April 22, 2011
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“You have no idea how hard this is for me…” That’s how my friend’s boss began when he told her that her job had been eliminated. You see, he’s an “F” and in his mind this gave him permission to focus on his discomfort rather than the fact that he was ending my friend’s 28 year career.
He’s also the guy that whined in meetings that he was a “J” so he needed more information to make a decision.
There’s one thing about accepting and making the most of our types, it’s another to use them to excuse self-serving or inflexible behavior. Because no matter what our type is, we are fully able to learn to function effectively in the areas that aren’t our strengths. I had an introvert friend in high school who was more outgoing than most of the extroverts I knew. No, she didn’t become an extrovert, she just learned to focus her attention outward in social situations when she wanted to.
Part of becoming a fully functioning adult is learning to do what doesn’t come naturally. I have a terrible time with directions but over the years I’ve learned how to manage finding my way around. Sure it takes a bunch of aids – I have a GPS system, a notebook full of directions and when I don’t have my tools I have to focus hard on landmarks and street names, but most of the time I can get where I’m going without any problem. It’s hasn’t become easy, I’m not like an “S” with their uncanny way of knowing how to get anywhere they’ve been, but I do just fine.
You Can Learn
With some practice you can learn to function in the areas that aren’t your type.
To Practice Extraversion:
- Join and participate in a social or professional group or club (find a group where the size and frequency of meetings won’t overwhelm you).
- Have lunch with one new social or business contact per week to increase your networking circle and to add breadth to your relationships.
- If you think someone can help you formulate a plan or move it into action, ask him or her for assistance, even if you prefer going it alone.
- Solicit another’s input; open up with at least one other trusted person and share what you’re thinking.
- At your workplace, make a practice of getting away from your desk, even if only briefly. Keep your office door open at times, and connect with co-workers. If you don’t work, or work from home, get out of the house at least once a day and connect as much as possible with the people you meet when you’re out.
To Practice Sensing:
- Take stock with your five senses periodically. What do you see, hear, smell, taste and touch? What does the air feel like, what do you see around you?
- When going someplace new, pay attention to the route, landmarks, and what your destination looks like. Note where you park your car and what entrance you use. Try to stay oriented to north, south, east and west.
- Stay in the present – frequently check in with what’s actually happening in the moment.
- Focus on what you truly experience and what it means vs. what you make up or infer about it. Take a situation purely at face value without adding any interpretation or “story” to it.
- Practice relaying direct, specific facts to others.
- Tell a story in more depth than you typically would including precise, exact and accurate details.
- Periodically do a mental scan of people in your life – what’s going on with my daughter? spouse? co-worker?
- Increase your connection with the external world by consistently listening to the news or reading a news paper or news magazine. Focus on staying informed about key local and world events.
To Practice Thinking:
- Practice giving simple, direct, to-the-point feedback to others. When feedback comes your way, don’t take it personally; use what’s helpful and ignore the rest.
- Ask yourself if-then and cause-effect questions such as, “If I say ‘yes’ to this, then what do I need to give up?” “What are the effects that result from these actions?”
- Make a decision using an objective framework. List pros and cons, but don’t include any with emotional content (except for what’s in line with your personal values). Make a decision based on an analysis of the pros and cons.
- After making a decision using an objective framework, take a tough minded stance and hold firm. Use the information from your analysis to support your position.
- When you believe that something you’ve said or done has hurt someone’s feelings, check in with them to see if your perception is correct.
To Practice Perceiving:
- Schedule a day to go with the flow. Note what turns up that adds value to the day.
- Allow a reasonable period of time to elapse (a few hours or a day) before finalizing a decision. Use the extra time to gather more information or probe for additional insights.
- In solving a problem, think of several options besides the one you think is correct. Make a list of the pros and cons of each option and its impact on people. Challenge your original selection.
- Monitor yourself for a day and see what happens when you allow yourself to be interrupted. Try to increase your tolerance for delays, ambiguities, and unforeseen changes.
- Don’t answer e-mails or voice mails immediately, wait as long as practical before replying.
- If people want your opinion, try remaining neutral. Give several alternatives and let them decide for themselves.
- Go on an outing with no plans or schedules. Let others make all the decisions and focus on relaxing and enjoying whatever happens.
This is the eighth installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ. For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.