These excerpts are from my book on personality types: 16 Kinds of Crazy: The Sixteen Personalities.
I prioritize my relationships, because people are the center of my world. They matter to me and stimulate me. I want to hear about their stories, problems, and ideas. I enjoy being there for them, making them laugh, and advising them if needed. They activate my empathy so often I no longer differentiate it from my resting state.
When I talk to you, my mind clears itself and connects to yours. Engaging with you makes you the only person in existence. I want you to see by my attentiveness that I am aware of your needs and ready to respond. You choosing to focus on me creates a special link between us. I want to experience all kinds of bonding.
I categorize situations in my head in terms of their dynamics. Strangers, coworkers, friends, lovers, or family members all require a different level of interaction and caring. I know or learn, based on my environment, how to behave in each place and with every person. Doing this requires me to know the rules of conduct. They stabilize situations by offering us a way to make everyone present feel comfortable. Inappropriate behavior causes awkwardness. To avoid this, I focus on figuring out what is okay and what isn’t in each situation. A church has another code of behavior than a bar or a rodeo. I tune into differences in how to behave wherever I find myself, and cater my behaviors to them so people feel at ease. I withhold opinions that could offend others by asking if they are appropriate to the time and place. Knowing what’s expected of me helps me make things pleasant for everyone else.
Slipping into Your Shoes
Given a choice between a good book or a conversation, I’ll choose the discussion every time. People’s emotions and thoughts mean everything to me. Sharing in their lives excites me.
I prefer one-on-one to a group. A group is loud, like having ten phones ringing at once. It makes it hard for me to listen to them, give everyone the same amount of attention, or be aware of what’s happening in their life. I won’t know who to talk to first or how to moderate myself for their sake. It’s confusing and disorienting. To truly tune into individuals, I must think about what to say in each encounter, and craft my words to fit their needs. I can’t do this when I must divide my attention between a dozen people.
I can adapt my personality to suit each situation and friend. It’s automatic, like a chameleon changing colors to blend in. I have no other option but to adapt to you. This includes taking on your feelings. My feet automatically slip into your shoes. My antenna is so tuned into you, I feel whatever emotions you are experiencing. Your joy, your pain, and your fear wash over me. I need not have gone through a similar experience to know how you feel. It’s hard to know if an emotion is mine or coming from you, unless I learn to separate myself from you!
Thinking about what you need gives me words to console you. I focus on you, consider what you need to hear from me, and cater what I say to you to suit your specific situation.
I feel the most at ease when everyone is in harmony. If we’re all comfortable with a situation, there are no land mines to step on, and we can work together to accomplish goals. Everyone is equal in my mind. I want them all to feel included and heard. You can compare how I feel about this to the round table of Camelot. King Arthur treated his knights as his equals and let them criticize him. For me, an ideal situation lets everyone take part and feel heard.
Creating a space where people can interact harmoniously means being aware of what is okay to share. I tell things to my best friend I can’t say in mixed company. Until I know someone well, I can’t be sure what might offend them. Being in a public place makes me aware of who’s around me and how my behavior might affect them. Others who are unaware of what’s thoughtful or respectful make everyone uncomfortable and unsure how to react. My ability to respond fast to changing situations helps me find a way to change the subject, smooth things over, or cover up a humiliation.
I think in terms of “we,” not “me.” You and I become “us.” I make your preferences part of my decisions. What activity should we do this weekend? Others enjoying themselves makes me have fun, but any kind of disharmony gets to me. My son loves the water park, but my daughter would rather read a book! If I take her to a bookstore before our trip, will that improve her mood so she doesn’t bring us all down? I look for ways to keep us all happy.
Consideration means putting aside my feelings for the sake of others. It’s so automatic, it shocks me when people do not do this. If a bad attitude is spoiling a family outing for everyone, I may ask the spoilsport to adjust their behavior. Being around others makes us responsible for them. We need to pay attention to how we’re making them feel. Thinking about this helps me keep my feelings under control. I may have a bad day, but if my daughter is excited about her first ballet class, I smile for her sake. It’s important to her. I don’t want to ruin this memory for her.
I find it difficult to be around people who think only about how they feel, at the exclusion of those around them. In Raising Helen, a movie about loss, the aunt finds the kids hidden in a closet during their parents’ wake. She reminds them to go downstairs, because “many people came here today to give you their condolences.” A funeral isn’t just about the family. It’s also about being respectful of the guests. I take care of the feelings of those around me. If it means putting on a pleasant expression for them, so be it.
Being tuned into others makes me aware of their unhappiness. I get upset and offended if people mistreat them. Caring about your feelings and factoring them into our interactions is so important to me, strangers not doing the same implies a lack of consideration. I value my loved ones and their emotional health, so it’s hard for me to give someone the benefit of the doubt who harms them.
Why is This Happening?
Under stress, I don’t focus on resolving a situation, but get caught up in questioning it. A need to know why this is happening eclipses all else. If a neighbor gets hurt in my garage and sues me to pay his medical bill, I get offended. I thought we had a good relationship built on trust. He’s doing this, knowing it will hurt our friendship. Why? What does it say about me? Him? I must know! If others like my friend more than me and it bothers me, I ask myself what traits they possess that I lack. I need to know the why of everything. Why would a bully pick on me? It’s hard for me to accept there is no reason other than meanness. It may not be me, but an angry person needed to pick on someone and saw me first. The emptiness of that answer won’t satisfy me. It’s too senseless.
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ESFJ: The Socialite
Certain interests last forever because I find them special. I want to know everything about them. Give me all the details! I will record and remember them, whether it concerns a period of history I love or my favorite author. Don’t debate with me about them. You will lose. I remember everything and will correct your inaccuracies.
It’s no problem for me to keep track of information and details related to work, school, or loved ones. If I plan a party and invite a bunch of friends, I won’t forget one of them can’t eat shellfish, another has a honey allergy, and a third can’t do gluten. If put in charge of a field trip, I’ll find out everything I must know about the kids, will keep them all organized and efficient, check on them to make sure they are being taken care of, and plan an itinerary.
I focus on those around me and what’s happening in their lives. What needs done, and when, doesn’t escape my notice. It’s not like me to forget to put air in the tires, neglect renewing a prescription, not bring water bottles on a picnic, or overlook a friend’s birthday. I create a space for information inside my head, an internal library full of detailed data records. Everything new gets compared to my related topics and stored in that section of my imagination.
If I want to remember something, I think about where it belongs in this internal system and file it there. Learning means updating my reference manuals. I review each situation, experience, or piece of information to decide where it goes in my library. Do I need to create a new category for it? I build a referencing system full of instant comparisons that lets me interact with the world. The more I know, the more I feel confident about navigating it. Knowledge creates expectations for the situation, to tell me where I fit into it. Contrasting data with familiar facts adds to my collection. Though this sounds complicated, I do it without even thinking about it.
My detail-awareness lets me keep track of many things at once. I juggle work and home responsibilities, facts about my children and their friends, people’s food sensitivities and weekly schedules, info relating to my personal interests, and still get my work done. I stay busy and productive. My fingers are in a lot of pies!
I love people, so I collect detailed information about their lives. It lets me accommodate them according to what will make them comfortable. Don’t stick me behind a desk doing data entry; ask me to host the visiting foreign clients. I’ll find out where they can stay according to their individual needs and schedule their days around enjoyable experiences. Be clear in what you tell me, not vague. I want to know what you expect so I can fulfill it.
Practice builds my confidence in relying on a proven method in the future. If it worked for me, it will work for you! If I want to learn a skill, I study others’ methods and copy it. Duplicating their process generates a similar result. Once I do it enough times, I no longer need to think about it. I repeat this process several times, and adapt it to suit my needs. I invent an original approach once I know a project’s parameters. This involves knowing the textile and its limitations, and why we use the method we do.
When I want to strip paint off a piece of furniture and varnish it, I find out how others did it without damaging the wood. I ask lots of questions to establish the details. What are the varieties of paint stripper? What wood grains are they for? Getting it right means not rushing this process. Knowing so much before I start a project lets me make an informed decision when I visit the hardware store. I pay attention to the process and the results. If I used the wrong stripper and need to fix it, I file away that information to avoid a similar mistake in the future. (This doesn’t work on oak. Got it! Next time, I’ll find out what kind of wood this is first!)
Once I know how to knit, video edit, turn a cartwheel, or design a 3D model, I can improve on the process! I trust what works for me, what life experience has taught me, and what has helped me overcome my problems. Sharing what I know lets me connect to new people. I’ll talk about whatever you find useful, assuming you want to know what works! Let’s discuss creative hacks to clean bathtub grout, tips on writing romances, essential tools to keep in the garage, or the five things that helped me find an agent.
Find What Endures
I have a built-in radar for what matters the most in life, based on its permanence. Tangible things fade away, but sacred truth last long after we die, like humanity, family, honor, and duty.
Meaningful eternal truths are my anchor. I take out of a situation what matters to me, feels lasting, and reflects my values or beliefs. I store knowledge on what has seen myself and others through life that creates reliable, proven methods. I know that if I follow them, my life will turn out the way I plan it. Over thousands of years, we have found, tweaked, and passed on successful techniques.
How reality works is obvious to me from its repeating patterns.
Family units mark stability in life. It’s how humans survive. In ancient times, families stuck together in groups for safety. Over time, this evolved into ideas about marriage and children. This stabilizing tradition has repeated itself faithfully for centuries. Each generation repeats the reproductive cycle. Our genetics outlive us. The only thing permanent is our descendants until our family line ends. Our ancestors (where we came from) connect us to the past; our descendents connect us to the future (where we are going). It’s a world captured within an idea. This carries meaning for me.
Being part of this ongoing cycle feels like establishing stability. I expect people to fall into this normal and accepted pattern. I don’t mind deviations, but everyone needs to be aware of how the world works and what outlasts us.
The world won’t change to accommodate us, so we must learn to live in it. This is easier than it looks. Observing how it functions sets a guideline. Owning a successful business requires being self-disciplined and patient enough to get past the hardships in the lean years until you earn a profit. A good job requires an education. No amount of wishing will change it. Repeated behaviors create reliable methods. Attend college, get a job, start a family, buy health insurance, save up for retirement, or buy a house. A home is where you welcome your family, celebrate births and holidays, and build memories. It offers a family security.
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ENFJ: The Impressionist
Life gives me the answer to questions I haven’t even asked yet. I know things without being told about them. Listening to you talk gives me clues about what will happen next between us or what’s going on inside you. You mention your terrible week in a therapy session. I get the impression you’re going to leave our meeting and get drunk even if you didn’t mention being a recovered alcoholic. Something about you gives me that feeling, but I won’t know if it is right until your actions prove or disprove it. I form assumptions based on the path you seem to be on and draw an image of your future from there. It’s not fixed. You could change course.
My day is full of these unconscious insights. The longer I spend pondering impressions, the more sure I am of their correctness. It feels like there is only one likely scenario or explanation. I trust this process; it’s easy for me to make rapid judgments based on my insight. I assume I know what’s going on, without any evidence to support it. If challenged to prove my conclusions, I can’t. It’s an unconscious sense of what’s happening under the surface. I built a hypothesis around what I know of someone’s character, or seeing how a pattern will play out unless a variable changes its path. The impression is real to me. Staring at it brings it into sharper focus.
Other people look straight at things, but I approach them from a side view. My mind searches for a distinctive viewpoint. I reach a similar conclusion to others, but not for the same reason. You and I refuse to vote for a political candidate. In your eyes, he reflects values you can’t support. But when I look at him, I see how his election will cause a negative ripple effect. As a polarizing figure, he isn’t right for the time we’re in; his election will cause division, not unity. My perspective isn’t on today or tomorrow, but on the road ahead. I consider how people, places, and movements may evolve. Planning for that future takes up much of my time. I want to get it right.
My predictions form based on the most probable outcome. It can be an instant process, an immediate reaction, or take longer to digest. The promptness of my judgment depends on how fast the patterns intersect in my mind to form a full image. I produce and sift through many possibilities in search of one. The right one feels a certain way and makes sense to me. If I keep coming back to the same answer, no matter what perspective I use, it has the strongest resonance. It remains true, no matter what. Internal reflection and consideration bring it into focus. My insights seem quicker to you than to me, because they sprang into my mind before you saw it.
Linda is optimistic and good-natured. I see her once a week, but not often enough to know her well. We chat while she checks out my purchases at the store. Today, she’s quieter than usual. My friend throws out reasons she might be out of sorts, like problems at work, an argument with her teenage son, or a sick pet. None of those seem right to me. I noticed she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. “Her marriage has fallen apart,” I say.
I can’t prove it without asking (which is intrusive), but it fits the evidence. Linda usually wears a ring. None means this isn’t just a quarrel. I never choose the obvious answer. I might even overlook simpler explanations in search of more interesting ones. Fantastical ideas may occur to me before an obvious, practical answer. My hunches can be dead on or miss the mark. I won’t know for sure until reality proves or disproves it or gives me data to refocus my perspective. I want to narrow down my stance, not widen it. Like a scientist focused on a single white blood cell in a Petri dish, I don’t want to corrupt my sample with unnecessary information!
My ideas are self-born, not gathered from the environment. Don’t take it personally if I dismiss your suggestions. Unless you offer a viewpoint that didn’t occur to me, I’ve already thought about and eliminated those ideas while searching for the best vantage point. I keep outside perspectives from tainting my focus by ignoring them unless they make me see something differently. Whenever that happens, I mull over it to find out if it’s true. If so, it feels like it’s always been part of me and has waited for me to find it. During my process of examination, all outcomes are possible. Once I consider each one and reject it, only one remains—the truth. For me, it’s the only truth. Time will either prove or disprove it.
I get so busy looking at the forest I forget about the trees. I shift a specific conversation into an abstract topic related to how things connect, the meaning behind that statement, or what I suspect will happen next year. I focus less on the information you give me and think about a big picture instead or the motivation behind certain behaviors. The more data I receive, the clearer the image becomes.
Interpreting relational dynamics is second nature to me. It’s easy to consider both perspectives to shed light on a situation. A friend said, “My ex is sending me mixed signals. He asked me to give him space, but keeps intruding on mine. We agreed to avoid each other but he sent me a Christmas card! I asked if he wanted to open up a dialogue. He said no. If not, why did he send it?”
“Tell me about your relationship and how it ended,” I replied.
She does. I consider this information until an impression forms in my mind. I reply, “The card wasn’t to get you back. It said, ‘I hope we can have amicable interactions in the future, with no hard feelings.’ It was a test to see how you would respond and if things are ‘okay’ between you. He didn’t assume you would see it as an invitation to get back together.”
Where my friend saw this interaction as evidence of her ex being indecisive or playing games with her, I framed it in a different light. I took the impression she gave me about him and gave him the benefit of doubt. Sometimes, the reverse is true and a behavior isn’t innocent. Seeing situations from another angle is my talent. My friends saw Frozen as a cute animated film. I thought about how nice it was for albino children to get positive representation in Elsa. She’s gorgeous, and could be an inspiration to them. Often, albinos are villains! Can you imagine how that makes a kid feel?
Looking for an interesting perspective means I can waste time seeking insights or deeper meaning where none exists. Though it’s fun to ponder how future generations may judge our decisions as a society in 500 years, it solves none of our current problems. Yet, I care about it. I think about it. Humanity interests me. Where is it going? How will its perspectives change? What can I do about it?
Sometimes I get stuck on one viewpoint. This creates problems without workarounds. Being so determined to narrow my options causes me to eliminate ideas. I may forget to reassess them, even if I’ve received new data that would make them relevant.
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