“You’ve Got Me Feeling Emotions”

Actually, no.  You really don’t.  But, I thought I’d use back-in-the-day Mariah Carey as a cheesy and snarky segue into explaining INTJ emotions – or our seemingly lack thereof of them.

INTJs are often depicted as cold and unfeeling because of how we view, speak, and react to people’s emotions.  We’re not devoid of them though.  Feelings, particularly expressing them, are very tricky for us.  Let me illustrate it this way, and pardon my nerd moment.

Think of every fight between Captain Kirk and Dr. Spock on Star Trek.  Kirk is annoyingly emotional (well, maybe that’s William Shatner’s overacting, but it’s irritating nonetheless), while Spock thinks (emphasis on thinks) things should be viewed and handled analytically and dispassionately.  It’s not that Spock doesn’t understand or recognize that emotions exist.  He views them as a nuisance, and possibly causing more problems.

Because we’re wired to see matters – even feelings – in a logical way, INTJs often have a delayed reaction to emotional circumstances.  Even when we have legitimate reasons for being angry, it may take us days to conclude we feel that way.  Of course, that’s not an absolute.

If we’re worn thin, we could react like an ESFP when we’re upset.  INTJs (as well as all other personality types) tend to behave more like our opposite type when we’re under stress.  So unless you’ve gotten us when we’re particularly aggravated, we don’t lash out.  We may be absolutely livid. But, our “wiring” will cause us to project a seemingly cool and aloof demeanor that belies what we really “feel.”  I’ve even had instances where people didn’t know they had upset me because I appeared to be composed.

In fact, one of my former co-workers described me as “Zen like” during breaking news situations at our television station. Inwardly, I was like a bundle of nerves..

There are times, though, when people are put off by how we talk to them. “Fs” (Feelers), in particular, often misinterpret our direct manner of speech as anger.  As I’ve written before, INTJs believe in the economy of words.  We also usually have an extensive vocabulary that allows us to communicate precisely what we mean. Also too, our conviction, and the intensive manner in how we speak may also give the impression we’re incensed.

That’s not to say we don’t have flash points.  Most INTJs, including me, can even tolerate blunt speech.  I will tell you that I don’t do well with nasty, mean-spirited talk. It could be because I’m from the Deep American South, how I was raised, my wiring, being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, or a combination of all of those factors.  My displeasure is usually conveyed in a serious, direct, and composed manner – and the perpetrator usually gets the message they need to cease and desist.

My (our) lack of immediacy in our feelings does have its pros.  It’s prevented me from saying and doing things I may have regretted later.  It’s also given me time to ruminate about why the other person said or did what they did — and if it’s worth my mental, emotional, and spiritual energy to be upset about it.  Most of the time, it’s not.  Like Spock, I usually deduce that getting all worked up causes more trouble.

While Mariah doesn’t have me feeling emotions, she or you, could have me processing them.  I know.  That’s way less catchy.  Mariah wouldn’t have won any Grammy’s with those lyrics.

Oh The Dichotomy!

About a year ago, my INTP friend (who is from the American Midwest) suggested this topic.  She asked me how I could reconcile being an INTJ, with being born and raised in the Deep American South.  I’ve been mulling over that question ever since.

Although I was raised by rather traditional, black, Southern parents (we’ll delve into that later), they did not train me to be, nor they want me to be a Southern Belle.  Furthermore, many Southern cultural norms are diametrically opposed to the INTJ personality.  Here are just a few:

Small Talk/Chit Chat

Small talk is virtually an Olympic sport in the South, especially in smaller towns and cities.  INTJs infamously hate it.  We’d rather take a bullet to the dome.  But, as I’ve explained before on this blog, I do believe in manners.  No matter how uncomfortable it makes me, I engage in small talk because it’s polite. Fair warning though.  With an INTJ, especially when you don’t know each other well, expect for your conversation to be rather awkward.  Here’s why.

First of all, chit chat is superficial.  INTJs relish deep, complex discussions.  Second, our thought processes are methodical and compartmentalized.

Imagine an INTJ’s brain like files on your desktop, or an old-fashioned rolodex.  Our “desktop” or “rolodex,” are labeled and categorized. Each time we encounter an acquaintance, we “search” or “thumb” through our “files” for relevant information.  When we find said relevant information, we pull from that storehouse of knowledge.

It sounds cold, mechanical, even weird.  But, that’s all we got.  Give us credit for trying to make an effort to have a conversation with you.  Because trust me, we’re dying inside.

If we’re keeping score, I would have to say INTJ 1, Southern Culture 0.  That’s because I politely engage in small talk, but it’s under duress.

Southern Hospitality      

This one is a biggie. Any good Southerner knows you will lose your “Southerner card” if you’re inhospitable. For the record, I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The scriptures encourage us to be so (Romans 12:13).  As such, I would try to cultivate that quality regardless of my cultural upbringing and/or personality type.  But, being an introvert makes being hospitable a bit of challenge.  INTJs, and introverts in general, don’t like interacting with large crowds.

I enjoy organizing events for small groups (which coincides with INTJs having a close knit circle of friends).  In fact, I even had a corporate event planning business.  I’ve also spearheaded larger events, but it was more for the benefit of others – not for my pleasure.

At those large events, you’ll see me running around taking care of things.  Often times, legitimately so.  Sometimes, it’s just “busy work” as a coping mechanism.  It’s like the grown-up version of long division.

For those of you who are a particular age, do you remember teachers making us do long division?  It was under the pretense that it would be “good practice.”  In reality, those poor souls needed a break.  They gave us long division so we would sit down and shut up!

If I had my druthers, I would just plan the event, leave, and return for the clean-up.  Of course, that would fly in the face of being the gracious, Southern hostess.

Mostly, I like event planning because it’s a creative outlet for me.  Growing up, I played the flute and the violin, was in band and orchestra, and was involved in student journalism.  As an adult, I worked in the broadcasting industry where I not only wrote extensively, but I also created graphics.  Now, I don’t necessarily have any avenues to express my creativity.  Well, besides this blog, of course.

I guess the score is even now:  INTJ 1, Southern Culture 1.  My reticence for Southern hospitality is trumped by my faith, and by my desire to be creative.

Being “Presentable” At All Times

This is another staple of the American South – particularly for women.  I’m not quite sure where I saw or read it, but Southern women spend more time and money at the hairdresser or salon than any other group of women in the United States.  I’m not sure of the origin of this penchant (although you can bet I’m going go research it).  I just know that it exists.

Granted, going online and taking a gander of photographs from Walmarts in the Deep South may make you question me on this one.  Fair enough.  But, I think that phenomenon is generational.  Society has degraded to the point that anything goes.

Believe me.  I understand the need to be comfortable. I telecommute, and one of the great bonuses is that I don’t have to put on “real pants” to do my job.  On the other hand, I don’t agree with wearing sleepwear in public.  Just look at Merriam Webster’s definition:

Pajamas:  clothing that people wear in bed or while relaxing at home

Yes!  The operative phrase being “at home.” (I apologize to my NT friends for the redundancy).  No one should be subjected to hair rollers, fuzzy slippers, and smiley face pants, while picking out their produce.

Here’s another aspect of being “presentable.”  Southern women, mostly of a particular age, think they should be in full makeup when they’re out in public – no matter what they’re doing.

That’s just crazy to me.

For example, I’m not putting on makeup to go to the gym.  It’s going to sweat it off, burn my eyes, and clogs my pores, causing break-outs.  Look.  My body is at war with itself – sprouting zits and gray hairs at the same time – I don’t need to add to the chaos.

Also, gym bunnies annoy me.  Why are they in full makeup like they’re going to the prom?  Please explain to me the purpose of wearing bubble gum colored lipstick and fake eyelashes to a Spinning® class.

I also don’t get putting on a full face to run to the store.  My mother says you should do so, just in case you run into someone you know.  Her logic is the same as wearing clean underwear, in case of an accident.  To me, wearing clean underwear is hygienic.  A full face of makeup is just impractical at times.  And frankly, I really don’t care.  If you roll up on me at Publix without makeup, you see what you see.  Period.

I’m “presentable” during appropriate occasions.  When I attend meetings at the kingdom hall (that’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses call our services and our places of worship), when I engage in the Christian ministry, and in professional settings, of course I’m well put together.  That’s just being respectful, as well as hygienic.  Furthermore, I like looking nice – when appropriate and practical.

It was hard to tally the points for this one.  I’d say my “INTJness” won out.  So it’s INTJ 2, Southern Culture 1.

Traditions

My parents were/are SJs (ISTJ and ESTJ).  If they’ve been taught them, SJs tend to be hardcore adherents to cultural norms.  That’s not to say NJs and SJs don’t have anything in common.  We do.  We’re not the most spontaneous lot.  SJs can be progressive. It just takes them longer to adjust to new things.

NJs, for the most part, are pretty open-minded.  We believe in ideas.  If you can provide us with compelling reasons or concrete proof that our thoughts and ideas are wrong, we’ll quickly adapt.

We also believe in efficiency, and that’s where we get into trouble.  A lot of traditions are inefficient.  Please allow me to elaborate, or rant – depending on your view.

At weddings, why do they freeze the top tier of the wedding cake for the first anniversary?  Where did that tradition come from? (yet another thing for me to research!) Look, I’m a fan of baked goods – actually a little too much of a fan.  But, why in the world would you go through the hassle of wrapping up the cake, freezing it, defrosting it, and then eating it a year later?  What if you move in that first year?  Are you supposed to keep up with the stupid cake?  What if it’s freezer burned?  Who knows, and who cares, if the couple really sits down and eats the cake a year later?  Are the anniversary police going to bust through the door all SWAT like, and arrest them if they don’t?  It’s just cake!

I’m not saying all traditions are without their merit.  In some instances, it may be a good idea to follow them – just for the sake of peace and avoiding unnecessary offense.  It’s the same thought process as being polite and mannerable.

Much of the time, though, people blindly follow traditions because “it’s always been done that way.”

Again, INTJ is victorious, 3 to 1.

We’re Just People

 This exercise was interesting.  As a black INTJ woman, who happens to have been raised in the South, there are some aspects of Southern culture I embrace.  Others, not so much. It appears my INTJ personality wins out a lot of the time.  But, I do try to balance the thoughts and feelings of others; with what I can reasonably do, and maintain a good conscience.

I guess I’m a cultural cherry picker.

The Intimidation Factor

“But he/she’s so intimidating…”

 If you’re an INTJ or have an NT/NF personality, you have heard this ad nauseam.  Frankly, it’s a bit annoying.  Even when people have not explicitly expressed the above, I’ve picked up on that attitude in seemingly innocuous comments.  Here’s a sample:

  • You’re always so well put together.
  • You’re so quiet.
  • What?! You have bad days?!

Why does caring about your appearance equate to trying to be “perfect”?  Isn’t hygiene important?  What?  You want me to go around killing people and wilting flowers with body odor and bad breath?  Because that would be the result of my lack of “perfection.”

Since when is not revealing your every thought “perfection?”  Did you think that maybe I have nothing to say?  Or, could it be that you have misread the relationship?  You feel you have the right to know about my life, but perhaps I don’t.

Questioning that I, or anyone else, would have a bad day makes absolutely no sense.  We INTJs are human.  Ergo, we have bad days…even bad years!   No one is immune to the stresses and rigors of life.

Sometimes, it’s not what people say.  It’s how they react to you as an INTJ.  I’ve seen people get visibly uncomfortable in their interactions with me, or they just bow out altogether.  Here’s the thing:  Being aware of something, doesn’t mean you understand it.

Seriously.  I don’t get why people would be intimidated by me at all. Yes.  I’ve read a lot of information about INTJs, specifically, INTJ women, and how we’re perceived. Because it’s felt that we can “see through people” (that’s often true), and that individuals are “transparent” (true too!) to us, people often feel that they are naked and exposed.

Okay. Okay.  In hindsight, and with that description, I can see it a little bit.  But, I honestly don’t fully comprehend the intimidation factor.  Here’s why, and forgive my use of clichés:

How could one imperfect human, who puts on their pants’ leg one at a time, allow themselves to feel inferior to another imperfect human, who too puts their pants’ leg on one at a time?

Let’s be real here.  That’s what intimidation is.  It’s allowing another imperfect human…I repeat…. allowing…another imperfect human to make you feel inferior.  No one can force you to feel or think anything about yourself – or anyone else for that matter.

Self-worth is a power no one should ever relinquish.  Conversely, a person who has true self-worth would never want to make others feel as if they are “less than” them.  People who really respect themselves, respect others.

On the other hand, those who do feel they are superior to others are simultaneously arrogant and insecure. Arrogant because they feel they have the right to impose their standard of worth and value on others, and because they feel they are entitled to judge others.  Insecure because they often project what they dislike about themselves (sometimes subconsciously) onto others.

A person who has genuinely high self-esteem recognizes they have strengths and weaknesses.  They also realize their strengths are not, and should not be, predicated upon others’ faults.  Ironically, the “strengths” insecure people often feel they have, are viewed as weaknesses and irritants by others.

INTJs are a confident bunch.  We know what we know, and often aren’t shy about that.  Of course, there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  Unfortunately, INTJs are painted with the “arrogant” brush, and what they actually think and feel is anything but hubris.  In fact, sometimes, we don’t mean anything by what we say and/or do.

We may speak authoritatively about sugar cane production in post-revolutionary Cuba (Yes.  I did actually read someone’s doctoral thesis on that subject.), like an ST would speak about the feud between Taylor Swift and Kayné West and Kim Kardashian.  One discussion is not superior or inferior to the other.  They’re just different based on the person’s personality and interests.

With all of that said, I would like to know what you, the reader, thinks.  Perhaps there’s a point of view I’m missing when it comes to the “intimidation factor.”

Have you encountered an INTJ, or a person you suspect is an INTJ?  What were your first impressions of them?  As you got to know them better (if you did so) how has your opinion of them changed?  How so, and why?

I will put your responses, if you give me permission to do so, in my blog.

Thanks in advance for your input!

“Hmm!”

Have you ever had one of those moments in life where all of a sudden you just, “get it?” Oprah Winfrey calls it an “Aha Moment.”  Other synonyms or trite expressions such as “epiphany” or “the light bulb going off” also apply. Whenever it happens to me, I get pensive, and utter the title of this blog entry.  Whatever you choose to call it, it can happen a number of ways.

When you were younger, maybe your parents gave you some advice. You thought it was the dumbest thing you ever heard, and derisively rolled your eyes.  (For the record, I never did that to my parents.  That would’ve been a death sentence!)  Years later, you discover their counsel was spot on.  Maybe, you intuitively or instinctively knew or felt something, but couldn’t qualify it.  Then, somehow, there’s concrete, definitive proof your hunch was right.  Or perhaps, it was old information presented from a different angle or in a unique way. Whatever the case, you finally “got it.”

One of my hobbies is documentary films.  I enjoy them because they quench my INTJ thirst for knowledge, and pacify my curiosity.  They provide me with the “whys” and “hows” on a variety of topics and issues.    Or, they give me a new perspective.  That happened as I watched the Anderson Cooper/Gloria Vanderbilt documentary, Nothing Left Unsaid.

Caution, this contains spoilers.

In the documentary, Cooper interviews his mother, and they both talk about their lives.  She discussed the infamous custody battle over her as a child, her marriages, her career, and watching her son commit suicide — while he spoke about his family, the effects of his brother and father’s deaths, and how covering Hurricane Katrina triggered his feelings of loss.  Towards the end of the film, Cooper used an interesting metaphor about survival.

He said he watched a Jacques Cousteau documentary about sharks.  Sharks always have to move forward because if they don’t, they’ll die.  Cooper theorized that’s how he and his mother have been able to endure tragedy in their lives. Subconsciously, they knew they had to keep moving forward.

Hmm!

I learned about sharks as a kid.  But, how they survive…just survive…never resonated with me.  “Unexpected events” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) can happen at any time, and to anyone.  For some people, several “unexpected events” or a single event can be so profound, it can have prolonged consequences that last a lifetime.  No matter the duration, it’s one thing to be a victim.  It’s another to remain one.

Look, my intention is not to get all “self-help booky” here.  There’s plenty of information on the Internet, and on actual book shelves about self-improvement and empowerment.  Actually, in the immortal words of older Black American women, “I can’t stand that mess!”  Self-help books are usually filled with faddish platitudes.  But, there’s something to be said for resilience.

I’m not dismissing what are often tragic, heart rending experiences.  But, from what I’ve noticed, truly resilient people don’t just “survive” hardships, or tragedies.   They thrive after them.

No.  Thriving isn’t automatic.  Nor is it without a lot of hard work, and effort.  Whether it’s because of spirituality/faith, determination, the help of others, or a combination of all three, those individuals endure.  But, it’s how they go about doing do so.

It’s without becoming embittered or remaining demoralized.  They don’t become completely overwhelmed, or allow themselves to be or remain hopeless.  They may not whiz around to and fro in a frenzied pattern like a shark.  But, they do make strides, even small ones, to get on with their lives.  They keep moving forward.

I’ll never forget an illustration I heard.  Most of us know what it’s like to trip and fall in public.  Even if you don’t experience physical pain, the embarrassment makes up for it.  You quickly jump up, if you can, to lessen your humiliation.  Whether you needed assistance or not to get up, no one would you find you in that same spot days, weeks, or even years later.  The empathy the observer may have had initially, would subside.  That’s because no one respects someone who allows a pitfall to become a permanent state of being.

Hardships reveal who and what we really are.  If a person is wise and discerning, they’ll learn and grow from them.  But when a person just stays where they metaphorically “tripped and fell”, without trying to get up, the observer no longer blames what caused the fall.  They fault the faller.

Who knew a couple of lines from a documentary could spark such rumination?

Hmm!

“You Done Good!”

It’s a little sad when a friend’s kid recognizes how much of an INTJ you are…even if they don’t necessarily articulate it that way. Let me explain.

“Travis” came up to me, and told me that he heard that I hate verbal, or implied redundancy. Once again, he’s a kid. So, he didn’t exactly “say” that. But, you get the point. Anyway, he said, “ATM machine.”

I cringed.

You see, saying “ATM machine” is really saying “Automatic teller machine machine.” And that drives me NUTS!! So does “PIN number”, “VIN number”, and “hot water heater.”

For the love of Pete! Why don’t most people get that if it’s hot water, it doesn’t need to be heated. It’s the WATER HEATER for crying out loud!!

Now, we come to another little factoid about INTJs. We hate redundancy. Abhor it. Why take 100 words, to say what could be summed up in 50?

To non-INTJs, that sounds a bit impatient and harsh. For the most part, we don’t mean to sound or be that way. The reality is: Imperfection means that everyone is a little bit crazy – it’s just in varying degrees.

Everyone has their “thing” or “things.” You know what I mean. That “thing(s)” that drives you insane… that get under your skin. One of mine (yes, there’s a list), is verbal/implied redundancy.

Speaking of which, I forgot to mention a few other “things.” Hisself.

I’m a Southerner. And, I’m proud of that. But, hisself is NOT A WORD!  It’s “himself” Southerners. Himself. Please, let’s get it together. The same applies to “theirselves.” It’s “themselves.” As it does to “he/she done it”, and “you done good.” I lose brain cells when someone says any one of those “words” or phrases.

Verbal/grammatical inaccuracy is just distasteful. Period. I have literally (and yes, I do mean literally) had to stop myself from pulling over on the side of the road, and writing in a missing apostrophe, or removing one, on a sign. The struggle was real ya’ll.

Look, I’m not saying that you need to be an English or Literature major to be close to us. But, do recognize this: I am silently judging your grammar. And/or your choice and usage of words, and/or non-words.

 

Deuces, I’m Out

Authors will tell you there are times when copy writes itself.  This is one of those moments.

I’m earning a certificate to supplement my background in the broadcasting industry.  In one of my classes, the instructor gave us two options for our upcoming homework.  We could either do it in class, in groups.  Or, we could complete the assignment outside of class, individually.  Guess which option I took?

Mentally, I raised two fingers and exclaimed, “Deuces.  I’m out!”  That experience also got me thinking about the difference in how extroverts and introverts view group activity.

A little more than a year ago, I went on a trip to do my Christian ministry in a remote area of Northern Alabama.  There were 11 of us altogether.  We were sitting at lunch, and one person noticed a woman at a neighboring table eating alone.  Another person in our group, who has tested as an ENFJ, suggested that someone should eat with her and befriend her.

Therein lies the crux of things. An extrovert assumed that because someone was alone, they’re lonely and have no friends.

The “lonely assumption” drives us introverts nuts.  The mere physical state of being alone doesn’t equate to a life of wretched solitude.  For all we know, having lunch alone was that woman’s one time to have a moment’s peace.

I don’t want to give the impression that all extroverts are insensitive and intrusive.  That’s simply not true.  And in my ENFJ friend’s defense, she meant well.  Extroverts do thrive on being around people.  Therefore, they’re more apt to seek out and enjoy group activities.

For introverts, interacting in group settings is difficult.  Extroverts in the group expect spontaneity in thought and speech.  They process externally, by “thinking out loud.”  Introverts are not wired that way.  We think deeply and carefully before we speak.  People often  misinterpret our lack of spontaneity as aloofness.  And in some instances, even stupidity.

Trying to process a concept, understand it, form a thought about it, and then articulating said thought in a matter of seconds is overwhelming for us.  Imagine several objects being thrown at you at high rates of speed.  That’s what a group setting is like for introverts.

I’ve had the instructor I mentioned at the outset in other classes.  He’s a good guy, who I believe is an introvert too.  Thank goodness he offered the individual option.  I was already tired, and in no mood to deal with group activity.  It’s hard enough to deal with things being mentally thrown at you when you’re alert – much less when you’re exhausted.

“You Don’t Sound Black”

Or, you “talk white.”  Ahhh…if I had a quarter for every time I’ve been told either of those phrases, I’d be independently wealthy.  Often times, the person saying those remarks really thinks they’re being complimentary.  Despite their best intentions, they’re not.

When confronted with those comments, I’ve always calmly and politely replied:  “I’m sorry.  What do you mean?  My parents taught me to use correct grammar.  In fact, everyone in my family speaks properly. Soooo….I don’t understand.”

Then, I would wait for one of two outcomes.  1.  All the color would slowly drain from their face, or 2. The person would turn ungodly shades of red.  The turning of colors was usually followed by a bunch of hemming and hawing and/or the person uncomfortably saying, “That’s not what I meant” or “you know what I mean.”

My collected and mannerable reply to, “You know what I mean” was:  “No.  I’m sorry. I don’t.” Being graciously called on their ignorance, the person would be so ashamed and embarrassed, that they would walk away or stop talking altogether.

But, it’s not just white people who are guilty of projecting those stereotypes.  Black folks do it too.

Several years ago, I worked at a television station as an Assignment Editor.  One of my duties was to find stories for us cover.  It was during Black History Month, and I found a local black history museum.  Over the phone, I spoke to a gentleman at the museum.  To help us do the story, he agreed to drop off a promotional CD.  When I met him in the station’s lobby, his reaction was visceral.  He didn’t know he had been talking to a black woman.  To his credit, he didn’t verbalize his shock.

That leads me to a question.  What does it mean to “sound black” or to “talk white?” In all the years that I’ve been “complimented,” I’ve never received a satisfactory answer, or even a mildly plausible thesis to explain their meanings.

Furthermore, since when do black folks have the monopoly on butchering the English language?  All you need to do is look at a number of reality shows (Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty come to mind).  On those programs, people of a variety of races and backgrounds equally make William Shakespeare spin in his grave.

Side point:  I find it humorously ironic when a white person says, “you talk white,” while being totally unaware that they’re using incorrect grammar.

Back on topic:  Not only do I find the “you don’t sound black” and “you talk white” quips offensive as a black woman, they’re also irritating as an INTJ.

Regardless of race, creed, or color, INTJs generally hate poor grammar and bad spelling.  As I’ve explained before, we’re usually quite keen about correctly using and speaking a language.  We also love learning, and being knowledgeable and competent.  To use poor grammar would portray a lack of education and credibility.

Many INTJs – including me – are perfectionists.  That reason makes our disdain for adulterating a language self-explanatory.

And finally, INTJs believe in improvement – especially in ourselves.  Let’s sum things up with the trite expression:  “When you know better, you do better.”  To willfully and knowingly use poor grammar would reflect that we haven’t invested in our own self-improvement.

No.  I don’t “talk white” nor do I “sound black.” Rather, I respect the English language and its grammar.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t frequent Buckingham Palace.   There’s nothing wrong with using slang and being lax with grammar, in appropriate settings.  But, the ability to write and speak well is important.  It can mean the difference between getting a job, or being unemployed.  Plus, if memory serves, none of my English teachers and professors explained that grammar rules were contingent upon a person’s race.