thinking about being an INTP

Upon confirming my personality type according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator recently, it was fun to see that one of history’s most intriguing characters, Charles Darwin, was supposedly an INTP! What? Wait a minute. Did Darwin take the Myers-Briggs test? Did Einstein? I am not sure how a guy named Joe Butt figured this out, but in addition to Darwin and Einstein, Joe Butt’s humanmetrics.com list of famous INTPs includes Bob Newhart, Tiger Woods, and Kristen Scott Thomas as Fiona in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Huh? Random! Where’s the pattern? Well, maybe the randomness is the point. Or perhaps the article author Joe Butt made this stuff up.

What is certain, is that we each have strengths and weaknesses stemming from our core personality type. INTP, one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, stands for Introverted Intuitive Thinking Perceiving. Curious about your type? Either for yourself and/or to see how your leadership style may compare to your colleague’s to the benefit of your business? The online assessment takes less than 20 minutes. As with many things of this nature, the key is to answer as you truly are and not as you may aspire to be.

While descriptions vary from source to source, INTPs may be described as intellectuals who value logic and ideas. They may be characterized as “Engineers” or “Logicians.” Sounds like one of my parents … maybe there is a pattern here after all!

Recognizing the Pattern

While I’m not convinced of the legitimacy of identifying personality types for historic figures or fictional movie characters, reading a description of the INTP personality type is a bit of an eye-opening walk down memory lane for me. I say a bit, because some resonated, while others seem to describe someone else entirely. “Seem” might be a key word; clearly it is hard for each of us to fully perceive ourselves as others perceive us. Here are some examples from the humanmentric.com’s explanation of an INTP:

“INTPs are pensive, analytical folks. They may venture so deeply into thought as to seem detached, and often actually are oblivious to the world around them.”

Detached. This reminded me of the boyfriend many years ago who said that I could be aloof. I was actually just really shy and uncomfortable with myself all those years ago and chose to play it safe by not saying much and not seeming to care. Retreating deep into thought can create an appearance of detachment. Oblivious to the world around me?

I had to Think about this one.

I am intensely tuned into the planet as a whole, in particular to the precarious fate of vulnerable and disadvantaged humans and of different species that are rapidly disappearing as a result of human activity. Yet since the “world around” could mean something much more localized, like in this town, on this street, or in this room, I might sometimes be a bit oblivious because I am thinking about human rights abuses in the Central African Republic or orangutans suffering because of the palm oil industry in Indonesia.

“Precise about their descriptions, INTPs will often correct others (or be sorely tempted to) if the shade of meaning is a bit off.”

Oh boy, or oh girl, this is me. Flashback to someone who called me a “school marm” for correcting his choice of words. Ouch. Now I am more aware of this annoying habit. Recently while sitting on a barstool in Guatemala, a drunken person approached and casually said that he was in that “precocious” position of deciding whether to have another drink. Argh! “Precarious” started flashing in my mind like an obnoxious neon sign. That shade of meaning was more than a bit off. After a mini-battle with myself, I said nothing. Give a buzzed guy a break!

Looking at your type may be a window into the behavior patterns that have served you well or, in some cases, that have disserved you in life.

Going through some of the other “classic” INTP things: Mathematics, no. Languages, yes! Easy-going until pushed in a way that I don’t want to be pushed? Ask my husband. 😉 The sense that there’s always some critical piece of information or logic missing? Yep. Enjoys word games? Not at all. I love words, but I don’t want to force them to fit in boxes.

The Myers-Briggs test results indicate if you have a mild or strong propensity to the different characteristics. All of mine were on the mild end of the spectrum. Perhaps this is why I’m not some wild-eyed scientist or mathematician, but if I were asked about people I admire, the wildly brilliant science-types from history would certainly be at the top of the list.

Back to Darwin. In thinking of our common ancestors from a million years ago, I wonder if a time-traveling psychologist could see the origins of these different personality types? Or did these particular branches of traits evolve relatively recently?

Something to think about!