What’s in a Person..ality?
I work retail, fashion retail to be exact. My job requires me to be friendly and cheerful all the time while I’m there and to be helpful to the customers. I am always told that I am “so helpful” and “very friendly” by customers that come in to the store where I work. The customers that I work with know the lovely mask that I put on for them when I have people in the store. Like most retail workers, I have the face that I show people that come in to the store, I have the face I show most people that I know, and then I have me buried deep in the back of my brain. A lot of this has to do with my personality type. Yep, I have taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test. As it turns out I am a rarity. I am an INTJ which is the rarest type, being about 2% of the population and of the population only 0.8% are women. Oh boy am I outnumbered. Say you aren’t fond of the MBTI and prefer the good ol’ classic humorism with its four temperaments. Well, in that case I have a melancholic temperament. What does this mean for me when working retail? Well, it means a whole heck of a lot. Let’s take a look at how my personality/temperament type does with different situations. Keep in mind, this is from my perspective and not every INTJ person is going to be the same as me.
First, let us establish what the INTJ personality type is according to the test. We will break it down simply the way it does first.
So according to my MBTI I am a intuitive introvert that overthinks things and is judgmental. That doesn’t look like it would be too bad to deal with customers and people in general, right? Well, let me tell you about the literal walking contradiction that is the mind of an INTJ person. When talking to my friends that are also INTJ people I have noticed that these make perfect sense in their minds as it does in my own. I am introverted almost to an extreme. I love my alone time and I am not overly fond of being in large groups. I have problems socializing with people that I don’t know if I have things in common with. I hate making phone calls and will text or write letters rather than talk on the phone with people. Part of my job is to make phone calls to customers and I pray that they will not answer and that I have to leave a message in my sickly-sweet fake voice on their voicemail that they NEVER listen to. That being said, I love being out with people that I consider my friends and with my family. I also like being around people that I know that I have things in common with. For example, I am a member of The Order of the Eastern Star. I enjoy going to Grand Chapter and going to meeting with people from around the state. I thrive in situations like that because I am surrounded by people that I know I have quite a bit in common with. At the same time, during my first time being Worthy Matron and being District Deputy, I about had a panic attack before each meeting because I was terrified of speaking in front of people that I knew because I have this irrational fear that people are judging me in a negative way. I love being alone, but I hate feeling lonely. I live in constant fear of never being able to find someone who loves me enough to marry me even when I am in a relationship and it has nothing to do with the other person. It is that stupid fear in the back of my head that keeps popping up. When it comes being intuitive, I have my moments of having my gut feelings be completely correct and moments of being completely wrong. I sometimes rely on it and other times I don’t. As for thinking about things, I do this all the time. My brain never seems to shut off. It means that I don’t get a lot of sleep. I make plans and I hate, hate, hate surprises. I cannot stress that enough. It stresses me out to a point where I will shut down. I want to have at least some semblance of control over my surroundings and my mind. When you surprise me it makes my brain work over time and it doesn’t want to function because it takes the careful balance that I have in my mind of what needs to be in the forefront of my thoughts and what isn’t important at the moment and throws it in the air like confetti leaving me a jumbled mess of stress and irritation. Oddly enough, I love spontaneity. I love waking up on my days off with no idea what I’m going to do for the day and just doing whatever I feel like on the fly. When it comes to being judgmental, I do this without thinking about it. I judge everything to see whether or not it is worth spending my energy on. This makes my thought processes seem slow, but what is really happening is my brain is fully processing the situation, comparing it to past situations that were similar and making the best plan of action. My brain is very methodical in that way and if people try to rush that processes, it aggravates me because it unbalances my brain. I can love and adore someone one moment and if they hurt me in a very personal way, I can cut them out of my life completely and feel no remorse for it at all and with no consideration for whether they are family or friend if I judge them as no longer being worth my energy. On the flip side, as I mentioned above, I live in constant fear of being judged in a negative light and not living up to people’s standards of me. I constantly feel like a failure because I don’t meet my own expectations that I have set for myself. However, at the same time, I feel very proud about certain things that I have done. I am proud of having things published and I am proud of some of my personal accomplishments. It isn’t just me that has these contradictory feelings and thoughts. Having an INTJ personality is like walking on a balance beam in your mind that you tilt back and forth on. I believe this picture sums it up pretty nicely.
Now that was know about the walking contradiction that is the mind of an INTJ person, let’s look at the temperament that I mentioned above. According to classical humorism I have a melancholic temperament. What does that mean exactly? Well, in terms of the MBTI, it corresponds to what is called a “rational temperament” or the, NT types on the personality dichotomy. Having a melancholic temperament doesn’t mean that I am depressed, although I do have periods of time where I go through depression. What having a melancholic temperament means you are the exact opposite of a social and energetic sanguine. Melancholic temperament people are analytical and quiet that tend to keep more to themselves. It basically means that you have a “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” mentality.
So what does this mean for working retail? What does it mean for working with people in general? To put it short, it isn’t that easy and it is very frustrating. It means putting up with a lot of stress a lot of the time. The people with INTJ personalities that I know and have spoken with feel that dealing with the public is tiresome and aggravating. They also have issues keeping jobs where they are not in a position of power. Why is that? The INTJ personality is also called the “mastermind” personality. You see a lot of movie and classic novel villains with this personality. The evil genius of Professor Moriarty and even Sherlock Holmes himself fall into this category in the novels. Want someone from a more modern stories? Katniss Everdeen falls in that category as well as Walter White. It makes for people that want to be able to sit back and let things fall in their place, but not take control unless they have to. They want the challenge without the challenge if that makes sense. They enjoy things they are good at, things they can shine at, but so does everyone else. They do not like to be put into situations where things will get argumentative because while they won’t start the fight, they will finish it and you will be sorry you started the fight in the first place. INTJ people don’t like the drama that comes with working with the public because when working retail you have to deal with customers that may want to return something and try their best to manipulate you into giving them a full refund or credit. Those with an INTJ personality can see right through that because they understand the way the mind works and how others try to manipulate it. However, it is because they know how to do this that they are able to finish fights without actually doing anything. They take your argument and throw it right back in your face or they have someone bigger and stronger do it for them. I am notoriously guilty of this. I’m not a very aggressive with people and I am not confrontational at all, but if you get in my face, I will stand my ground. If I have to go someplace where I think people might get argumentative with me, I will take a more aggressive person with me and let them deal with the confrontation, but have all the facts and figures to back them up. When working retail it means putting on a mask for everyone to see. It means not letting them know that in the back of my mind I just would like them to take me up on the good deal I have just offered them on whatever they are looking at and be on their way. It means having to “recharge” throughout the day and I’ll admit that it can sometimes come off as being lazy and not doing my job. That isn’t the truth though. When I sit by myself, or focus on tasks that may or may not be work related, it is me “recharging” myself for another interaction with the public. It is sorting through and processing the interaction that I just had and letting my brain file it where it sees fit to do so. If I don’t have time to do so it causes me to get agitated very easy and, with enough agitation, I can explode and you won’t like it. It makes it difficult for others to work with INTJ people if they don’t understand that they need time to process things because their brains are more internalizing than externalizing. We process things slower because we need to know how it relates to anything we already know or if it is even useful at all. I will recognize a person, know where I know them from, how long I’ve known them, how many children and pets they have, what kind of car they drive, and what they were doing when I first met them. I won’t be able to tell you their name though. Of course, since I grew up saying “yes ma’am” and “yes sir” or “no ma’am” and “no sir” it makes a bit more sense that I wouldn’t put an emphasis on their first names and I frequently do know last names. Thank goodness for Facebook and bombarding me with people’s names and their profile pictures. It really has been a help.
What to keep in mind when working with INTJ people? Know that they are not trying to be fake to you when they are putting on their mask for work. That is sometimes the only way they can make it through the day. It isn’t that they are fake people, it could be that they aren’t comfortable enough around you to trust you with how they actually are. I enjoy laughing at the stupidity of people and there are very few people that can keep up with my fast quips and I even surprised a friend the other day when he said “I didn’t do it” and without missing a beat I replied “No, but do you want to?” to which he kind of gave me a look of shock before laughing and waiting for me to finish my request of needing some help since I am short and he is tall. They will not be confrontational and if you yell at them, they may break down and shut you out or cry. INTJ people are not above crying when you are aggressive towards them and they will document and remember every wrong ever done to them. You yell at them for not knowing the answer to a question when they don’t have access to the information that would give them that answer because it is in their personal account that only you have the password to? They will remember it and will make sure that you know it. Don’t play with them or threaten to not pay them for their work. They will not tolerate it and it is one thing they will get in your face about. They don’t do well with practical jokes or harassment in the work place and do it too many times and they will just quit. INTJ people will follow a work handbook to a the extreme and if it is a written rule they will follow it. If you even waver on something, they will call you out on it. They will highlight every infraction you have made against your own handbook and mail it to you and all the company board members when they are finally fed up with being treated poorly. If you are not careful you can find yourself on the receiving end of their “lex talionis” mentality. They are fiercely loyal to friends and family. If you manage to find an INTJ person that wants to show you their soft affectionate side or their insecurities then count yourself lucky. They will confide in you even when they won’t confide in anyone else and they will protect you and all your weak spots. INTJ’s are like mama bears and have a “don’t you hurt my people” attitude. They are great to work with as long as you don’t get on their bad side and it takes a lot to get on their bad side, but once you are there, you aren’t getting off that side.