January 29, 2011

Living as a Rational

When I worked at a former employer, they administered a Myers Briggs personality test to each of the people in my department.  I came up as an ENTJ.  Back in 2005 when I got my results, I read the short blurb about that kind of person, nodded, and promptly forgot about it.

I've always been drawn to pulling something apart and seeing how it works.  This includes understanding how people tick.
Recently, I've found myself curiously browsing what it means to be each kind of classification.  Something I learned is that there are 4 general archetypes, with 4 sub categories under each.  Being an ENTJ, I'm part of the Rationals.  We are the group who are iNtuitive and Thinking.  So, you have the ENTJ, the INTJ, the ENTP, and the INTP in my peer group.

I was curious about what the most common personality group was.  So, I did some looking.  There are the Guardians, who make up the majority at 40-45% of the population.  There are the Artisans, who are 30-35%, the Idealists who number around 15-20%, and the rarest creatures, the Rationals, who are between 5-10%.  Mama always told me I was one of a kind.  She wasn't far off if the numbers are to be believed.

As a very fictionalized frame of reference, think of the television show Bones.  The squints could largely be seen as a representation of each archetype within the Rationals.  The namesake of the show, Bones, is the ENTJ of the group.  Her former assistant, Zach Addy, is the INTJ. Jack Hodgens is the ENTP.  And while not a perfect match, Dr. Saroyan is the INTP. 

Rationals have to contend with some pretty unflattering perceptions held by the world at large.  We're seen as cold, distant, unfeeling, socially awkward, and sometimes emotionally inappropriate.  We can come off as selfish, self-centered, and self-serving.  We tend to be independent, strong-willed, and driven by our own inner need to conquer any task in front of us. Our even tempers and long fuses make us seem unemotional.  We aren't terribly likely to remember sentimental dates such as birthdays and anniversaries.  Yet, when we do tap into our emotional side, we can react much more intensely than is generally acceptable.  We're seen as "a bit much" in that regard.

We tend to live life in the long term.  We are most comfortable when our futures aren't in question and we have plenty to occupy us in the short term.  Disturb either of those variables, and the energies that motivate us are diverted away from the constructive into the potentially self-destructive. 

The extroverts among us have to be mindful lest we take our love of problem solving and apply it to people.  We can, if we're not careful, treat people like projects.  Think My Fair Lady and you're not far off. 

Rationals are the least likely to enjoy dating.  While we enjoy puzzles and problem solving, the dating game with its less than concrete rules is, at best annoying, and at worst, a means of making us feel incompetent.  And incompetence is extremely uncomfortable to a Rational thinker.  As a personal addition, I have found that in my own efforts I am either one one end of the spectrum or the other.  I either know that I will dazzle a potential date and will spend the evening charming them to my own ends, or be completely on edge about how I'm perceived.  I am either nonplussed or have heartburn that could dissolve diamonds.  There is rarely a middle ground.

I have also run across several NTs who self-identify as sociopathic, who seem to me to lean more towards the rational than the mentally ill.  In doing just a tiny bit of research, it seems that yes, the cold disregard for others fits.  But many of the other qualities such as lying for sport, parasitic behavior, possessing poor self control and generally not being a go-getter certainly don't. 

In summary, Rationals are just as human and feeling as everyone else.  However, we look to the empirical before the ethereal.  We value knowledge, challenges, and are self-contained.  Speak to us directly and without disguising your intentions as we tend to respond better to that.  There is nothing "wrong" with us.  We just process the world and the people in it a little differently than most.

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