A couple of days ago, we celebrated our independence here in the United States. I was going to write about independence but I found it hard to consider on a nationwide scale. I mean, I get it. We are no longer beholden to the Queen, we can make our own laws, collect our own taxes and fight our own wars. A quick look at the news last week could have provided fodder for 800 – 1,000 words on any of those subjects, but others would write those stories. I started thinking about my independence.
My independence has often been described by other words: “quiet” “shy” “introvert” – stuff like that. If those don’t seem like complimentary terms, you should know that they weren’t offered as compliments. For a long time, those comments were passed along to my parents with my report cards. I’m sure there’s a drug for me today. Years later, a class titled “The Psychology of Business” brought my nature to the surface in an allegedly scientific way.
We started with a simple, albeit embarrassing exercise. One by one, we were asked to describe what we saw on our way to the Cathedral of Learning (where our classes were held) from the time when we arrived in the general area of campus.
I was a commuting student. I had gotten off the bus at the corner opposite from the Cathedral green. It was a short walk, nothing much to notice really. I remembered stopping to watch one of the squirrels before heading into the building. My report was short and sweet.
A few observations later, one of my female classmates began with:
“I saw Mr. Antion exiting the bus. When I got off the bus, I noticed that the store on the corner was having a sale. I stopped to look at some of the specials they were advertising (described in detail). As I headed toward the Cathedral, I noticed Mr. Antion watching one of the squirrels.”
Then, the professor called on me:
“Mr. Antion, do you know Miss, Jenkins?”
“Do you recall seeing her on the bus?”
The professor explained the difference in our observations as being normal for both of us. Miss Jenkins seemed relieved. I really didn’t care. Of course it was normal; it was what I normally did. Isn’t that the definition of normal?
During our next class, we were given the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. This test confirmed, once and for all time that I am an INTJ – Quite the introvert, preferring intuition over sensing, a distinct preference for thinking over feeling and a moderate preference for judging over perceiving. Today, I would be told that:
“Generally, INTJs have successful careers in areas requiring intensive intellectual efforts, presenting intellectual challenge, and creative approach. Due to the characteristics mentioned above, successful INTJs are found in technological companies, particularly in research and development, and also found among corporate lawyers, high- and mid-rank managers in technology companies and financial institutions.”
Let’s see, I manage a small group of technology workers in a small insurance company…I guess it worked.
I was forced to take that exam in college; it was part of my coursework. I have had opportunities to take this exam again, for employers and even in a church we belonged to. I’ve tried to avoid it. Once, I even just said “I’m an INTJ” to see if that would suffice. It’s not that I strongly disagree with the assessment, well the “corporate lawyer” thing is a little disturbing, but the whole concept bothers me.
The concept bothers me because of the lessons that followed the exam in graduate school. We were taught how to recognize the various signs that someone might be ‘I’ vs. ‘E’ or that you were dealing with a Thinker. The pictures on someone’s desk, the art on the wall, the way they positioned themselves in a meeting – all signs revealing the secret code of that person. Once you knew the code, you could work with it. Ask the right questions, push the right buttons and get the right answers. I asked if we were being taught how to manipulate people.
The professor railed against that suggestion. “Manipulation has a negative connotation. Observing people and using your observations is a valid technique that can help you succeed in business.” This is why I shouldn’t speak. I couldn’t help but think of Jacob Marley:
“Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” – Charles Dickens
Hmm, that seems like a pretty ‘feely’ kind of reaction for a thinker, doesn’t it?
That’s my independence. I don’t play by the rules all the time. I prefer to doodle rather to color within the lines. I don’t vote the party line. I’m not as predictable as the pictures in my office might suggest.
My introverted nature affords me time to think. It allows me to enjoy woodworking, and photography and cycling, oh, and writing. I can think in a crowded room. To some, I might appear lost, detached, awkward or shy, but sometimes I’m just thinking about what’s going on around me.
Maybe I’ll write about it later.