02 June 2011


My personality-type is classified as "ESTJ".  This is an abbreviation for a heat-seeking problem-solving missile who naturally talks better than he listens.  It doesn't mean I'm a bad person, however.

The classification stems from Carl Jung's 1921 book "Personality Types" (English edition: 1923).  It was developed further during WWII by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, and a free test to classify people is now called a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test.  There are four pairs of distinguishing personality sets, and the ESTJ stands for Extrovert, Sensing, Thinking, Judgment (not judgemental).  The full M-B explanation for my personality is:

"Practical, realistic, matter-of-fact. Decisive, quickly move to implement decisions. Organize projects and people to get things done, focus on getting results in the most efficient way possible. Take care of routine details. Have a clear set of logical standards, systematically follow them and want others to also. Forceful in implementing their plans."

Ahem.  This type is sometimes called "The Guardian"  ...and they are usually handsome, brilliant... and irritating to a knife-draw for their apparently genetic inability to listen very well.  

My wife's personality is the polar opposite in all of the four categories.  You might wonder how this might affect the survivability of a marriage, but we're homing in on 43 years together.  Not that our marriage like any other has been easy: success has more to do with two people being unselfish than just about anything else.  

I once took the four-week-long, management-bootcamp-on-steroids training offered to senior Federal managers called the Federal Executive Institute.  This was one of the real game-changers in my life, and re-oriented me in a lot of ways.  While there I was grouped with an-8-person cohort, called a Leadership Development Team.  We began the first day with M-B testing, then spent several days analyzing the results.  We actually spent little time on the results per se, but we spent a LOT of time analyzing what they MEANT in terms of how we relate to people of other types.  This training opened my eyes to a completely different appreciation of Diversity.  Our LDT was tasked with doing something.  We brain-stormed, listed out on a white-board many different ideas and approaches.  They were very different.  Abruptly, a high-level NASA PhD said "I really like Jeff's idea."  He then offered something I never would have thought of to improve it.  Among the eight of us, other ideas then came into play, some were rejected, others bent - and the final result was just amazing.  The sum was truly greater than the parts.

Our trainers were steering us to just this observation: that Diversity is not just a GOOD thing, but an ESSENTIAL thing.  The NASA executive had just one M-G character trait in common with me: we were both extroverts.  He was naturally built to see things differently than me.  He picked up on things I had missed.  

Here's another interesting thing: Ed and I remain best friends to this day, with a difficult experience in common and an abiding appreciation of the other's talents... and treasured differences.

--> The polar opposite of appreciating diversity is manifested in some of the greatest horrors of the 20th century: 
Treblinka.  Jim Crow.  Bosnia.  9-11

Have you ever heard this expression:  
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" ??

Sometimes attributed to Patrick Henry, this eloquent defense of tolerance and freedom of speech apparently originated with the French writer Voltaire, that master of liberal philosophy renowned for his satirical wit.

Voltaire was a great admirer of Blaise Pascal, his own polar opposite.


No comments:

Post a Comment