know your letters


No, not the alphabet. I mean the four letters that relegate you to a specific sixteenth of the population. I am talking, of course, about that infamous Briggs-Myers test, beloved by many a major corporation and psychology professor.

In my youth (*cough) and ignorance, I discarded the idea of this test as psycho-babble and drivel, useless in the real world. Then I read about it, and, uh, changed my mind. Since then, I have taken many variations of this test, and come to the conclusion that they KNOW me, man, because how else could they accurately describe my strengths and weaknesses? Maybe there’s something to this personality profile thing after all.

If you aren’t familiar with the test, there’s no better way to familiarize yourself with it than in the book itself, Gifts Differing by Isabel Briggs-Myers. It’s an incredible read, and if you can get past the many charts and statistics (I skipped them), you’ll be in for a really eye-opening description of how our personalities determine how we interact.

Why is it important? Good question. Not only will it help you learn about and appreciate the differences in people, it will help your interactions with very different people. Being an INTJ myself, I never had much use for people who made decisions (or didn’t make them – indecision blegh) based on their feelings. I use logic, and empathy or emotions weren’t all that important to me in determining things. I still prefer my method cause it’s mine, but I no longer dismiss others’ opinions as invalid.

Here in Taiwan, I live in very close quarters with one person who’s as like me as she can be, and two people who are near enough total opposites. Fortunately, our team leader had the foresight to plan meetings where we all shared our communication preferences and personality quirks, biggest pet peeves, how we unwind, and so on. It was tedious but extremely helpful. Of course, that doesn’t eliminate the pet peeves, but it does at least mean we aren’t at each other’s throats about them. I don’t have to feel guilty about wanting to get away because we’ve established that I need that to relax.

If you’re in a similar situation or on any team, really, it might be a good idea to have a meeting to share your personality quirks. Share your faults and weaknesses. Take the test and share results. See what others have to say. If you think it’s a waste of time and it doesn’t matter, you should DEFINITELY do it, cause you’re probably a jerk.

I’m an INTJ, as I said. It’s the rarest type of woman, only comprising 0.5% of the population. Male INTJs are 1.5%. I feel vastly under-represented here. I’ve had to deal with a lot because of being this way. People used to annoy me beyond belief, and I took a lot of pride in keeping myself all superior and more-logical-than-thou. It’s taken time and lots of self-digging to see how wrong that is, and how isolating. Now, I love people, and I enjoy lots of different kinds of people. I can’t live with some of them, but I can be friends.

The most important thing to remember is that you have faults. Every personality type does. Find them. Fix them. Validate everyone, and don’t look down on others just because they think and interpret differently than you. Knowing your letters does not give you an excuse for being rude in the name of “That’s just how I am.” You have faults, and once you know about them, you have the responsibility to change them.