Independent Me

imageA 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?”

“No”

“Do you recall seeing her on the bus?”

“No”

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 imagethe 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 toimage 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.

43 thoughts on “Independent Me

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  1. Pictures – That’s the Cathedral of Learning (again). If you count up 15 or so floors in the section of the building that juts out to the left of the picture, you can tag the room in which I studied The Psychology of Business. The picture at the bottom was taken from Great River Park. The actual image is larger, but a version cropped like this hangs behind my desk at work. The center image is the results of a quick MBTI test I took online to see what they were saying about me today. Enjoy your independence.

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  2. Great post Dan,

    As an INFJ they’ve boxed me with the creatives and as a counsellor. Whilst the latter fits with my management style of coaching and being close to those working with me, the creative side is one I’m really trying to explore more.

    We’re a household of introverts apart from our youngest, so whilst interacting and presenting in public consumes my energy he just thrives on it. I don’t have a hunge understanding of MBTI and would like to know a little more. If I was in sales, sure I’d love to understand more, but it feel like my intuition does me we’ll in understanding others.

    My guess is that corporate lawyers leverage the research and similar methodical techniques? :-)

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    1. Thanks Nick. I’m guessing that you do well in those presentations. Sometimes, when it’s less a natural thing, people work at it more and that pays off. I think I transferred my dislike of the professor to the assessment tool – the guy was a jerk. But, like you, Sometimes, I feel that I could benefit from better intuition, but in general, I do OK with most people.

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  3. I’m INFJ, so I can relate to a lot of this. We are now, as we were with six in the house, equal number of I’s and E’s. Now that The Mister is so diligent in his course work, I fear Moo feels like the only person who’s DOING anything. She’ll skate into the living room and start makin conversation. Then my husband or I will tell her, “This is a quiet room. See how everyone is reading? You can read here, but you cannot talk.” She finds us DOING things and talks ours ears off until we’re done, but at least she’s got that! Now she and Sassy have begun negotiating everything, and this mostly consists of Moo doing things for Sassy at the cost of Sassy agreeing to PLAY :) It’s been a quieter summer since I taught Moo the art of negotiation!

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  4. I’m an introvert without any thinking —– I’ve given that up almost completely — too much trouble . People have always thought , though , that I have “deep thoughts” , so I ride that wave as far as it goes .

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  5. People really do give way too much credence to these kinds of tests. I too am an INTJ, but my Judging came up at a lofty 89%! (Judgy? Me? Nah.) The best description I’ve found though is this: “INTJ Female: “It’s like finding a unicorn… an EVIL unicorn!” Hmm…

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    1. i can’t imagine you as an EVIL unicorn, that’s absurd. The professor was all about determining these traits in others so you could use them. The church was offering this in the hope that – if you knew that this is who you are, you would be comfortable with yourself. The church had the better idea, but I’ve always been pretty comfortable with who I am. Thanks for stopping by Wendy.

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  6. I have no idea what box I fit into psychologically speaking. I tend to avoid boxes for myself and for others. Too restrictive and annoying. I’m quiet when I wanna be, I’m loud when I wanna be. I wouldn’t mind being able to “read” people better but not for nefarious or business reasons, but to simply communicate more clearly. Great post and comments!!

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    1. Thanks Kami. I wouldn’t know the terms if I hadn’t been made to take the test, but that description doesn’t exactly surprise me. I’m really enjoying the comments on this blog lately. I appreciate (all of) your time.

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  7. I would describe myself as more introverted than extroverted, though it is in varying degrees either way. I, like Kami also struggle with the boxes and have not ever been one to find a great deal of comfort in labels, particularly those used with negative connotations.

    Often when someone uses the word ‘Introvert’ it is inferred as something that needs to be fixed, or an affliction resulting from a terrible tragedy. This might be the case sometimes, though in most cases, I’d say not.

    Great post.

    ML

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, every time someone has told me that I am or seem introverted the connotation has been that I need to seek out a 12-step program to deal with that. I’m comfortable just being me. It’s not like there aren’t things I could do to improve, but I’m not interested in changing my basic approach to life.

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        1. I have. My daughter has recommended “Quiet” to me (she read it last summer). I need to read that book. Thanks for the reminder. I like that hashtag #IntrovertsStandProud

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          1. She is awesome. I have just posted her Ted Talk as my 2nd JusJoJul post :) I pinged you in – It was wonderful to hear her speak again when your own post provided a timely reminder :)

            ML

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  8. I must admit, I am a misfit. I began as an extrovert, and now lean more towards the introvert. My thoughts are deep, and many not easily accepted. I miss my extrovert self, yet Life seems to have actually formed me into the introvert. *sighs* Go figure. Great post, Dan!!! (smile) Love, Amy

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  9. I wish I’d understood at a much earlier age what being an introvert meant. I think both my career and social relationships would have been far less stressful, if only because I would have had a clearer idea of why I craved alone time. There are so many of us somewhere on the spectrum, but the premise seems to be we “should” be striving to become extroverts. Blogging is a perfect medium for someone like me.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Sammy. I agree, blogging is a good mechanism for me too. I can be thoughtful yet still reach an audience. Alone time is good time when it’s necessary.

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  10. From what you’ve described here, I think I am an INTJ. The only difference is that I see links between things other people would easily miss. It helps me a lot with Math, especially. I manipulate and apply the concepts with much ease. In 2007, we were studying analogue electronics and the lecturer made a very long derivation for a BJT amplifier gain on the board. When he was done, I told him all that he’d done could be reduced to three simple steps. “Show me,” he said, thinking I was bluffing. I did show him. While the class cheered the simplification, he was hating me, feeling belittled, which wasn’t my intention. And some other day, I reduced his entire derivation of an oscillator to 1, which shocked him like hell because 1 cannot be an equation of an oscillator. He corrected it the following day and respected me thenceforward. I also feel rather awkward in a crowd–I can’t just fit there, man–and most people find me truly boring a companion in real life. Me and my thoughts are quite fine companions already.

    By the way, I like the part where the girl observes you while you observe the squirrel. I imagine your report was a bit about the squirrel while hers was a bit about you observing the squirrel. Cool.

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    1. Thanks Peter. When someone says “I could do that in less time” you can challenge them to prove it. When someone says “I can do that in 3 steps” challenging really isn’t a wise course as they probably do know what they are going to do. I’m glad it ended with a respectful relationship.

      If you want to know for sure, you can take a simplified version of the test here – http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

      I don’t recall the entire conversation, but the professor dragged out the dialog between me and that girl to the point where she looked like Sherlock Homes and I looked like I went through life with a bag on my head. Not only was his focus on explaining how these observations were useful, he was suggesting that we should work on changing our behavior. In other words, she was fine, but I should stop looking at squirrels. To this day, (I’m happy to say) that change hasn’t happened.

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      1. Thanks, Dan. I took the test. I am definitely an INTJ. I took Engineering and Mathematics before I even knew it. Now I can print that page and show it to those who disturb me at work. And my girlfriend needs to see it too; she likes to complain about my lack of small talks and adventure. But she does excuse me because “These engineers! They are so boring. Maths and Maths and Maths. And nothing else!” she says.
        Thanks, man. And have a great week!

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  11. I am kind of inspired from this post and I have something on my mind with regards to independence that I will write when India celebrates Independence Day in August. Hope I can do justice to what I want to convey.

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