People like sorting themselves into groups with other people. We identify with those who share our political views, have similar religious traditions, look like us, went to the same schools, etc. This seems to be a normal human thing. But it’s an all-too-easy shift to go from thinking “I am like these people” to thinking “I am not like those other people.” Now we have an “us” group and a “them” group. And the slide into deciding that “we” are better than “them” is one that has lead to all sorts of trouble throughout human history.
Tackling all the “us” vs “them” issues in the world today is far too large a scope for a single post. But I do want to address how this mindset is affecting communities interested in personality types. If there was ever a group that should be able to avoid turning against people unlike themselves it should be those learning about personalities. Sadly, that’s not always the case.
One of the core ideas in personality type systems like Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram is that no one type is better than any other type. Every type has strengths and weaknesses and every type is equally valuable. That’s a central part of these personality systems. They’re designed to help you understand your type and other people’s types so that you can better appreciate the variety inherent to humanity.
But even though personality types are meant to help us better appreciate other people the opposite happens far too often. Introverts accuse extroverts of ruining the world and hating us. Intuitives spread hurtful myths about Sensing types. INFJs portray themselves (or are described by others) as otherworldly, quasi-mythical creatures. And the list goes on and on.
I’m an INFJ so I’m going to pick on my own type for a while. I’ve seen topics brought up in INFJ-only settings about how it’s completely unnatural (well-nigh impossible) for an INFJ to be racist or sexist or anything like that. We’re so much better than all those other types that so easily fall prey to attacking other groups of people. Oh, no. We’re so much better than those uncouth bumpkin personality types.
What precious little snowflake hypocrites we are.
I’m sure you can see the problem here. And using one’s own type as an excuse to turn against other groups of people isn’t confined to INFJs. People of any type can make sweeping generalizations about extroverts, or thinkers, or SP types, or any other combination of letters. And those generalizations are often both inaccurate and unkind.
So lets get back to using personality type systems the way they were intended. As a tool to better understand both ourselves and other people, and then to better appreciate them as well. Those of us within the type development community have the tools we need to move past thinking about groups of people with an “us versus them” mindset. We can use type to climb inside other people’s perspectives and learn to appreciate that just because someone processes information and makes decisions differently than us doesn’t mean they’re our enemies or our inferiors.
2 thoughts on “Avoiding “Us vs. Them” Mentality When Studying Personality Types”
There are MANY (If not all) people who share many (If not all) “Human” attributes. In this understanding, I get it that Myers-Briggs personality type systeming is meant to categorize a fair generalization about “Types” of personalities. I like your approach and thinking with regard to this. It’s very…INFJ of which I am, too.
One generalization I have observed of my self and assume of others like me are that we are empathic. What is empathy to me (as I understand and operate with it in my forefront)?
In a nut shell, it’s just experience and how I feel about it…and as an extraverted feeling person, I project that feeling into my discerning nature. My “Judging” function compels me (cringe cringe CRINGE) to act upon that (because I hate hypocrisy) to demonstrate the point of testing the viability of if the experience and associative feeling is “True” or false regarding the matter at hand. I’ll continue to test until I’m gratified with the answer…even if it exhausts me, burns me out…runs me through the mill and I’m left completely depleted (where by I will throw up my shields of invisibility and set alarms that will scare the crap out of people to get the hell away from me in my quiet and well used place of sacred solitude).
It’s a noble thing…courageous in fact to have empathy as a primary go to because I never know how other’s will take it. Very often it is met with a lot of reaction…which I then react to (defensive)…which is normal of people (but painful for all concerned. There is great suffering in it)
If not for my tremendous empathy, however, I would be very tempted to retaliate through my discerning mind and take my feelings and insights as total and undeniable truth…and communicate them as such…with accuracy run through a pretty powerful and active mind and imagination. Would I be right on? Probably, but the pain it would cause (DOES CAUSE) I’d feel by proxy of my own deeply understood and felt experience of shame…hurt…pain and suffering. I call this “The Empath’s double whammy.” It’s brutal.
Yet…I am only human (just as everyone is). Being an INFJ does not excuse me for engaging bad behavior. That said…who’s to say its beyond the INFJ to be flawed and willing, through disappointment, perceived betrayal…any tender sensitivities (which are quite real to me)…to retaliate through an ego not well equipped or conditioned to “Turn the other cheek” when “An eye for an eye” demonstrates exactly how stupid it is to be mean or cruel.
I’d prefer to turn the other cheek, but I really really hate being slapped around simply for being me. I assume most normal people (Masochists and sadist being the exception here) do not like being criticized for who they are, how they are and the valid reason for both…which really shouldn’t be assumed (INFJ are quite curious about human nature, and does’t asking questions and having courage to answer them and having courage to hear the answer speak of a certain degree of compassion which would appear easy enough to engage in?).
Thanks for the article. It was really insightful, thought provoking and enlightening.
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I’m glad my post prompted so many intriguing ideas 🙂 Thanks for commenting to share your thoughts!
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