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.