Getting personal(ity) Warning: INTP


photo 3I read a thought provoking question somewhere. The question read: “If you had a warning label, what would it say?”. A fine question. What would it say, indeed?

I gave the matter some thought and the answer came to me almost immediately. My warning label would simply state: Stand back: INTP.

For those of you who are unaware, INTP is a jungian personality type. INTP stands for Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving. INTPs are one of the rarest personality types, accounting for 1–5% of the U.S. population, some study shows.

There’s a multitude of personality tests out there, and the test that labeled me INTP was an updated version of the classic Myers-Briggs version, called JTI (Jung Type Indicator). I have some issues with personality tests, and I have even more issues with how they are used out there in the world. I do however find great value in them, and if nothing else they provide a great foundation for further and deeper discussion and reflection.

There are pages out there on the internet that attempt to explain in plain language what the various personality types are like. You can find a full description of me, the INTP here.

As always, descriptions such as these are likely to highlight how wonderful you are. Yet, what I’d like to focus on here are the potential problems associated with being of my particular personality type. So I did a bit of cut and paste. The big one in my personality type, the difference that really makes a difference, is the “I” as in introverted. When tested, you get scores that indicate how clearly you belong in one category or the other. I have what they call “a very clear preference towards introversion” (12, where 15 is max).

Anyways, these are things that I struggle with, and sometimes actually manage to master. On my good days.

Here goes:

– INTP’s are typically so strongly driven to turn problems into logical explanations, that they live much of their lives within their own heads, and may not place as much importance or value on the external world. They may seem “dreamy” and distant to others, because they spend a lot of time inside their minds musing over theories. INTP’s approach problems and theories with enthusiasm and skepticism, ignoring existing rules and opinions and defining their own approach to the resolution. The INTP has no understanding or value for decisions made on the basis of personal subjectivity or feelings. INTP’s are very tolerant and flexible in most situations, unless one of their firmly held beliefs has been violated or challenged, in which case they may take a very rigid stance.
The INTP may have a problem with self-aggrandizement and social rebellion, which will interfere with their creative potential.
The INTP is usually very independent, unconventional, and original. They are not likely to place much value on traditional goals such as popularity and security. They usually have complex characters, and may tend to be restless and temperamental.

There it is. With the issues in bold. Let’s make it personal and talk about this, in “I” form.

I live much of my life within my own head, and I place little importance or value on the external world.

Yes, the internal dialogue is constant. And if I am subjected to too much input from the world I immediately feel the need to go sit somewhere alone and sort out all the weird patterns that are starting to form in my head. There’s patterns everywhere for someone like me. It can be overwhelming. This is also something that gives me sleeping problems at times.

I tend to ignore existing rules and opinions and define my own approach.

I do have a hard time with rules that don’t make sense to me. I don’t like traffic lights telling me not to walk if there are no cars. I also have a hard time with rules at work, rules that just “are because they are”, such as office hours. Usually I can work within the rules by exploring the value, and then I can see the point of the rule, and follow it. It also helps turning it into a personal thing. For instance, “person X will be sad if I don’t follow the rules, I don’t want to make anyone sad”. There’s also an ever present feeling of skepticism towards just about anything that wasn’t invented in my head. This is annoying to most people. I realize this.

I have no understanding for decisions made on the basis of personal subjectivity or feelings.

Indeed. In any discussion I will challenge the logic behind the reasoning, not the opinions on the issue at hand. This means that I can agree with your conclusion, but I need to see a pattern of thought leading up to your conclusion that makes sense to me. This drives people crazy, I’ve noticed.

If one of my firmly held beliefs is violated or challenged, I take a very rigid stance.

This is true. I think this is because I don’t come to believe things lightly. There’s always a lot of thought effort behind any belief that I might embrace. And when these beliefs become a part of my core, I can get unreasonable if they are challenged.

I have a problem with self-aggrandizement and social rebellion. 

I struggle with a rather huge ego and I do have strong tendencies towards alternative thinking which can be challenging to people who never question the norms that underlie society. Alternative ways of looking at stuff makes me happy. It tickles my brain.

I am Independent, unconventional and original.

Very much so. To the extent that I sometimes feel like a freak that should stay clear of normal people. On a good day I take pride in being a bit freaky. On a bad day it can make me sad because I feel misunderstood and alone.

I don’t place much value on traditional goals such as popularity and security. 

Quite. And having untraditional values is not normal. See above. And not seeking popularity can make it difficult to attain popularity in certain circles. Since non-popularity seeking behavior is rather extreme to people who spend their lives trying to become popular.

I have a complex character, and I tend to be restless and temperamental.

I am very restless, and it feels like I crave a certain form of input, such as books or other stuff that challenges my thinking. If I don’t get that I can feel bored and restless.

So, what if you could read my INTP warning label? Why talk about these things? Why explore and discover our personalities? Well, I believe that understanding ourselves is also a way towards understanding others. And understanding others is a way towards empathy. And it’s through empathy that we create better work environments, communities and worlds.

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