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?

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”

You know you’re an INTP mom when…

  1. You don’t tell your kids to clean their room because then you would have to clean yours.
  2. You hate baby talk, and prefer to talk to your baby the same way you talk to any other human. You’re constantly asking people to please use real words and complete sentences when they speak to him.
  3. You’ve made Punnett Squares for your family for every observable trait. You know the probability of all of your kids being left-handed.
  4. You don’t like talking to other parents because they always want to talk about kids.
  5. Your kids are always running late for school, and it’s usually your fault.
  6. When your child is upset or fussy, you almost immediately know what he needs because of your extraordinary intuition, perception, and analysis.
  7. You’ve read twenty times more academic articles about child development and pediatric medicine than parenting books or blogs.
  8. You censor your children’s books for factual inaccuracies, grammatical errors, and educational value.
  9. Your children have more books than toys. You collect books for them that they won’t be able to understand for years.
  10. Your child frequently goes to preschool with peanut butter on her face from the day before. You can’t remember the last time you gave her a bath.
  11. While other moms talk about not having enough time for their beauty routine after having a baby, you never had a beauty routine to begin with and have always spent as little time on your appearance as you do now.
  12. You can always understand what your one-year-old is trying to say, even when no one else does. You’re so good at deciphering toddler speech that you often know what other toddlers are trying to say before their parents do.
  13. Every few months you decide you’re going to be totally organized and keep your diaper bag stocked with everything you could possibly need for outings with your baby. After a few days, you decide it’s a waste of time and a symptom of hyper-consumerist over-parenting to carry a diaper bag at all. Also, you forgot to buy diapers again.
  14. You choose baby clothes based on how easy they are to put on. All of your baby’s outfits consist of one article of clothing with no more than one zipper or three snaps.
  15. You are constantly analyzing your children to figure out their Myers-Briggs types.
  16. You started decorating your baby’s nursery while you were pregnant, but then you lost interest and now she’s three years old and still has bare walls and only two pieces of furniture in her room.
  17. Your 2-year-old can correctly identify photos of a nebula and supernova; knows the difference between a rocket, satellite, and space probe; and can name seven different species of whales.
  18. You hope your kid won’t be invited to any birthday parties, because then she’ll want you to throw one for her.
  19. You dread long holiday weekends because you can’t stand the noise and commotion of spending so many days in a row with your spouse and kids.

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 INTP Book

There are very few novels I like because I find that fictional characters tend to be unbelievable, possessing dissonant traits that are contradictory to Myers-Briggs. Writers who don’t know about Myers-Briggs don’t know that you can’t simply choose any combination of personality traits and put them together in one person. Some authors try to make their characters complex to the point of psychological impossibility.

When_you_reach_meWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (which I’ve blogged about briefly before) is my favorite book, and I don’t say that lightly. This book is different. This book is all about INTPs. Despite the fact that it’s a children’s novel, I have never read a better fictional portrayal of INTPs.

There are several INTPs in the book, including a mysterious time traveler. The main character though, 12-year-old Miranda, is probably an INFP. I think of INFPs as “INTP Whisperers”. They make great friends for INTPs. They can understand INTPs well, and act as a translator between INTPs and others. They can be selfless champions of an INTP’s ideas, and can often identify an INTP’s emotional and relational needs better than INTPs themselves. They can also tolerate a lot of INTP eccentricities that deter other friendships, such as their lack of emotional preamble and tendency towards self-absorption. (The author has stated that Miranda is heavily modeled after herself. If Rebecca Stead is an INFP as I suspect, it’s very apt that a book about INTPs would be written by an INFP.)

Miranda becomes friends with an INTP boy named Marcus, and she does all of these things for him. At first she thinks he’s weird because he talks about advanced concepts in math and physics rather than typical 12-year-old stuff, and he doesn’t make small talk or seem to have any other friends. But then she comes to understand him. While she begins to protect Marcus in ways that he’s completely oblivious to, he teaches her how to solve the mystery of the time traveler.

Miranda spends a lot of time thinking about the nature of reality, using the metaphor of a veil. Everyone is born with an invisible veil separating them from the rest of the world, she says:

We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way.

But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love. But mostly we are happy not to. Some people learn to lift the veil themselves. Then they don’t have to depend on the wind anymore.

I’ve thought a lot about those veils. I wonder if, every once in awhile, someone is born without one. Someone who sees the big stuff all the time. Like maybe you [the time traveler].

I re-read this book whenever I’m feeling lost or overwhelmed; I’ve read it over a dozen times. It reminds me of who I am. I am not a stay-at-home mom, a person who does laundry and kisses boo-boos. I am not a homeowner or a wife. I am an INTP, a person without a veil. Most people have to work hard to lift their veil, but I have to work hard to create it.