Different or Difficult?

April 2015. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

We know that personality type helps us realize that people aren't really trying to drive us crazy — they just see the world in a different way!

But does that excuse some behaviors that really are difficult, even though they are different?

And isn't it sometimes true that a strength can really become a liability when overused?

I have a friend who is an ENFJ. She is so good at making people comfortable in her presence and in getting under their skin to their essence. This is quite helpful to her as a divorce attorney. However, when a friend visited with her recently, she left feeling like she had been with a "vibe sucker." She felt absolutely drained. It wasn't a matter of a different style; those behaviors became difficult.

As an ESTJ, I value efficiency and can be pretty good at attaining it in many things that I do. When I am driving somewhere with someone else who is not efficient in their routing, I become difficult. I offer unsolicited advice and occasionally even unsolicited criticism.

An INFP friend was so focused on his values that he cut off valuable allies who could help him realize his dreams of creating an egalitarian community. He became difficult to work with.

Years ago, my friend, the late Susan Brock, came up with a STOP model to help us identify when type was being misused — and to stop it. Here it is with my modifications:

S — Stop strutting your type. Yes, you can be proud of who you are — some call it being psychologically patriotic. But you're not the only one who does things well. And at some point in the future you're bound to have a need to try other approaches that may not be natural ones, but nonetheless are what will be needed at the time.

And even more to the point, you're bound to meet someone of your exact same type who might appear to be a complete jerk, turkey, wally (or whatever label you want to use). Learning to stop the strutting will likely save you some embarrassment in the future.

T — Talking about everyone's type. This is about labeling and gossiping, which at times turn can into statements like, "what do you expect…she's just a Thinking type! She doesn't care about people and what she said in that last meeting just proves it." No one likes being gossiped about. And stereotyping is not what type is all about!

O — Obsessing about type. Type doesn't explain everything. Putting the type model on every little thing that people say and do just doesn't work. Not all ESTJs love chocolate (or maybe they do!).

P — Pushing tasks on people because of type. This is the one where we might say, "Oh you're the Extravert; you should give the oral report." Or "Sensing…let's see, that means you should take the notes at the meeting." We all need skills in a variety of areas. To not encourage the Introvert to give the report or the Intuitive to take notes unnecessarily deprives them of a chance for development.

Let's try to recognize when different is different and when difficult is difficult and not get them mixed up.