Our Favorite Type Breakthroughs
Naomi Quenk, INFP
Naomi Quenk was introduced to the MBTI 47 years ago and has been working with it ever since. She has been active in setting policy for its ethical use, researching, teaching and writing on many aspects of type, and used the MBTI in her clinical practice for over 25 years. She served as president of the Association for Psychological Type from 1985-1987. She is the author or co-author of numerous publications on type, including the 1998 revision of The MBTI Manual, and several books, including Was That Really Me?: How Everyday Stress Brings Out Our Hidden Personality; In the Grip: Understanding Type, Stress, and the Inferior Function (2nd ed.); and Essentials of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment. (www.cpp.org) or (www.capt.org.)
Once, an ESTJ woman and I got into a conversation about our favorite ages for our children. She said, “My favorite age for my children was when they were infants.” I said, “Mine too.” She said, “I like infants because you can totally control them.” I said, “I like infants because you don’t have to control them.”
As a result of that experience, I never assume I know someone’s type because of some behavior. I realized that people can have identical behaviors for completely different reasons.
When I was a clinician in private practice, I got a message on my answering machine from a man saying he would like to see me for the first time, and he would like an appointment at 11 o’clock next Thursday. At first I took offense at his assumption that he could tell me when his appointment would be. Then I thought, well, wait a minute, the chances are this guy is some kind of TJ who has spent quite a long time deciding if he would go into psychotherapy, and once he made his decision, he was anxious to get on with it. That turned out to be the case, and I’m glad I had a chance to reflect because it prevented me from approaching this guy with a bias.
I sometimes hear people automatically assume that Js are doing things just to control people. It irritates me, because that is rarely their purpose. Js are just trying to do what they’re best at, which is to get the world organized and to get on with it. Actually, when it comes to controlling people, I’ve seen some Ps do that really well.
Because our children grew up with type, they totally rejected it. They used to get irritated with us and say, “Can’t you watch a TV program without typing everyone?!” My daughter would have nothing to do with type and wouldn’t take the Indicator, but when she was about 14, I caught her in a weak moment and said, “Would you at least read the type description that I think you might be?”
She read the profile of the INFP and got this sheepish expression on her face. “Well, yes, “she said, “but wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone were an INFP?”
“Oh my God,” I thought. “I’ve spent my life teaching people to respect differences and this is what my own daughter thinks.”
In my experience, INFPs can sometimes be quite resistant to type. They seem to be defending their individuality, and saying, “Nobody’s going to tell me that I can only be one of 16 types.”
I counseled one couple where the husband was an ESTJ and the wife was an ENTP. One of his big complaints was that he’d come home from work and see a pile of clean laundry on the couch. The next day, however, it would still be there. It stuck in his craw, and he wondered how it was possible for his wife not to notice it.
I said to him, “You notice the laundry and it’s hard to go about what you’re doing with it there.” “That’s right, he said, and he seemed relieved that I could see it from his point of view. Then I said, “But she really doesn’t notice it. She’s busy with the kids, and she’s not looking at the details. It’s just not important to her to have things in their place like it is for you.”
At the next session he told me, “If it’s a fact that having the laundry put away is important to me and not to her, I will do it from now on.” Once it became a fact, he could fit it into his system, and deal with other things that were important to her and not to him.
When my daughter was getting her library degree, she did a research project on the MBTI and children’s reading preferences. Teachers and librarians assume that children read fiction for fun, and non-fiction because they have to for a school project. But she discovered that little Ss read non-fiction because they love it.
One mother came in dragging her son and asked, “What have you got for an 8-year old who hates to read?” My daughter asked the boy what he was interested in. He said, “Airplanes.” My daughter gave him a half dozen books on how airplanes work, the people who fly them, and their history. A week later, the mother came back and said, “I don’t know what you did to him, but he read all those books and he wants more.”
Sensing children often get labeled “reluctant readers” because they are not reading what teachers give them to read. It’s just that they often don’t want to read about imaginary people. They want to read facts about the things that they are interested in and the adventures of real people.
My daughter also learned from some of the mothers she interviewed that Introverted children often come to story time and just sit there and don’t participate in anything. Their mothers reported however, that as soon as they got home, the kids would take their teddy bears or their younger brothers and sisters, and tell them the story. They just needed to get out of the group setting to “participate.”
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