Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Green but with some Pink as well...

I was talking to my roommate Laura a couple weeks ago about personality typing and her hesitations about the concept. She was telling me that sometime in the middle of high school several classes had students take this personality test that classified people as different colors. Blue, Green, Purple, Yellow... there were just a handful of possible "personalities" you could be. She ended up being Green or something. She said that for the next couple years of high school her friends would still sometimes refer to each other as the color that they had been classified as, like, "Hey, Red!" To have herself and her friends put into categories felt limiting to her, and she didn't like how it seemed to give reason to be divided, even though it was such a simple thing. Laura realized she wasn't the only one who'd felt this way when a friend asked her later on if she'd ever felt like she could have been a different color, that more than just one personality type and "color" could have worked for them. I told Laura that I really understood what she was saying. Sounds like a common response to those basic personality typing tests. Maybe you were Green, but Pink felt like you too, especially in certain situations or with certain people.

Laura was basically saying that it seemed like figuring out your personality type had the potential to separate you from other people who might have different letters (or colors), limit you from maybe sometimes being another type, and can create boxes in your head and in others predicting how a person of a certain type will act.

I agree with her! It does have that potential. Sometimes, even though I try to avoid it, I start assuming certain things about people with the F or T preference, or thinking automatically that someone prefers N from one single comment or action. I try on this blog to refrain (though I'm sure I'll slip up) from calling someone an E, or an S, or a P, and I say that their letter is their "preference", in order to prevent the feeling of being totally classified.

I told Laura that Myers-Briggs was invented in order to help people realize their strengths. Isabel Briggs Myers developed the system around the time of World War 2 when women were having to work in place of the men who were gone to war. Isabel wanted a system that would help you understand how you function to assist people in figuring out where they would fit in best in the workplace, since many women had never been in it before. MB is now used widely for assisting in career counseling, business development, relationships with family, friends, and significant others, and for general self-exploration. Knowing the four letters of your preference, and then those of your spouse, roommate, or boss should not be an excuse to differentiate yourself from them, but to understand them better. And from there, love them better as well.

Lately I've been pondering an idea related to the "we are more than one color" thought. I've been considering just how different people I know that are the same type are from each other. My friend Becca is an INTP, but so is my friend Josh. My roommate Andrea is an ESFP, but so are several others that I know, including my friends Johnny, Josiah, and my brother Ian. I see how this is made evident in the similarities between these people, and it's fascinating to me. But just how different they are from each other is incredible as well. I've been asked before why that is. One reason for that is this; that two people with the same four letter type can have different strengths of their preferences. One might be an ESFP with a very strong E and F, and another, have a stronger S preference that makes them act differently. But mostly I think it is our humanity that makes us each so unique. And that is obviously not a new idea. We are individuals, and our various backgrounds, parents, college experiences, friends, habits, and surroundings contribute to our whole just as much as a preference for Introversion or Extraversion does.

My favorite chapter in the bible is Psalm 139. To read of how God has searched me and knows me, and is "familiar with all my ways" is so comforting. The verses describing how we cannot flee from him, "even if I settle on the far side of the sea"; they are haunting and beautiful. We are told that we are "wonderfully made." And then we read that His thoughts, toward us, are so vast, so many, that they "outnumber the grains of sand." How utterly amazing. God has more thoughts about me, and about my future, than grains of sand I can put my towel down on at Butterfly Beach. And it's that way for everyone who has ever or has yet to live.
We are so similar to each other in our humanity, yet so different in it too. With God over each of us, with more thoughts towards us than we can comprehend, we will always be more than four letters. Or the color green.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Taking It All In

What were you more likely to do with this tree if it had been in your backyard as a kid?

I think that both your answer to this question and also what thoughts pop into your head as you're coming to that answer are strong evidence as to whether you have a preference for S (Sensing) or for N (iNtuition).

Let me first briefly describe what these preferences mean, as they can be the hardest of all the preferences to truly understand. In the four letter Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I personally find the difference between the two possible second letters to be the most influential and fascinating.
Essentially, the second letter tells how you most naturally take in information; how you perceive the world around you. "Sensing" is becoming aware of things through your five senses, what you can actually see, touch, hear. Those who prefer sensing are acutely aware of the here and now, the present moment. They absorb data in a literal, concrete fashion. We also take information in through "Intuition", our indirect perception of things unseen, the conceptualization of ideas and patterns and possibilities. People with the N preference prefer to focus on the underlying meaning and symbolism in the information they take in.
Check one of these out to see it laid out clearly and concisely:

We all take in information both by sensing and our intuition, but your letter preference comes from which one you rely on and use the most.
This letter can be difficult to decipher for many people, for we aren't always conscious of how we are taking in information. But I have found that whether you prefer S or N greatly determines so many other things in your life, almost more than any other letter. What you find humorous, how you describe yourself or others, what you do in your free time, what jobs you are drawn to, and so much else. I will touch upon those things another time, but I mostly wanted to bring up how your preference for S or N likely affected your playtime when you were a kid.

One of my preferred and most accurate ways of figuring out if a friend prefers S or N is to ask what they did for fun when they were little. What games they played, and if they played pretend, what did they pretend. I've found that Sensors liked to "do". They would build forts, make swords from sticks, set up house and enjoy imitating whatever Mom or Dad did. When they play pretend, they often are an actual character, such as a ninja, or a mommy or a cook. It relates to how they like to focus on what they can see and touch, to "do" is to be. Doing is fun. Here's where the tree comes in. If you prefer S, you might have seen that picture above, and when asked what you would have done with that tree, you might have thought, "Duh! I would climb it!" My stepdad and brother are both Ss, and they would have been hanging from the highest branches, scaring their moms, or practicing their swordplay against the trunk. It would have served as another sort of playmate for them.

If you prefer N, your thoughts might have been different, as mine were when I saw that photo. I saw it and thought, "Oh the possibilities!" If I had been a kid around that tree, more important to me than the tree physically being there, was the meaning behind it, and how it would contribute to my pretend games. This is in tune with the N preference for focusing on underlying meaning. That big and inviting tree would serve as the backdrop to my and my N sister's elaborate pretend games, where we didn't focus so much on doing as we did on the "imagining". Therein lies the N difference. "That tree is our palace and we are princesses who..." or "The tree is our forest and we are elves and we are trying to..."
To imagine is to be, for an N.

I'd like to add on, that if it's not climbing or exploring that they are doing, that a child preferring S might more often be found kicking a ball around beneath that tree, while an N child would more often be reading beneath it. Again, these activities relate to the preference for either the here and now and love for action, or for symbols and the abstract and what is not of the present.

And again, like I do, I'll give a disclaimer... my S brother played a mean game of pretend with my sister and me. He made an excellent elf. And my sister can definitely climb a tree (she loves hanging from things). Your S or N preference is not an absolute, it is just your relied-upon way of taking things in and how it affects what you are drawn to do.

And now I'll stop "imagining" how great it will be to run to the beach and actually do it.