presence of others, even if they don’t say anything about it (which they often do), a look of recognition will pass over their eyes for a moment, a look that says, “that was awkward, and I feel sorry for you.” That look is my own awkwardness bouncing off of them and coming back to attack me. It magnifies my awkwardness to see it reflected back in the words or expression of others, and it destroys my social motivation. It can happen with anyone and at any moment, and sometimes I dread social interactions because I fear being attacked by my awkwardness.

With my husband, I was never afraid of that. He always absorbed all of my awkwardness so I never had to face it again. He passed by every opportunity to magnify my blunders, and every time he did it felt like a gift. That was one of the first things that made me feel like I belonged with him. And even though we are both awkward, we are awkward in different ways, and our awkwardness cancels each other out because we both want to bring out the best in each other. We protect each other from being victims of our own weaknesses, of which awkwardness is one.

Of course, protecting each other from awkwardness is a fine line because another sacred duty of intimate relationships is making fun of your partner when they do stupid things. So you have to learn to quickly distinguish between awkwardness and stupidity. You have to know when calling attention to your partner’s blunders would cause them shame and embarrassment, and when it would bring great mutual enjoyment.

This intimate navigation of the sea of awkwardness has made me more aware of awkwardness in a wider sphere. I’ve taken it as my duty to protect other awkward people from their own awkwardness, especially other INTP’s, because we are the most awkward people of all. When I recognize someone making an awkward blunder, I try to absorb the awkwardness so they don’t have to be doubly punished for it. If the faux pas occurs in a group setting, I try to intercede so the conversation doesn’t linger over the reflection of their awkwardness in the stagnant looks and comments from others in the group. I resist the urge to say the words that would come the easiest, those that would magnify their embarrassment, and it feels like a sacrifice to give up the witty remarks that for me are so hard to come by.

It’s hard for us INTP’s to belong. It’s hard for us to make witty conversation, to feel a part of a group, and often the easiest way to do it is to seize on another person’s awkwardness and allow them to pay the price of discomfort in exchange for our momentary feeling of belonging. I’ve never found a true place of belonging apart from being with my husband, but when I try to protect someone else from feeling the shame of their own awkwardness, it feels like we are part of the same tribe.