Myers-Briggs Typing

 Posted by on 18 June 2015 at 10:00 am  Personal, Personality, Psychology
Jun 182015

For some time now, I’ve gone back and forth about whether I’m INFJ or INFP on Myers-Briggs. Over the past few months, I’ve seen some aspects of my personality change and sharpen: I feel more in control of my life, more confident, and more driven. As part of that, I’m engaged in lots more J-ish behaviors. (If only I’d let you see my spreadsheets!!)

And… the INFJ on this myth-busting page really resonated with me:

Stereotype #2: INFJs are the natural counselors of the world, who want nothing more than to care for and nurture you.

Reality: Though they certainly do care for others, INFJs can often come across as cold if you don’t know them well. They lead with introverted intuition, which makes them infinitely more interested in analyzing big-picture problems than helping you sort out your relationship issues – they are empathetic to a fault but they’d usually rather be analyzing than empathizing.

Reading through the descriptions of INFJ and INFP again, I’m struck by how well INFJ suits. For example:

Consequently, most INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand. INFJs hold back part of themselves, and can be secretive.

I’m only starting to understand just how really, really true this is of me. But no, I’m not going to give you any details, random people of Earth. SO THERE.

P.S. For what it’s worth, I don’t recommend trying to type yourself using a test. The test sucks.

Sensory Overload in Open Offices

 Posted by on 22 November 2013 at 10:00 am  Business, Personality, Psychology, Work
Nov 222013

This — Offices for All! Why Open-Office Layouts Are Bad for Employees, Bosses, and Productivity — is a really excellent article on the evil of open office layouts. Here’s a hit that really resonated with me.

I’m now always surrounded by chatter, which means that, like every other office worker in the country, I have to wear earphones. I’m currently listening to Django Reinhardt on Pandora. His talent is timeless. But while it’s easier to think with Django in my ears, it isn’t nearly as easy as silence was. The music just adds to the clutter in my head. Back when I had an office, I left work with my mind still happy and fresh; I emailed myself ideas while walking home, as some newsy podcast told me even more useful info. Now, at the end of a day of nonstop jazz, I leave work feeling fried. I miss my podcasts, which my brain just doesn’t have room for. I walk to the subway in silence, repairing.

Being an introvert — and highly sensitive too — I could not work well under such circumstances. When I’m deep in brain-bending work, even familiar instrumental music is a distraction. Plus, headphones to cover background noise quickly makes me feel overwhelmed by sensory input. I’m able to listen to music only against a background of silence and when doing lighter work. Then, it helps prevent boredom.

These working conditions make my skin crawl. I’m so glad to work from home, where the only noises are of naughty beasts, birds, and the wind.

Which Star Trek Character Are You?

 Posted by on 24 October 2013 at 2:00 pm  Fun, Personality, Television
Oct 242013

Quick, take the quiz!

Here are my results:

You are Worf

You are trained in the art of combat
and are usually intimidating.

James T. Kirk (Captain)
Jean-Luc Picard
Will Riker
Deanna Troi
Geordi LaForge
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Beverly Crusher
Mr. Scott
Mr. Sulu

Alas, that’s pretty accurate… High D in DiSC for the win!


(I wrote this for Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter back in September 2012, but it’s still relevant.)

A few days ago, I was riding my horse in our neighborhood arena while a father was attempting to teach his son to ride a bike in the grass. The father would push the son forward on the bike, and the son was supposed to pedal. However, even from a distance, I could tell that the son was getting scared and freezing. Instead of pedaling, he’d put his feet down into the grass and come to stop. The father had an excellent opportunity to talk to his son about overcoming fears.

Alas, that’s not what happened. Even from a distance, I could hear the father yell to his son in frustration, “If you’d only pedaled when I told you!” and “Why aren’t you listening to me?” Obviously, that didn’t help the boy pedal any better!

The father was making a very serious mistake in taking his son’s failure personally. He was seeing it as a failure to obey, rather than focusing on the son’s actual problem — namely, the difficulty of overcoming fears. As a result, the son was not only deprived of useful help about managing those fears, but also burdened with feelings of guilt too. Even worse, the father was telling the son that the son’s own judgment (including his fears) were not nearly as important as obeying the father’s commands. Oy.

Happily though, the father seemed to muster some better control over himself after that burst of anger. He stopped yelling, and the tension seemed to ease. Hopefully, he realized his error. Hopefully, he’ll stop himself sooner next time.

I’m not immune from the error of atttemping to dictate others — whether children, animals, co-workers, friends, or husband. I suspect that I’m not alone in that! So here are a few suggestions, which you can take or leave:

When you find yourself growing frustrated by the fact that other people aren’t doing what you’ve told them to do, remind yourself that they’re not likely attempting to spite you. Perhaps you didn’t give clear instructions. Perhaps you’ve asked too much of them. Perhaps they saw problems with your plan that you missed. Perhaps their goals don’t mesh well with yours.

Instead of stewing over their failure to obey, consider how you might be genuinely helpful. You might want to ask them if they want help. You might want to clarify your instructions. You might want to just keep your mouth shut.

Whatever the circumstances, acting like a petty tyrant is always the wrong answer. Nothing alienates rational thinkers — young and old — more quickly.

Sep 122012

I found this image on Facebook, and um, well, I can’t help but relate to it.

As it happens, however, I discussed “The Problem of Procrastination” in an early webcast, back in 2010. In case you missed it:

Tags: Emotions, Procrastination, Productivity, Psycho-Epistemology, Psychology

Now that I think about it, I wonder: Is procrastination related to a person’s DiSC personality type? I googled, and found this interesting article discussing how and why each of the four types tend to procrastinate:

High D

The person with a high D DISC profile is associated with adjectives like decisive, strong-willed, goal-oriented, and bold. Many things that others might allow to become subjects of procrastination, the high D won’t because of a behavioral bias toward decisive action. If something is not moving toward a goal it is likely to be dismissed, or delegated to another to accomplish. If it is moving a goal forward then it will probably be acted on immediately – the fear and doubt which may cause others to stall on a task isn’t usually a problem for the bold D. However, if a high D is avoiding something due to an emotional conflict or a misalignment with personal motivations, he or she is more likely to displace the task with other activities than to stall out and do nothing.

High I

A person whose DISC profile indicates a high I is associated with words like flamboyant, gregarious, pleasing, political, enthusiastic and superficial. Distraction is often more the cause of lapses in productivity for this individual rather than procrastination, however, if a task requires working alone, in seclusion, or is something that is perceived of as not fun or popular, then it is far more likely to be avoided by the high I. When confronted with an undesirable activity the high I will often seek comfort through interaction with others, which can cause a losing track of time – a form of unintentional avoidance. The high I will almost always procrastinate when it comes to chores like giving people bad news or disciplining others – they avoid things that might cause the other person to have a negative reaction to them.

High S

Words like persistent, patient, modest, predictable and resistant to change are associated with the high S DISC profile. That means an S is more likely to resist activities that disrupt familiar routines or threaten the balance of established relationships. The high S person can be very productive if the routine of activities aren’t prone to rapid change or disruption, she thrives on steadiness not chaos. Procrastination brought on by emotional stress or intimidation may not be outwardly obvious – the high S can have a relaxed, even phlegmatic demeanor – they are unlikely to rebel vocally against an undesirable task, so a manager may not realize they have given the high S an assignment that is distasteful. Of the four categories, the high S is the most susceptible to procrastination – slipping into the mindset of hoping that the situation will go away if ignored, or that “time will solve the problem.”

High C

The high C DISC profile is associated with perfectionism, meticulousness, and being strict about rules and procedures. The high C is typically very disciplined and detail oriented – tasks that other DISC styles might avoid because they seem dry, procedural or tedious, may actually be well-suited to the high C. Additionally the high C may have a lower empathy for procrastination by others because it can threaten processes and carefully architected systems. When the high C falls off in productivity it is more likely to be because they have let perfectionism get in the way than because they are avoiding a step in the process. Unlike the high S, when faced with a task that breaks compliance with procedure, the high C is likely to express the displeasure.

My tendency is definitely a mixture of the High D and High I. I procrastinate by doing a bunch of other tasks, usually not of any particular importance at that very moment, rather than do the task that I’m uncertain or conflicted about — or the task that I find boring.

Are these descriptions apt for your DiSC type? Tell us in the comments!


Here’s an interesting little story from Campaign Doctor Newsletter:

The famous New York diamond dealer Harry Winston heard about a wealthy Dutch merchant who was looking for a certain kind of diamond to add to his collection. Winston called the merchant, told him that he thought he had the perfect stone, and invited the collector to come to New York and examine it.

The collector flew to New York and Winston assigned a salesman to meet him and show the diamond. When the salesman presented the diamond to the merchant he described the expensive stone by pointing out all its fine technical features. The merchant listened and praised the stone but turned away and said, “It’s a wonderful stone but not exactly what I wanted.”

Winston, who had been watching the presentation from a distance stopped the merchant and asked, “Do you mind if I show you that diamond once again?” The merchant agreed and Winston presented the same stone. But instead of talking about the technical features of the stone, Winston spoke spontaneously about his own genuine admiration of the diamond and what a rare thing of beauty it was. Abruptly, the customer changed his mind and bought the diamond.

While he was waiting for the diamond to be packaged and brought to him, the merchant turned to Winston and asked, “Why did I buy it from you when I had no difficulty saying no to your salesman?”

Winston replied, “The salesman is one of the best men in the business and he knows more about diamonds than I do. I pay him a good salary for what he knows. But I would gladly pay him twice as much if I could put into him something that I have and he lacks. You see, he knows diamonds, but I love them.”

Few people are moved by mere recitations of technical facts. On the DiSC Personality Model, High Cs can be, but most others are left cold by that.  (Recall that in DiSC, D = Dominance, I = Influence, S = Steadiness, and C = Conscientiousness.  If that doesn’t ring a loud bell for you, review this post or this podcast interview before reading further.)

However, that doesn’t imply that the other DiSC types — meaning, the High Ds, Is, and Ss of the world — are indifferent to facts or blindly driven by their emotions. Rather, I suspect that for them (or rather, us), motivation involves stronger emotions, different emotions, and perhaps more emotional expression.

All motivation requires emotion, I think. (That’s major part of Aristotle “action theory”, and I agree with it.) For C’s, the requisite emotional motivation seems to be tightly bound to the facts: they want to be right, most of all. (Hence, if you’re in a conflict with a High C over who is right… watch out! I’ve seen some scary-strong emotions from High Cs when challenged.)

Ds can seem unemotional — particularly unconcerned with the emotions of other people.  In fact, they’re highly motivated by feelings of power and capacity associated with achievement.  It’s their (er, my) drug.

Among the two people-oriented types, Is and Ss, the motivating emotions will be quite different. For High Is the emotions of excitement associated with new ideas, people, experiences, and challenges will have the most motivational force. High Ss find that daunting, but they’ll be motivated by feelings of sympathy and care.

Importantly, such personality differences never override a person’s free will choice to think or not. Whatever the strength, content, and source of a person’s motivating emotions, he can choose to recognize the facts for what they are and think them through rationally.  If he wants to be happy and successful, he’d better do that!

As for practical advice, I’d like to limit myself to two quick points:

First, just because someone seems less emotional than you doesn’t mean that they’re indifferent, that they don’t care, or that they’re some kind of robot in human form.

Second, just because someone seems more emotional than you doesn’t mean that they’re unthinking, that they’re indifferent to facts, or that they’re some kind of wild-eyed emotionalist.

Other people’s personalities differ in a million ways from yours.  Some of those differences are ginormous, while others are minor.  If you attempt to read everyone through the lens of your own personality, the only result is that you’ll find most people quite baffling, if not seriously frustrating.  This issue of emotion in motivation in just one example.

That’s why the DiSC Personality Model is so helpful, I think.  It focuses on two major axes of difference — assertive versus reserved and thing-oriented versus people-oriented.  Those axes are of particular importance for communication and collaboration with other people.  By learning DiSC, you can understand yourself better, including your strengths and weaknesses.  You can understand and appreciate the ways in which others differ from you too. It’s a gold mine!

Aug 222012

Our dogs Conrad and Mae are contained on our five acres by a fence around the border. Since they are often roaming about outside during the day and at night, they tend to keep the wildlife at bay. The deer avoid our property, as do squirrels, raccoons, and rabbits.

Alas, the skunk has not been deterred of late.

Conrad and Mae have been skunked about 20 times so far this summer. Sometime after dark — often moments before we plan to bring the dogs inside for the night — we’ll hear vigorous barking for a few minutes, then silence, and finally the ominous smell of skunk will waft up to the house. (The smell wears off in a few days, so I never bother to bathe the dogs. They just have to sleep in the mudroom for a night or two or three.)

The dogs simply will not learn to leave the skunk alone. They could be sprayed every night for the next year, but they’d not learn. They’re persistent — too persistent.

That brings me to my philosophical point: Persistence is not a virtue. Virtues are ways of acting that are always necessary and always proper to further your life and happiness. To flourish, you must be rational in every waking moment, not just sometimes. You cannot ever temper rationality with irrationality, nor attempt to find a balance between them. To understand that rationality is a virtue is to understand that you’re always right to be rational and that you can never be too rational.

Persistence, however, is something quite different, and that’s why it’s not a virtue. My dictionary defines persistence as “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.”

Persistence is often the right course. If you’re learning a complicated new dance step, training your dog, or developing a new product at work, you’re going to need a whole lot of persistence. That doesn’t imply, however, that persistence is a virtue. It’s not — for the simple reason that persistence is often a mistake. Sometimes, failure is not a reason to “try, try again,” but rather to “stop and think, dammit.”

Let’s consider three kinds of cases in which persistence is a bad idea.

First, instead of persistence, sometimes you should rethink whether your goal is worth so much time and effort.

If college is nothing but a slog, consider whether to quit rather than persist in slogging for another two years. If your old clunker of a car keeps breaking down, consider whether to buy a new car rather than performing yet another costly repair. If your friend blows up at you over nothing yet again, consider whether to demote that friendship rather than muddling through this latest conflict.

Second, instead of persistence, sometimes you need to rethink your methods for achieving your goal.

If your dog isn’t doing what you’re asking in training, try a different technique rather than persisting in the ineffective method. If you’re kids keep annoying you, stop the persistent nagging and try some collaborative problem-solving. If you can’t find critical files on your computer, don’t be persistent about searching for them but rather find some new way of organizing or naming them.

Third, instead of persistence, sometimes you need a break to refocus.

If you’re frustrated with some project at work, maybe you need a short break to clear your head: the answer might come to you while you’re pouring that cup of coffee. If you’re annoyed by a discussion of politics on Facebook, step away from the keyboard to pet the cat. If your dog isn’t responding to your commands in training, perhaps both you and your dog need a break from the pressure.

Again, if persistence were a virtue, a person would always be right to be persistent. Yet as we’ve seen with these three kinds of cases, that’s just not true.

So what is persistence? Basically, persistence is a personality trait. People differ in their natural persistence based on innate personality as well as childhood experiences. People can cultivate their disposition to persist or refrain from persisting by repeatedly choosing to persist or refrain.

Personality traits, I think, should be understood as subject to a kind of Aristotelian continuum. A person can be excessive, deficient, or at the sweet spot of “the mean.” For a person to be properly persistent would mean that persistence is exercised “at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way.”

That’s not easy! As Aristotle says,

…it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult — to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult) …

With practice, however, we can cultivate the skills required for persisting and for refraining — as well as the skills required to know whether to persist or to refrain in the circumstances at hand.

Mostly, remember to avoid the trap of thinking that persistence is always beneficial. Sometimes, a bit less persistence is exactly what you need!

Great Minds? Maybe Not

 Posted by on 19 July 2012 at 11:00 am  Communication, Personality
Jul 192012

Guess what, folks? It’s not small-minded, second-handed, or otherwise undesirable to be interested in people. People are amazing wellsprings of knowledge, innovation, and values. They’re complex, nuanced, and unique. People matter to our lives, hugely.

Unless you allow other people to trump facts, to be interested in people is not any kind of moral or intellectual taint. To condemn that is to claim moral superiority based on differences in personality and preference. That is a mistake — a huge mistake.

Yes, I’m aware the poster probably means to condemn gossip, but not all gossip is malicious, destructive, or petty. Gossip can be a form of benevolent interest in other people in your community, as I discussed in this webcast.

Jul 102012

In tomorrow evening’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll discuss DiSC Personality Types with Santiago Valenzuela. Santiago introduced me to DiSC, and I’ve found it hugely useful for understanding my own defaults and preferences, including in communication, as well as that of others. It’s far more useful, I think, than other personality schemes like Meyers-Briggs.

Here, before the broadcast, I want to introduce you to some of the basics of DiSC.

DiSC is a personality inventory focused on predicting behavior, particularly a person’s default behavior. Remember though, personality is not destiny. A person can always choose to act against the grain of his personality.

DiSC has two axes: (1) assertive versus reserved and (2) people-oriented versus task-oriented (or better, thing-oriented). Those two axes yield four personality profiles — Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. People are often blends of multiple types.

Here are the four quadrants, taken from this DiSC Basics PDF from Manager Tools:

Wikipedia summarizes the four types nicely:

Dominance: People who score high in the intensity of the “D” styles factor are very active in dealing with problems and challenges, while low “D” scores are people who want to do more research before committing to a decision. High “D” people are described as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, aggressive, and pioneering. Low D scores describe those who are conservative, low keyed, cooperative, calculating, undemanding, cautious, mild, agreeable, modest and peaceful.

Influence: People with high “I” scores influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic. Those with low “I” scores influence more by data and facts, and not with feelings. They are described as reflective, factual, calculating, skeptical, logical, suspicious, matter of fact, pessimistic, and critical.

Steadiness: People with high “S” styles scores want a steady pace, security, and do not like sudden change. High “S” individuals are calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced. Low “S” intensity scores are those who like change and variety. People with low “S” scores are described as restless, demonstrative, impatient, eager, or even impulsive.

Contentiousness: People with high “C” styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High “C” people are careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, and tactful. Those with low “C” scores challenge the rules and want independence and are described as self-willed, stubborn, opinionated, unsystematic, arbitrary, and unconcerned with details.

You can take a free DiSC test. However, in my experience, those results aren’t nearly as accurate as the $27 test from Manager Tools. That test offers a detailed and useful report too. If you like, you can view my DiSC report (PDF). I’m the classic “results-oriented” pattern, meaning high D, lesser I, no S, and a bit of C.

For Wednesday’s broadcast, you might want to print a copy of Manager Tools’ DiSC Cheat Sheet: How to Be Effective with DiSC Every Day (PDF).

Also, I strongly recommend listening to the core Manager Tools Podcasts on DiSC:

You can find more awesome podcasts on DiSC in the full Manager and Career Tools feeds. (Those feeds are available to anyone who registers for free on their web site.)

I’m super-excited to talk about DiSC tomorrow evening — and I hope that you’ll join us! As usual, the live show airs at 6 pm PT / 7 pm MT / 8 pm CT / 9 pm ET. Later that evening, I’ll post the audio on the archive page.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha