Revising the Story

June 2012. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

Social psychologists are interested in the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the world. Editing those stories may help us better understand ourselves and others and can even lead to behavior change to move forward.*

Many of us have stories about how psychological type has been involved in the process. I often hear someone say jokingly (or not) when they first learn about type, "You mean he's (she's) really not trying to drive me crazy??!!"

I recall a group of primary school teachers I was working with. A new teacher had joined their team and she never went to lunch with them. They felt snubbed and believed the new teacher was a snob.

Imagine their surprise when they discovered that the new teacher preferred Introversion. She needed the short lunch hour to rejuvenate. The rest of the staff preferred Extraversion. They liked one another's company because it helped maintained their high energy. With the editing from type knowledge, they now view their fellow teacher in a different light.

A civil engineer had his story revised and edited as well. He would go to city council meetings carefully presenting his data about various projects in the city. Several days later he would see some of the attendees again, and they would bring up his presentation. The problem was that they had interpreted his presentation facts in ways very different than what he believed to be true. In his mind, he called them "liars."

He was amazed to learn about Sensing and Intuition and how people could hear the same thing, but interpret it differently. He learned to ask those people what they had heard and how they interpreted his presentation. Together they were able to come to new solutions to problems in their community. They too constructed a new story.

When hearing a problem, Thinking types often determine that the best way to help is to solve it, while Feeling types often believe what helps most is to empathize with the person affected.

When my Feeling daughter thought she had lost all of her digital pictures of a recent vacation, I (a Thinking type) quickly jumped into action and started naming all of the steps she could take to check if this indeed was the case.

Her Feeling boyfriend, who lived on another continent six time zones away, quickly sent her flowers with a note, "I'm so sorry. We still have the memories and we'll make more together." You can, of course, figure out which "story" editing she preferred!

As a Judging type, I often give clear answers when someone invites me to an event. It's a "yes, no, or let me check my calendar and get back to you." Some of my Perceiving friends answer, "Well that sounds like fun."

In the old days (pre-type), I'd interpret that as a "yes" because if I made that statement, it would be! Now I know to hear a statement like that as one of many possibilities, and to press for a definitive answer if I need one (like in purchasing tickets), or just wait it out if I don't. I've edited the story so that I understand the message.

How have you edited your stories with your knowledge of type?

*See, for example, the March 2012 Article, "Revising Your Story" by Kirsten Weir in Monitor on Psychology.