jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Introversion Intuition Thinking Judgment

INTJs apply (often ruthlessly) the criterion “Does it work?” to everything from their own research efforts to the prevailing social norms.

I first took the Myers-Briggs personality test in the Navy, stationed at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in New Mexico. I believe it was some sort of HR project for the civilians on base that I worked with, and I was asked to participate as well. I was pleased with the results, and perhaps even a bit proud of the favorable description. Reading the results I found several instances where the profile matched or explained past behavior, but truthfully I wondered if I had unconsciously steered the test in the way that I wanted it to go. Several months later, I took the test again, and again got the same results: INTJ. Satisfied after taking the test as honestly as possible, I moved on.

Personality tests attempt to generalize patterns of behavior. Since all people are unique in their experiences, not everything these tests say will be accurate. Any attempt to explain behavior should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Uniqueness is not something we humans like to have in our world though, so we love to group, categorize, and label people. It is a behavior we learned in middle school, and extends well into our adult life. Some people cannot understand others without some sort of grouping context to place them in, even if the context is grossly inaccurate. Personality tests can be a way to avoid this conscious or unconscious categorization for managers who want to understand and effectively communicate with their employees. For individuals though, and, particularly for me, the tests can provide insight into why I do the things I do.

The other day Benjamin Brooks, from the excellent Brooks Review, tweeted the results from a personality test he had taken. Brooks, like myself, is an INTJ. The tweet made me wonder if my personality had changed over the years, and if I took the test again if I would get the same result. So, I did and so… I am. My results did not change. The test still classifies me as an INTJ. The test results were not nearly as important to me as reading portions of the profile to my wife. The profile embarrassed me by how well fit portions of my life, particularly in my relationships with friends and family.

The emotions of an INTJ are hard to read, and neither male nor female INTJs are apt to express emotional reactions. At times, INTJs seem cold, reserved, and unresponsive, while in fact they are almost hypersensitive to signals of rejection from those they care for.

When I was a child, I was part of the “Gifted and Talented” project. As part of the project, I saw a counselor, who did several tests. The counselor predicted that I would have few friends, but the friends I had would be very close. The prediction has been very accurate so far. I generally like people, and try very hard to be polite, but if the person is not deemed by my brain as being important or relevant somehow, I forget them almost immediately after meeting. I do not do it to be a jerk; it is just how my mind works. On the other hand, I still know where my best friend from high school is, and if he showed up at my doorstep tonight, we would spend the rest of the night getting caught up.

Having the type of brain that I have makes me very good at some things, like being a systems administrator. I build and organize large, complex, intricately interwoven patterns of things. I have the ability to understand complex technological concepts, and am very good at explaining those concepts to others. I am very good at teaching, mentoring, and talking with others one on one. I know what I am good at, but more importantly, I know what I am not good at. I am not good at informal group meetings or luncheons. I am not good at the after work meet up at the local bar. I am not good at small talk about sports or hunting. When considering my interactions with others, it is not enough to just say, “I’m not good with people”, that is inaccurate. I am very good with people, I am not good with informal social groups of people, because I do not understand the dynamics of how they work, or how I am expected to behave. I much prefer a small, quiet coffee.

INTJs are analytical. Like INTPs, they are most comfortable working alone and tend to be less sociable than other types. Nevertheless, INTJs are prepared to lead if no one else seems up to the task, or if they see a major weakness in the current leadership. They tend to be pragmatic, logical, and creative. They have a low tolerance for spin or rampant emotionalism. They are not generally susceptible to catchphrases and do not recognize authority based on tradition, rank, or title.

That last sentence might seem out of place for me, considering my military background. My friends from the Navy would know that it hits the nail on the head. There was more than one Chief I went toe to toe with, and since I was outranked, I usually lost. I was in the Navy, and I loved the travel and opportunities it gave me, but I never quite fit in the Navy. Some fit in the Navy like an old glove; I was more like forcing a round peg in a square hole. I needed the Navy in my life, and I am proud to have served for the eleven years that I did, but I was also glad to leave.

It is good to know that even though I have changed over the years, the core of my personality has not. I still care deeply for my loved ones. I still keep my space neat, clean, and organized. (As a side note, my parents never had to tell me to clean my room. I kept it the way I liked it.) What I have learned in the past few years is how to push myself outside of what I am good at, and into things that make me uncomfortable or are simply not my strong point. Like working on home improvement and music, and even saying yes, every now and again, when asked to go to lunch.

Personality tests are not gospel; they are not the be all and end all of who you are. However, if you are like me, by taking a test you might be able to gain some insight into why you do what you do. The test might help you find your strengths, and identify some weaknesses.

Perhaps the most fundamental problem, however, is that INTJs really want people to make sense.

All quotes from this article were taken from the Wikipedia page on INTJ.

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