“I’m not a psychopath, Anderson, I’m a high-functioning INTJ. Do your research.”
Thanks to an Internet friend, I have a new resource for exploring M-B personality types. As usual, some of the descriptions on the INTJ page were freaky-accurate for me, and some less so, but it all inspired me to write a companion for a previous post about being an INTJ (and not a sociopath).
If you are an INTJ, you may find the following as helpful as I did. If you’re not, this may help you understand the INTJs in your life.
I’m not generally a details person. This is no surprise to people who know me well, but it’s a frequent source of annoyance and misunderstanding. Although I am interested in politics, economics, and history, I do not relish the nitty-gritty of election results, GDP data, or specific dates. Yet when I say I’m into those topics, that’s what many people imagine. My interest lies in theories and why they would work when practically applied. I’m not interested in the details of Obamacare; I’m interested in the general concept of government in healthcare (and why it’s a bad idea). With history, I love studying changes over time, seeing prevailing ideas give way to others across the world. I love watching period films and understanding the bigger picture behind a conflict. One of my favorite things in the world (no sarcasm) is watching a period movie with someone who does not know history as well, and constantly pausing to explain why this or that thing happened, from a historical perspective. (This is partly why it took me and Joy about 8 hours to get through 4 hour-long episodes of North and South, but I loved every minute of it.) Sure, people like Jane Austen/Elizabeth Gaskell/Bronte stories because of the entertaining characters and romantic conflicts, but I also love to explain exactly why Willoughby could not “just get a job.”
I don’t care for specific details and events. I enjoy British naval history, but I could not tell you much more about the Battle of Trafalgar except (SPOILER ALERT) that Nelson wins…and dies. This type of thinking was a constant source of frustration for my college advisor/favorite professor, who often pointed out that I obviously understood an idea, but my essay answers lacked supporting examples. And I was always thinking, “What does it matter if I don’t remember the specific start date of a specific New Deal program if I obviously understood the causes and consequences?”
Once, a very kind and well-meaning friend tried to fix me up with a guy she knew, thinking we would hit it off because we were “both into politics.” Aside from the obvious danger (he was a standard right-wing Republican and I’m an anarcho-libertarian), we both had a different approach to politics. I like big-picture theories, and seeing how individual issues are all connected to a central problem, but his focus was on local/state laws and zzzzzzzzzzzz.
But hey! Turns out that this is an INTJ thing. The INTJ Characteristics page of this new resource says, “Facts and figures bore them, and they will be looking to see the ‘bigger picture,’ planning for the future that they create.” It adds,
such is their introversion and high ‘N’ that they spend a great deal of their time in an internal world of complexity and imagination which can see them viewed as slightly eccentric or ‘not of this world,’ and this creates issues when they try to explain to mere mortals what it is they are working on. As they prefer the abstract and theoretical, ‘S’ like explanations are difficult for them and so others may perceive them as disconnected and a bit ‘boffin-like’ and intellectual, maybe even arrogant.
(Obviously this page is a British creation. Do you need a definition for “boffin“?)
It’s funny how various personality types can demonstrate similar traits, but for different reasons. One of my Extrovert friends has admitted that she and other Es are often paranoid about being “too much”: too talkative, too exuberant, too invasive, too loud. Because of my passion for specific interests, I can sympathize with this anxiety, but for me, it comes from a different place.
You see, everything I just wrote is an example of another INTJ trait: If you think we’re always quiet, bring up a topic we’re interested in and see how wrong you are.
The page on INTJ relationships says:
Although quietness pervades, the INTJ is capable of being a real chatterbox … only on issues which are important to them or which stimulate them. When an idea is fully formed (until it is the INTJ would prefer not to speak of it), the INTJ is prone to wax lyrical about it even to the extent of becoming an expert bore!
I am well aware that I do this. If you have read my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I do this. Look at what I’ve written so far: I’m doing it right now. When I get started on a topic about which I know a lot and in which I have a great deal of interest, I cannot shut up. I know I’m rambling, I know it’s getting tiresome, I know that whomever I’m talking to has long ago lost interest, but I have things to say and I can’t stop because when I care about something, I care with a ferocious intensity. I have opinions, I have information, and when I see an opportunity, it must come out. I am constantly on the lookout for a chance to drop a C.S. Lewis quote or a Shakespeare reference into even the most unrelated conversation. I rarely get the opportunity to talk about an interest as much as I really want to. And if I get teased or criticized for talking about it so much (or interrupted, or deliberately diverted), usually it is crushing. Even if the person did not mean this at all, it comes across as saying “This thing that is very close to your heart doesn’t actually matter. Shut up.”
It’s also interesting (to me) to see how different personality types can have the same interests, for completely different reasons.
Sticking with the example of North and South, another friend of mine, who is very much a Sensing type over an iNtuitive (based on my observations—I don’t know that she’s taken a Myers-Briggs test), also enjoys the miniseries. But she likes watching the process of the two main characters falling in love and seeing how that plays out. That is, in fact, my least favorite part. Anyone who’s ever watched any romantic comedy or costume drama knows they will get together in the end, and personally, I don’t much care how it happens. I like the historical side of things, the religious and political aspects, and the tension between social classes. I care more about what happens to Mr. Thornton’s cotton mill than his relationship with Margaret (who annoys me more with every viewing), but I suppose that’s more my Thinking over Feeling dominance than anything else. In another example, this same friend and I both enjoy nature walks. But she, with her S eye for detail, focuses on the minutiae of a well-formed pine cone, while I, with my big-picture N side, get swept away in the enormous majesty of a sunset.
When I was writing and editing my novel, I didn’t know much about Myers-Briggs at the time, but by chance I had my manuscript edited by an IS- and an EN- and wow, talk about different perspectives! Kara, the EN, was really good about picking out plot holes and pointing out when characters spoke or behaved inconsistently (since she knows them almost better than I do). Joy, the IS, was after me for my grammar, and wanted to know exactly what the characters were eating for dinner.
This website also says, “INTJs want people to make logical sense and so feelings are difficult for them to fathom.” This is kind of true for me. As I’ve said before, I test close to INFJ, so I may be more emotionally developed than your standard “cold and aloof” INTJ. As I’ve also said before, I still prize reason over emotion, which allows me to recognize when I am being overwhelmed by emotion, and where that is coming from. But it is absolutely true that I want people to make sense, and it really pisses me off when they don’t. Really, though, I want everything to make sense. I am actually not bothered when people have a different opinion than I do, or perform a particular task differently, if it makes sense to me. When it doesn’t (for example, if a person’s opinion comes from an emotional experience rather than reason), it irritates me to no end and I want to argue about it until I’m satisfied, or they change their mind, or I’m dead.
But, as it turns out, one of my favorite things about learning my personality type—with all its strengths and weaknesses—also fits in with my type:
Innovative and analytical, INTJs have a unique talent for analysing complex problems and issues and determining how they can be improved, whether it be a small innocuous product or the whole organisation. Their favourite subject for improvement, however, is themselves and they are on a constant quest to learn, develop and progress.
Indeed, that’s me. Longtime followers of this blog might notice that I’m big on self-improvement, and anyone who knows me knows that I’m my worst critic. Knowing my Myers-Briggs type, knowing what my weaknesses are, gives me suggestions for what to work on. It’s funny that this comes with the same personality type that’s supposed to be seen as aloof and arrogant. I supposed that’s because INTJs tend to speak up only when they’re sure of something. (Hmmmm, who does that remind me of?)
Oh hey! The website says
To outsiders, INTJs may appear to project an aura of ‘definiteness’ of self-confidence. This self-projection, sometimes mistaken for simple arrogance by the less decisive, is actually of a very specific rather than a general nature. Its source lies in the specialised knowledge systems that most INTJs start building at an early age. When it comes to their own areas of expertise – and INTJs can have several – they will be able to tell you almost immediately whether or not they can help you, and if so, how. INTJs know what they know, and perhaps still more importantly, they clearly know what they don’t know.
So yes, INTJs are confident in what they know…and what they don’t know.
And what I don’t know … is how to end this post. So here’s another picture of Mr. Darcy: