“Kennedy, You’re Weird”

“I never feel like I get any closer to you,” she’d say. When the Carpenters came out with their song, “Close to You,” she’d say, “That’s how I think of you. You’re difficult to reach.”

It made me feel guilty, but I didn’t understand what she meant. I was just me. I was just a kid. What were other people like?

“I never feel as if I really know you, or touch you. You’re always somewhere else.” Echoes but this was the great love of my life, not my mom.

What in the world did they want?

Now I believe the “complaints” came from fundamental differences in personality that I didn’t know about until I required hundreds of business majors (my students) over a period of years take the Myers/Briggs Personality Inventory as part of a report project. My goal was to:

1) teach them how to write a business report as a group project,
2) teach them about different kinds and levels of research,
3) expose them to a work problem — there were two; one was using personality tests in hiring which is done fairly often and the other using personality tests for team building, also used fairly often,
4) give those who were unhappy in their major a chance to question their direction if they wanted to.

I learned about me.

Some of my students rejected the tests out-of-hand saying, “It’s like a horoscope” to which I replied, “Sure if you get your ‘sign’ by answering questions about yourself then it is. I agree.”

Most of my students thought the project was kind of fun. One of them said, “Whoa, I’m changing my major to ceramics.” That was the ONE kid out of thousands who had the same MBTI type as I have. INFJ, (Introverted/iNtuitive/Feeling/Judging) statistically the rarest personality type. No, that doesn’t make me think I’m special. It actually makes me special. Sorry. So all the people who have said over the years, “Kennedy, you’re a freak,” knew what they were talking about. 😉

A group of business majors is already a self-selected, elite group of people who are unlikely to be introverts, and very few were. Most were men, my direct opposite ESTP  (Extraverted/Sensint/Thinking/Perceiving) and ESTJ with one or two “accountants” ISTJ sprinkled in. Since the class wasn’t required for accounting majors, there were never many of those. Once in a while there was an “N”, an intuitive person, usually a girl, who was tuned in to the feelings of others. All of these types are very common in our world. They are the people that keep the world going every single day.

Their personality types were extremely outgoing. They were not prone to self-reflection, not aware of the feelings of others or overly concerned about them. Extroverted, Sensing and Thinking, they went through life without a lot of interpersonal awareness. This is all a way to say they were not the most sensitive people in the world and were strongly ego driven. I, as an introverted, intuitive am almost always aware of what’s going on with other people and I wear my heart on my sleeve. They could hurt my feelings easily. They would say things to me and get in a physical proximity to me that were very challenging. When I understood who they were, I realized it wouldn’t hurt them at all if I gave them back what they were giving me, and it didn’t. They expected it. They gave it to each other. It was the way things were supposed to be in their worlds, from their perspectives. I stopped defending myself ever.

“Why did you give me a D?”

“I didn’t give you a D. You earned a D. If you don’t like the D, you can talk to me about what you could have done better, otherwise, I don’t have anything to say.”

“OK. What could I have done better.” Challenge, provocation dripping from his/her voice.

“I’ll tell you if you’re really going to listen, but if you’re just angry at me right now make an appointment to come and talk to me next week.”

“I’m angry.”

“OK. Come see me Tuesday before class. I don’t talk to angry students.”

I don’t think those kids ever knew what it took from me to be the classroom teacher whose classes they fought to get into or the teacher in the office who sat with them for hours helping them learn to see their own work, their own selves, take responsibility for their own achievement. They naturally figured I was like them, deriving boundless energy from proximity to other human beings.

Until I had done this project with several classes, I’d been skeptical about the tests. I’d seen it simply as a good project that would interest my students at this moment in their lives — 19 is all about self-discovery. I became a believer when I saw how knowing the overall personalities of a class of business majors could help me teach them.

We are not all the same. That “special little snowflake” thing has more than a germ of truth to it, but we’re stuck with the other people in the world. From this experience, I saw why I’m hard to be close to. I need a lot of psychic and physical privacy. I have a lot going on inside my head. I thought everyone was like this, but my 10,000 business majors taught me that is not the case. They also taught me how to compensate, how to reach others, and that was an enormous gift I wish I’ld learned earlier in my life.



20 thoughts on ““Kennedy, You’re Weird”

  1. I think this blogging world is full of people who never found a niche — or a place we felt we fit in — no matter what anyone else might have thought. I was always outside (but not necessarily looking in) or on the edge, ready to flee. I’ve never been easy to get to know and I’ve preferred it that way. Many people have thought they knew me well — a few sort of did — but if they described me, each one saw a different person. And all of them were right. We are complicated. And with age, we get even MORE complicated.

    The main difference between me now and me then is that back then (whenever “then” was), I wanted people to like me. Now, I don’t much care. If the people I care about care about me too, that’s good enough for me. The rest of the world can sit on a tack (tacks, I suppose since they can’t all sit on one tack).

    I think we are all weird. But that’s my favorite part of us. You. Me. Garry. All my friends are oddballs. I’m not entirely clear on what “normal” is. Are you?

    • I don’t know about normal but I am pretty sure (now) that some traits are more common than others. Learning that has been really helpful to me, especially learning that there are many more people in the world who feel better not worse in groups of people.

      • Well, I’m not one of the them. When I was a kid, I thought it meant there was something wrong with me. It was in college when I started to meet other people who weren’t happy in groups … and we formed our own little groups. We differed from the standard kid groups because we let people join in or not on their own. Everyone was invited, but no one was compelled or even urged. We all found our own level.

        I think a lot of people you see in groups aren’t as happy to be there as it might appear. People do a lot to gain acceptance. it doesn’t seem to occur to them that they might be happier NOT being accepted. They’ve drunk the Kool-Aid as it were.

      • I have no idea, Marilyn. What I’ve written here pertains to my experience with 10,000 business majors and me. It strikes me as an evolutionary advantage for people to be happier in groups. The lone hunter is some other animal’s prey.

        And, I never thought I was weird (I still don’t think so), but many other people have made that comment to me — which is interesting in itself. If I thought a person was weird, I’d never say so.

      • Plus, “different” doesn’t mean “better.” I actually think my personality has put enormous obstacles in front of me as I’ve moved through my life. That, also, doesn’t mean I’m a martyr. It’s been interesting to find that a lot of managing this is accomplished by imitating others. I don’t have to invest my “precious little snowflake” in any outcome. I can behave like someone else, do the job I have to do, and retreat. It works well and I owe that lesson to teaching and the MBTI.

  2. INFP/J here (on the cusp – over the years, sometimes more P, sometimes more J – mostly more P). Another rare bird.

    I spent my adolescence concerned about being social and fitting in. I was reasonably popular, but it was exhausting. It took me years to realize that I’m highly introverted and basically a loner, much as I enjoy the company of other people for brief periods.

    In my latter years as a retired person and now caregiver, I choose–and love–my many solitary pursuits, to the point where I sometimes wonder just how healthy this lifestyle is. What I think is happening is that living with my husband and being in close touch with our children takes care of any need I might have for human contact.

    On the other hand, if I lived alone, I hope I’d manage to force myself into being somewhat more outgoing because I suspect that for a person as introverted as I am, it could be a short, slippery slope to becoming a complete recluse due to nothing more than entropy. Choice is one thing; deterioration is another beast entirely.

    I don’t know about becoming more complicated, but I’m definitely comfortable being me in all my oddness, eccentricity, weirdness and what have you. The bottom line is that I like the me that I am, warts and all.

    • I hear you!

      I’ve come to look at being able to enjoy being alone as a huge advantage since I am alone. If I were lonely (as my mom was) it would be hell. I have made the effort since moving here to get out and meet people — it isn’t hard. INFJs are often mistaken for extraverts anyway, but I’m really grateful that since I’m no longer teaching, I don’t have to “be there” for all and sundry.

      That was also one reason I didn’t look for a place in the country when I moved, too. I don’t want to be a recluse. I actually like people. When I get to spend time with one or two of the people whose company I value I’m really happy and always have a wonderful time. 🙂

      • Us too. Though time has cut down so many of the people we loved, it is difficult to find company now. And I don’t see that getting better. Some things are not fixable.

      • Oh, I agree. I’m taken for an extrovert because I’m friendly and I really do like people. What most people don’t realize is that it’s tiring for us introverts to be around people, much as we may enjoy it. We need our alone time to “fill up.”

        Reading “Please Understand Me” (based on the Myers-Briggs work) many years ago was like coming home to myself. Finally, I understood why what people saw about me and what I knew about myself were so different. Over the years, I’ve done the questionnaires a number of times, and they don’t change substantially. I’m always an INFP or J. And always a 9/10 or 10/10 introvert.

      • Please Understand Me is a great book. Many of my students ended up reading it after the test. I felt it would make them better managers to know that there are many types of personalities and that, for most of us, some traits are “hard-wired” though others can be developed as we learn things through our lives if a trait is not very pronounced. I was not always “J” — that’s something I learned to value. I could develop it because I was not a very strong “P” It sure made grading students easier, too… Being introverted and intuitive, though; those are not going to change. 🙂

  3. According to a quick run-through I did of the little online test you linked to, I’m an Advocate personality, although reading the profiles of the types, I’m really a bit more “woo woo” than that – truly on the cusp of Advocate and Mediator, with Mediator actually being the stronger of the two.

    I must be having a “J Day” today! 🙂

    • Yep. I’m not very “woo-woo.” Once I was more of a spiritual searcher. This is due, in part, I think, because life in California and the exaggerated “Woo-woo” of many of my acquaintances and friends made my “J” skin crawl. 😉

      I had my class to an abbreviated MBTI like this one. It was enough for them to write their paper. Some were interested enough to go to Career Services and take the whole inventory.

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