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.

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How Myers-Briggs type affects socioeconomic status

I found a very interesting infographic on Myers-Briggs from a career website. You can click here to see it in full, but I’ll break down the most thought-provoking parts below: myersbriggs-personality-socioeconomic-status_525f2eea9b337_w587

If you look at one of the four type dimensions at a time, you can see some clear patterns. J’s rank ahead of P’s in income across the board; they are more ambitious, driven and action-oriented than P’s, who are observers more than initiators. E’s generally pull ahead of I’s, which makes sense given that social acumen matters a lot when it comes to job interviews, business deals or salary negotiations. T’s tend to have higher income than F’s.

ENTJ’s pull far ahead of all other types in income, leaving the other NT Rationals in the dust. Like all NTs, ENTJ’s are brilliant, analytical, behind the scenes thinkers, but unlike P’s they are driven and goal-oriented, and unlike INT’s they have the social skills and initiative to take advantage of every opportunity.

Of course, income is highly dependent on the kinds of career fields that each type is inclined to choose. F’s are probably more likely to go into lower-paying fields because they prioritize the emotional dimensions of a career over how much they pay, and are probably more likely to go into non-profit fields. P’s are also more likely to choose lower-paying careers because they value the process of a task more than the endpoint, and are less likely than J’s to see work as a means to an end. P’s value the gaining of information, experiences, and perspectives, and may want to maximize personal growth and fulfillment rather than income. As a group, SJ’s have the highest income, and they are probably the group least likely to prioritize intrinsic value over income.

I don’t know how this survey was conducted, but since this is average household income and not average individual income, it also bears thinking about the kinds of households that each type is inclined to form. SJ’s are the most likely to get married, but also the most likely to have a stay-at-home mom. I’d like to say that S’s and N’s are inclined to marry within their own groups, but (as much as I wish that were the case because it seems obvious to me that S’s and N’s live in completely different worlds and have a hard time understanding each other) I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that. However, I do suspect that the large income disparity within the NT Rationals might be due to the fact that they are less likely than other types to marry, especially the NTP’s. Continue reading “How Myers-Briggs type affects socioeconomic status”

Parenting by Type

Anyone who has spent time around babies knows that children have unique personalities almost from birth, but you may not know that even babies’ and toddlers’ personalities are influenced by their Myers-Briggs types. Nurture by Nature by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger is a parenting guide that recognizes that at all ages, a child’s unique Myers-Briggs type influences their behavior and their needs. It is never too early to gain an understanding of your child’s type and tailor your parenting approach to it.

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We are each born with one Myers-Briggs type that remains the same throughout life. According to the book, most children’s complete Myers-Briggs type will become identifiable around age three or four, with at least one of the four type dimensions identifiable by age one or two. Usually it’s the dominant function (Sensing, iNtuition, Thinking, or Feeling) that can be seen first. I have definitely found this to be the case, based on what I’ve observed in my 16-month-old daughter and her toddler friends. From the time they were barely crawling infants, aspects of their type have been apparent, and usually become even stronger as they grow.

As a Myers-Briggs enthusiast, I’ve been eager to identify my daughter’s personality type since before she was conceived. But I have to stress that this is not due to a desire to pigeonhole her or control her destiny; rather, I want to understand her natural tendencies so I can help her grow in the direction of her potential. Instead of imposing my interests and desires on her, like forcing her to be rational if she’s a Feeler or encouraging her to focus on solitary activities if she’s an Extrovert, I can help her define and explore her own interests, and encourage her to develop her strengths even if they differ from mine.

The book is split into two parts. Part One gives a detailed introduction of Myers-Briggs and tips to help you identify your child’s type. This section is very comprehensive and would even be a good introduction for adults who are interested in learning about Myers-Briggs and figuring out their own type. These chapters cover the basics of the four dimensions of type, the cognitive functions, Kiersey temperaments, and brief descriptions of each type. You will need to know your own type and that of your child, as well as anyone else in the family, in order to fully utilize this book. Continue reading “Parenting by Type”

Beyond the surface

 

Among Myers-Briggs types, INTPs are probably the type least likely to have children and the type least suited to stay-at-home-parenthood, and it’s not hard to figure out why. You constantly have a little person in your face and never get a moment of silence or solitude, which is draining for I’s. You deal mostly with basic physical needs of a person who (as an infant and toddler) isn’t capable of abstraction, which is boring for N’s. You need a lot of patience, empathy, and emotional responsiveness because young children are irrational by nature, which is challenging for T’s. And you need an ability to self-regulate and an organized system to counter the chaos, which is not an easy task for P’s. All of this leaves me utterly exhausted, mentally starved, and emotionally drained at the end of the day.

Then there are all the extraneous activities that typical SAHMs spend a lot of time on: crafting, baking, sewing, knitting, decorating, S-type activities ad nauseum. I completely avoid those activities, as I can’t think of anything less interesting.

But if you look beyond all that surface stuff, I think being an INTP mom is awesome, and I think INTPs (and NTs in general) are exceptionally well-suited to parenthood. Why? Exactly because it’s easy for us to look beyond the surface stuff. Continue reading “Beyond the surface”

INTP vs. INTJ: Expressing emotions

This is the second post in an ongoing series on the differences between INTJs and INTPs, as observed in my husband and myself. If you’re not familiar with them, you should first read this primer on Myers-Briggs and cognitive functions.

Both INTJs and INTPs are often perceived to be cold, unfeeling, and emotionally distant. We are not as skilled as other types at displaying and communicating emotion, but we do experience emotions very deeply and have a strong need for emotional intimacy—albeit with very few people.

This has to do with our cognitive functions. Because the Feeling function is low on the hierarchy for both types, it is less developed and our emotional ability is less mature than our other functions. For INTPs the Feeling function is extraverted (denoted as Fe) and is the inferior function (fourth in the dominance hierarchy), whereas for INTJs the Feeling function is introverted (denoted as Fi) and is the tertiary function.

As an INTP I express emotions outwardly, and I have a hard time controlling them. My expressions tend to be exaggerated, whether I’m angry or happy, causing my emotions to appear outwardly more extreme than I actually feel. My mood can change suddenly without warning. If I’m having a serious conversation with someone but remember something funny that happened to me last month, I will start laughing uncontrollably without being able to moderate my response.

My husband KJ’s feelings are directed inward because of his Fi, and he has a hard time expressing them outwardly. Continue reading “INTP vs. INTJ: Expressing emotions”

INTP vs. INTJ: living in the moment

This is the beginning of an ongoing series on the differences between INTJs and INTPs, as I observe them in my husband and myself. I used to think these two types were very similar, but being married to an INTJ has quelled that misconception. Of course there are many obvious differences between P’s and J’s—P’s like spontaneity, J’s are planful; J’s are organized, P’s are scattered; P’s are indecisive, J’s like to reach a quick conclusion. But as I continue to learn more about myself and my husband, there are many interesting differences between us that are unexpectedly influenced by our Myers-Briggs types.

My husband and I often talk about what our lives were like before we met and how they have changed since. I think that I was happier as a single person than he was, but since we’ve been together, he is happier than I am when we’re apart. (Our relationship was long-distance from the beginning, and our marriage is still quasi-long-distance thanks to his job.) This has to do with our ability to live in the moment, and whether our minds are naturally oriented to the present or the future.

As a P, I am able to live in the present really well because I’m constantly taking in information about present experiences and processing them. While I was single in the years between college and meeting my husband, I filled my life with activities and experiences that I enjoyed doing alone. My future was open, and even though I wanted to fall in love and have a family, I knew there was a possibility that might never happen, and I was okay with it because I was happy.

My husband’s mind-space is always in the future because as a J, he loves to make plans. It was always his goal to have a family, and many of his other plans and decisions in life depended on it. Without that piece of the puzzle, he wasn’t able to proceed with other plans, and he wasn’t able to enjoy the present when the future was unknown.

When we’re apart during the week, he doesn’t feel very lonely because the big picture is still present to him. Having our family motivates him and gives him the sense of purpose that he needs, whereas I am more prone to forgetting things that are not present. I enjoy the “now” of being with my family more than our future plans.

The future is much more tangible to my husband than it is to me. As long as the future looks bright, he is able to be happy even if the present is dull. If the future is bad or unknown, he can’t enjoy the present even if it’s good. I am the opposite; I can live in the moment and enjoy the present no matter what the future looks like, but if the present moment is crappy, it affects me a lot even if the big picture looks bright.

Do your thoughts live mostly in the present or the future (or the past)? What’s your Myers-Briggs type?

Know thyself

Learning about Myers-Briggs personality types has helped me in so many ways, but for a long time I thought it was no better than a horoscope. Almost every online quiz I’ve ever taken told me I was an INTJ, and some aspects of it seemed to fit me, but some were way off. So even though I’ve known about Myers-Briggs for a long time, I didn’t give much weight to it until four years ago.

Finding out that I was an INTP was earth shattering. I should have taken the official MBTI, but I discovered it on my own when, after yet another online quiz told me I was an INTJ, I happened to read some short descriptions of the other types. The description for INTP seemed to match me better, so I read some more detailed profiles of INTPs (this is my favorite one). I realized that I was reading all about myself, down to the tiny little quirks and strange habits that I thought nobody else shared or even knew about. Even things that I thought were beyond the domain of personality, like my lack of interest in pop culture and my propensity to burst out laughing at inopportune moments because I remember something funny from two weeks ago, were apparently hallmarks of my personality type.

I had always thought I was weird, because I had never met another person like me. Now I knew for the first time that I was not weird; I was a perfectly normal INTP! My Myers-Briggs type accurately explained, or at least described, almost everything about me. This revolutionized my life. It changed everything from my self-esteem to the way I interacted with the world.

By knowing that I was in fact completely normal, I no longer felt like I had to conform to social expectations of personality—which is a good thing, because studies have shown that in American culture, the most favored personality type for women is ESFJ, my exact opposite. Reading more in-depth about INTPs taught me about how I could grow as a person in a way that was in line with my personality. I felt free to pursue my full potential as an INTP instead of focusing my energy on pursuing the ESFJ skills and interests that I was pressured to adopt. I can grow a lot more in the natural direction of my type than if I tried to go against the grain.

Knowing about Myers-Briggs also helps me to better understand others. After learning about each of the personality types, cognitive functions, and their traits (and using my iNtuition and Perception), I am able to figure out someone’s type quite easily, and this really helps my interactions and relationships. I am able to have more empathy for those with personalities that clash with mine, or who have values or opinions that I don’t understand or agree with, because I can see when they are influenced by their Myers-Briggs type. When I don’t understand why someone is behaving or thinking a certain way, knowing their type can help me determine whether they truly are being irrational or unreasonable, or whether their behavior is logical in accordance with their type.

Myers-Briggs is a great help in my marriage, by helping me and my husband to understand each other better and get to the root of many of our differences. When conflicts arise, it helps to know whether they are due to personality type differences, background and values differences, or whether one of us is being illogical. And as a parent, I am always mindful of my type’s natural strengths and weaknesses, so I know what I need to work on and how I can use my INTP-ness to be the best mom I can be. As my daughter grows up, I will be mindful of her Myers-Briggs type so I can better meet her needs and help her grow into her full potential. I hope it also helps her to understand her parents better.