April 11, 2014
I think about these last two categories less in writing my characters and less in my own relationships. I think this is probably because I am mild in each category. I can easily understand “both sides.”
Sensing and Intuiting
Do you pay attention to physical reality, understanding the world through your five senses? If so, you are “Sensing.” If you pay more attention to the impressions that the world makes on you, seeing patterns and relationships between things, then you are “intuiting”.
Sensing people are often pragmatic, paying attention to the facts before them and not always seeing the big picture or the possibilities being offered.
Intuiting people can often “read between the lines.” They see the big picture and aren’t always aware of the small things that form that picture.
Although I tested as an “S” I think I’m almost right at the middle point on this continuum. I am able to operate in each “zone” quiet easily.
Judging and Perceiving
The Judging/Perceiving trait has to do with how people interact with the outside world.
Are you a planner? Do you think about what you want to happen and organize your life in a way to achieve those things? If plans change is it disconcerting? Does it take you a while to adapt to a new plan? Or, are you spontaneous? Ready to do whatever, whenever, with whomever? Do you not need to know what the plan is, and just as soon not have a plan?
People who like to plan also like to have things decided. They are Judging. People who don’t necessarily want to plan things out but prefer to wait and see are Perceiving. They are comfortable waiting for more information before making decisions.
Don’t confuse these traits with being organized. Both types can be organized—or not.
As with all the MBPI traits, judging and perceiving form a continuum, with people nearly in the middle and some people being strongly one or the other. I have a mild Judging trait. I plan. I like to have decisions made, especially big ones. When plans change suddenly, I try to go with the flow, though I sometimes find it uncomfortable.
If I am in charge of something, I make decisions and plan every little detail. In fact, for my college classes, I start the semester with detailed lesson plans for every day I will teach. If class is canceled because of snow or illness, I’m a little thrown off. Of course, I quickly re-bound and re-plan. I find responsibility stressful, and I combat that stress by planning and making decisions.
So, when I’m not responsible for something, I try to remain that way. I can be spontaneous, accept change and lack of decision-making when someone else is in charge. I enjoy not being in charge. I don’t know if this is a judging quality or something else, but that is how I am. I don’t avoid responsibility but neither do I seek it.
In my mind, Perceiving people are more relaxed. They don’t have to plan or have decisions made. They seem to stress less than me, but maybe they just stress differently.
Knowing Myers-Briggs categories is helpful in both developing fictional characters and supporting real-life relationships. I think the key for all categories is to being understanding. People are different; we are made to be different. Don’t expect or demand others to be like you. What a boring world that would be!
I’m no expert at MBPI, so if you’d like more information on these traits, visit the Myers & Briggs Foundation.
March 29, 2014
Today I continue my discussion of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory as a way to develop more depth to written characters and as a way to improve your own relationships. I am no expert, so for more information consult the Myers-Briggs Foundation.
Myers-Briggs uses the terms Thinking and Feeling, which I don’t care for. “Feelers” do, indeed, think, and “thinkers” do, indeed, feel. So, I’m calling these categories “T” and “F”
As with all Myer-Briggs categories, the T/F designation is a continuum. Some people are strong Ts, some mild Ts, some in the middle, some mild Fs and some strong Fs.
The T/F category deals with how people make decisions.
Fs take into consideration how people will be affected by the decision, what others will think about the decision. This is a major element in an F’s decision-making process, though it is not the only element. I am a strong F, which is apparent because I am constantly thinking about my family in every decision I make. What should I make for dinner? Craig will like this, but Tom won’t. Of course, other things affect my decision: what ingredients do we have at home? will I have to go to the store? do I have time to go to the store? what is the expense? etc. So, my decisions are based on many things, but what other people will think of the final decision is a big part of how I make my decision. If I work late, how will that affect everyone else? If I sleep in? Even with things that should not, on the surface, affect others, in my head I’m guessing how they will feel about it.
Ts put less emphasis on what others think. They approach decision-making in a logical, objective fashion. They don’t want to be influenced by what others think, and, in fact, consider it a poor decision-making strategy. Ts pride themselves on their objectivity. They often take a long time to make a decision, gathering all the necessary data, so that when they make a decision, it is well-thought out and correct. How their decision will affect others may be one of the data points, but it also may not. T’s are more concerned about being right than being popular. Ts are sometimes shocked by people’s responses to their decisions. Because Ts consider their decisions logical and objective, they think everyone else will see them in this way. When they make a decision that others disagree with, they cannot understand why others disagree and try to change the other’s mind. “Let’s agree to disagree” doesn’t work with a T, because they need to fix the other person’s incorrect opinion.
When an F makes a decision that is going to be unpopular, the F is prepared for that response. The F feels bad for making others unhappy with the decision, but other factors weighed heavily and the F can explain those factors. If others object a lot, the F may reconsider the decision. The F may realize that she did not guess correctly how the decision would affect others. Ts can change their mind, but usually only when the data they used to make the decision changes or is shown to be inaccurate or incomplete.
This is the only Myers-Briggs category that has a strong gender bias. Most women are Fs and most men are Ts. Because of this, society expects women to think about others and men to be objective and logical. Life is hard for female Ts and male Fs. Female Ts are seen as ruthless and uncaring, and male Fs are seen as wimpy and wishy-washy.
One way of making decisions is not better than another way. In fact, having a mix of Ts and Fs in a group will probably create a healthy and diverse approach to decision-making.
Your place on the T and F continuum is what is natural to you, similar to your place on the extroversion/introversion continuum (discussed in my last post, see below). Trying to change a T into an F or an F into a T will not work.
An F who is forced to give up her people-based approach to decision-making because she has been convinced to do so by a T is going to feel like she isn’t sticking up for people. She is going to feel like a bad person, untrue to herself and neglectful of others.
Similarly, a T who is forced to accept decisions based on what other people need and want, not based on the logic of his/her set of data points is going to feel useless, broken, like he/she is not valued.
This is a difficult balance, especially as most women are Fs, most men are Ts, and most marriages are a mix of the two. Mild Fs and mild Ts will probably not have much trouble, but a couple who are strongly different may have trouble agreeing on important decisions.
Fs get along pretty well, as their focus is on what the other thinks. The problem here might be an inability to come to a decision.
Ts can get along well when they use the same data for decision-making. Ts who value different things will have a difficult time agreeing.
As a writer, knowing the T or F status of your characters is extremely important. Fictional characters are continually facing conflict and making decisions. The T/F status will affect how they make decisions, how they respond to others’ decisions, how they argue, etc. For realism and depth of characterization, this Myers-Briggs personality trait is one of the most important to consider.
March 23, 2014
Before we got married, my husband and I attended some pre-marital counseling sessions that used the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBPI). After answering a lot of questions, we were each assigned a four-letter personality profile. These profiles represented our inclinations in four different areas. Our counselor felt that knowing these things about each other would help us avoid misunderstandings based on personality. He was right. The MBPI has helped me in my marriage, all my relationships, and my writing. People are different, and I believe diversity is what makes the human race successful and interesting. Frankly, I find it fascinating.
In the next few posts, I am going to talk about the four main designations of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. I am no expert. I will be simplifying ideas. If you want “better” information about this psychological assessment tool, I suggest visiting the Myers-Briggs Foundation.
Extrovert vs Introvert
As you probably already know, extroverts are outgoing and introverts are shy. This isn’t a black and white designation, with everyone being one or the other. Instead, think of it as a continuum. On the shy side, some people are more shy than others and the same is true for the outgoing. Some people are right in the middle.
Let’s go a step deeper into what it means to be an extrovert or introvert. It’s all about energy.
Extroverts get their energy from being around other people. They like being active, doing things. My father was an extrovert and a teacher. In retirement, he often led workshops at conferences. He’d talk about the buzz he’d get from being at a conference, talking to others, being surrounded by people. The large conference experience, for him, was positive and renewing.
His description of a conference was mindboggling to me, the introvert. Introverts get their energy from being alone. It doesn’t mean I don’t like being around other people, because I do. I go to conferences, but they are incredibly exhausting. I’ll meet people, chat, do the conference thing, then go back to my hotel room and collapse. After a quiet evening alone, I can summon the energy to go out and socialize again.
I like being alone. I like when the house is empty. I don’t put on music or the television. I like silence. For me, this is comforting and wonderful. This is how I recharge. I don’t want to be home alone all the time, but I need this sort of time if I am going to have the energy to function in the world.
My father was not as comfortable being alone. This doesn’t mean he avoided it, but when he was home alone, he would have the television on or music going. Quiet, alone time exhausted him. If he needed to re-charge, he would go to his favorite restaurant/bar. He was friends with the employees, and he loved to sit and chat with new people too. This is how he re-charged.
The extremely introverted need more alone time to re-charge than the mildly introverted. The extremely extroverted seek more social situations than the mildly extroverted.
Why is this important to a writer?
You need to know what sort of characters you are writing. Who is an introvert? Who is an extrovert? To what degree? How they respond to being left alone or being forced to socialize will add depth and authenticity to their character. Many writers are introverts, and they need to make sure their out-going characters don’t seek isolation to re-charge. That isn’t how it works.
How can knowing this help your relationships?
If you are an introvert married to an extrovert, or vice versa, you need to understand how this makes you different in terms of energy. You need to let your spouse re-charge in the appropriate way. An introvert is not trying to hurt your feelings when s/he needs to be alone. It is a matter of survival. In the same way, an extrovert is going to need to be around more than just you, the introvert. Don’t be hurt that you aren’t “enough.”
Two extroverted parents with an introverted child need not worry about how much time their child spends alone. That child has different needs than they do.
Even people of the same sort, two extroverts or two introverts, are likely to be at different points on the continuum. A mildly shy person might want to “go out” more often than the extremely shy person.
Knowing the energy/re-charging needs of people in your family won’t solve every problem, but it can help inform your discussions.
February 24, 2014
I try not to complain about the weather. When Andy and I were deciding where to settle down, we both chose Wisconsin. So, I’ve chosen to live in a place that has a real winter. Mostly, I like winter: the clean feel of cold air, the beauty of a fresh snowfall, cross country skiing in a lonely forest. I grew up with a change of seasons, and I would miss it if I lived in a warmer climate.
Because I live just over one mile (1700 meters) from work, I try to ride my bike in good weather and walk in bad weather. This winter has been a challenge, as there have been a number of days below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius), with a wind chill near -40F (-40C). I’m hardy, but I’m not that hardy. I’ve had to drive, which I find depressing.
Snow? Yes, we’ve gotten some snow. Last Monday we received a little over 6 inches (16 cm) of snow. This was on top of the several feet (about a meter) of snow we’d already gotten. The problem with this much snow is that when you shovel, you have to lift your shovel more than waist high (almost shoulder high) to get it off the driveway.
This picture was taken on the gorgeous, sunny Tuesday after Monday’s heavy snowfall. We were predicted to get another 6” to 12” (16 – 32 cm) on Thursday. I’m happy to report that that storm missed my town, though other parts of Wisconsin did receive heavy snowfall that day.
OK, so why am I writing about the weather on my “reading, writing, no arithmetic” blog? The cold weather and the snow has made it hard for me to do anything. I summon the energy to go to work and teach. I cook meals and clean (sort of). Our Christmas letter / New Year’s letter has become a Valentine’s letter (mailed today, more than a week after Valentine’s Day).
I was going to include some weather statistics in this blog, but I couldn’t find any in a three-minute search, so I haven’t. Meh.
Writing? Writing is the activity that always gets short shrift in my life, and I haven’t done much since early January. Ech. I’m blaming the weather.
It has been a harsh winter all over the United States and a dangerously mild winter in Europe (flooding in England). How has this weird weather affected you?