If you ask people to define the word introversion, you’ll here things like shy, quiet, reserved. Similarly, the popular definition for extraversion is the opposite: outgoing, talkative, sociable. These symptoms are generalities that are true in most situations. But to give an extraverted label to a person who is talkative with one person or a small group of people they’re comfortable with, on a topic they’re passionate about, is going to be a misdiagnosis about fifty percent of the time. And let’s say you see two people at a party standing alone against the wall (assume this is their typical pattern of behavior). Are they both introverts? The introvert wants to be against that wall, reflecting or planning the next move. The shy person doesn’t want to be against the wall, but fear is holding her there.
Social activities aside, there is no significant difference between introverts and extraverts with regards to time spent with family members or romantic partners. In fact, both get a mood boost from the company of others. It just takes a little more energy for the introvert. It is the inner world that energizes an introvert. It is the outer world that energizes the extravert.
To help clarify, here are a few key differences between two types that are identical with respect to every dimension except their attitude type (i.e. one is introverted; one is extraverted). Both an ISFJ and ESFJ are nurturing, practical, and helpful. Both are people-focused and action-oriented. Both can become drained by taking on others’ emotional burdens to the point of neglecting their own needs. But here is where they differ:
The INFP is the personality type least likely to find a satisfying career in the corporate world, and the type most likely to annoy the ESTJ project manager they work for. Of course, that feeling cuts both ways.
INFPs are naturally drawn to careers that are congruent with their personal values and allow them to express their ideas in creative ways. They make gifted counselors, writers, artists, or teachers. When you do find an INFP in a corporate setting, it’s usually in a position such as employment development specialist, team trainer, human resources recruiter, or industrial-organizational psychologist – work that involves helping others grow and develop in career tracks that are a good fit. But with the explosion of technology jobs, an INFP who pairs his natural gifts in communication with an understanding of technology can be an excellent liaison between the technology people and the end user. INFPs on a software implementation project can make for talented communicators and writers of requirement documents, user guides, and e-learning courses. The ESTJ they work for however (assuming they work for the quintessential project manager type) has personality preferences the complete opposite of an INFP. In general, conflicts between these two types are fraught with more friction than less incompatible types, especially when one or both of them are under pressure.
John, an INFP, was brought onto a software implementation project as a trainer and user guide author for a new accounting system. Priya, the ESTJ project manager (and a certified public accountant) was impressed with his samples and the way he presented himself in the interview, but it didn’t take long, however, for friction to develop between these two. John processes information in leaps and bounds, working in a flexible and spontaneous manner. Intuitives like John are just as capable of meeting a deadline as a Sensor like Priya, although it may not look that way to the Sensor; the Intuitive often takes a circuitous route, taking in and responding to new information as it becomes available. ESTJs are practical, efficient, and decisive; but they’re impatient with people like John who think outside the box. ESTJs are driven to move things forward in a straight line and have a communication style that supports that approach – direct to the point of being brutally honest. They really don’t have time to deal with feelings, especially when their performance is judged by cold hard facts like project health and dollars spent.
With increasing frequency, Priya started to request updates or drop by John’s cube, which annoyed John, not only because it interrupted his flow, but also because he interpreted her behavior as symptoms of mistrust and micromanagement. An INFP will start to lose interest in projects over which they don't have enough control. A big part of John’s job involved creating process flows. Each week he held two workshops with the business users to whiteboard a particular process. The first meeting on a Tuesday was to create a first draft of the process. Between the first and second meeting, John translated the notes into a Visio document, which he then sent out to the team for a desk review, asking them to provide feedback in advance of the review meeting. John used the collective feedback to create a revised version of the process flow that the team reviewed in the Thursday meeting. But before he sent the first draft to the business users for their review, Priya wanted to do a pre-review and add her comments first.
Wednesday morning, John arrived at his desk to find red mark-ups on his Visio flows for things as trivial as lines that weren’t completely straight. He shrugged it off, but the second time it happened Priya called him into his office.
“Make sure you double-check your work. You misspelled ‘questionnaire’ and this line isn’t straight,” she said with a frown.
“Are you serious?” John said, his heart rate rising.
“Yes,” she said in a condescending tone.
“These are just drafts,” John said. “I’ll make sure everything is lined up perfectly once we finalize the design. It’s a waste of time for me to perfect everything before we’re done rearranging the shapes. Who knows how many of these shapes we’ll need to rearrange after we get more feedback.”
Priya leaned back, folded her arms, and pursed her lips. “Before we send anything to the business, it should be carefully reviewed for spelling, grammar, straight lines. These are documents we’re socializing with the business.”
“We’re socializing drafts. I think the detail-oriented accountants we’re sending these to get that, which is why no one, other than you, has called out a crooked line as a problem we need to discuss in the next meeting.”
John couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. And Priya’s rising condescension only made him angrier. He felt like he was back in Kindergarten dealing with a teacher who used to hit him over the head with a red pencil for forgetting to put periods at the end of his sentences.
“This is the way I want it done,” she insisted.
John picked up the marked-up copy of the document and stood up. “Substance over form. Isn’t that GAAP 101?” he said before leaving, making a clear reference to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles who Priya, as a CPA, was sure to know. INFPs are generally conflict-averse, but they can be quite edgy when pushed.
Although at times he thought he might quit or get fired, John stuck out the assignment. He went above and beyond in what he was required to deliver, yet received no appreciation for it. Failing to show appreciation is a hallmark ESTJ weakness.
Now, this wasn’t a favorable example of an ESTJ. The ESTJ in this case had poor control and/or self-awareness over her weaknesses (and probably some other issues as well, like OCD). In the course of his consulting career John has worked with good and bad project managers alike, many of whom were ESTJs. Priya, Hillary Clinton, and Darth Vader are ESTJs, but so are Judge Judy, Dr. Phil, and Captain America. Even so, one can imagine the problems Steve Rogers would have managing Bruce Banner, or Dr. Phil managing Shakespeare, or Judge Judy managing Johnny Depp.
Next up: Introversion vs. Extroversion: What Does This Really Mean?
When you step onto a bus or an elevated train, chances are that 70% of the people you’re sharing a ride with are sensors – people who put their trust in the tangible and concrete and engage in the present moment with their five senses. The other 30% people are Intuitives – future-oriented dreamers who trust their “sixth sense.”
So, what happens when a ESTP (dominant sensor) roughly bumps into an INFJ (dominant intuitive) on a crowded elevated train in Chicago and doesn’t even acknowledge, much less apologize, that it happened?
First of all, it’s relevant to know that these two personality types are the complete opposite by every dimension, so conflicts between these two types are bound to erupt with greater ease, frequency, and intensity compared to conflicts between more compatible types.
Here are the four dimensions once again:
E/I – Extroverted or Introverted
S/N – Sensor or Intuitive
T/F – Thinking or Feeling
J/P – Juding or Percieving
ESTPs, in general, are fun loving, adventurous, and outgoing, but they’re kind of like mischievous and hyper little kids who start looking for trouble whenever they get bored. INFJs, on the other hand, are quiet and gentle. They’re also the people on the train who are going to be conscientious about space and whether they’re taking up too much room. But INFJs are also intensely independent and will be surprisingly direct when you have stepped on one of their deeply-held values, such as courtesy or respect. And when this happens, as it did with the INFJ (we’ll call him David), he will respond with a look or an audible sigh that even the dimmest non-intuitive type couldn’t mistake for anything but disgust. Then the ESTP (we’ll call him Bob) will get annoyed by the INFJ’s disgust and lack of directness.
ESTPs love a good conflict, not because they’re seeking to demean others or feed their own ego, but because it charges the atmosphere with the honesty and tension required to quickly solve the problem. ESTPs are not really phased by their environment (or their emotions for that matter), so they have the home court advantage over an INFJ when it comes to a tightly packed rush-hour train. And since adventure-seeking ESTPs trapped in an El car are naturally built to cut to the chase, Bob took the initiative to get in David’s face.
“Hey! You got enough room?” Bob said sarcastically while staring down at David who was sitting on one of those single seats that face sideways on the train.
“Yes,” David said.
“Great, great, great…” continued the sarcasm.
Bob continued to stare David down.
“Do you have a problem?” David said weakly, as he maintained eye contact with a guy six inches taller and about a hundred pounds heavier.
“Yeah, you’re my problem. Why don’t you stand up?”
“I don’t fight senior citizens,” said the twenty-five-year-old David to a man who appeared to be in his late forties.
The conversation ended with an exchange of eff-yous while the surrounding passengers remained purposefully engaged with their smartphones during the entire incident.
Luckily, David got off at the next stop, before the situation escalated; but he brooded over the exchange the rest of the day, thinking of all the things he wished he would have said or done. Bob continued his day without giving it another thought. For ESTPs, it’s all about getting the job done and moving on. There’s no lingering emotions after the fact. They won’t stew upon the exchange or feel depleted by it like an INFJ will.
An ESFP would have handled this situation much differently than the ESTP. Although both ESTPs and ESFPs are practical and people-centric thrill seekers, ESFPs, in general, are warm, sympathetic, and caring. Whereas ESTPs are blunt and confrontational, ESFPs have a natural inclination to bring harmony and support to other people's lives. In any case, it's an ES_P world on the CTA.
What is a "type"? For example:
“He’s not her type.”
“What type of person is capable of doing a thing like that!”
“She’s not the right type of person for this job.”
When we talk about “type” it really depends on the lens through which we look at people. Through the lens of generosity, the taxonomy might be as simple as Takers and Givers. In romantic relationships, we might say there are three types of people: Anxious, Avoidant, and Secure. And, if you’re like my dad, there are only three types of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. But the types I’m going to talk about (with the help of subject matter expert Ed Childs, a career educator at DePaul University) come from an officially recognized typology: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Now, I understand that the human personality is infinitely complex and that people are shaped not only by nature, but nurture and fate as well. With that said, I believe every individual, as unique as they may be, fall into predictable patterns and preferences and that the MBTI seems to do a pretty good job of crystalizing these patterns/preferences into specific buckets or MBTIs. For more information about the MBTI and a brief history of the evolution of typology theory, please refer to http://16mbti.blogspot.com/2013/07/superhero-mbti_8.html
Personality typology has always intrigued me in an academic way, but it wasn’t until I was struggling with career dissatisfaction and trying to figure out what I should be doing with my life that I pursued the topic for its practical applications. And when I started writing fiction, I thought a basic understanding of personality types would come in handy for building realistic characters. There are even books out there on writing fiction, such as Plot vs. Character by Jeff Gerke, that reserve a chapter for a discussion on the MBTI. The fact that the MBTI is also used by most Fortune 100 companies is further testimony to its efficacy and credibility. The MBTI assessment won’t tell you how smart or emotionally healthy a person is, but it will tell you whether a job candidate is suited for a job in accounting or human resources, energized by other people, or more likely to see the forest through the trees.
The purpose of this blog is to share anecdotes, vignettes, or little slices of life that shed light on the nuances of personality and how they can cause friction in our relationships at work, at home, or anywhere for that matter. More importantly, we hope that the takeaway for you, the reader, is greater self-awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses and an ability to read other people’s "type" so that you have greater influence over the outcome of your interactions with them.
Before we begin, here's a quick reference guide. There are four dimensions that go into the sixteen possible personality types:
E - Extroverted (Expressive) vs. I - Introverted (Reserved)
S - Sensing (Observant) vs. N - Intuitive (Introspective)
T - Thinking (Tough-minded) vs. F - Feeling (Friendly)
J - Judging (Scheduling) vs. P - Perceiving (Probing)
For a full list and explanation of all 16 types, see http://16mbti.blogspot.com/2013/07/superhero-mbti_8.html
Next up: "It's an ES_P world on the CTA"
Kurt is a writer and consultant who helps clients with marketing, IT implementations, and course design. Kurt also writes fiction and uses his unique blend of storytelling style and humor to bring nonfiction content to life.