Hunter Nuttall has a personal development blog, Hunter Nuttall . com where readers join him on a quest to “stop sucking and live a life of abundance.” He is the author of several e-books, including The Personality Puzzle: Understanding What Makes People Tick. This is Part 1 of a two-part interview with him.
The ebook was fascinating, and I think I know my four-letter type for sure now! They say that our type isn’t supposed to change throughout life. Do you agree with that?
I think our four-letter type is set either by birth or at least by early childhood. But while it determines our preferences, it does not determine our abilities or our behavior.
Therefore, we can act differently in different situations, without contradicting our type. I don’t enjoy doing my taxes, but I know that I need to enter accountant mode when I’m doing them.
Likewise, people will act differently when they’re around their parents, kids, friends, coworkers, etc. This doesn’t mean that their type is changing, or that they have multiple personality disorder. They’re just acting appropriately for the situation, but their underlying preferences haven’t changed.
Most experts say that our type doesn’t change during our lifetime. Personally, I’m open to the possibility that it can, but it would be about as likely as changing your left/right handedness or your sexual orientation (I think the former can conceivably change but the latter doesn’t, though I can’t be positive about that).
When people think their type has changed, they usually say they’ve gone from introvert to extravert (I’m using the official spelling of extravert, which comes from the original German). But if you take a closer look, you see that this didn’t really happen.
Introversion is different from shyness, although the two are correlated. Sometimes a shy introvert will get over their shyness and suddenly become very talkative. Or maybe they’ll find some people they have a lot in common with, so they’ll start hanging out with them all the time. These simple behavioral changes don’t make them an extravert though.
Sometimes a natural extravert will be silenced at an early age by abuse or being an outcast, and everyone will think they’re an introvert. When their true personality emerges much later, they think they’ve become an extravert. But again, their preference (and therefore their type) didn’t change just because their behavior did.
I used to be very concerned with “rules and regulations” when I was young, and by now I’m more relaxed about a lot of things (or worn out). Even if our type doesn’t change, do life events such as becoming a parent or getting old change how strong our preferences are?
Definitely. For one thing, our personality changes just by getting older. Our four-letter type, set by early childhood, determines what our dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior functions will be. However, these functions don’t all develop at the same rate.
Our dominant function emerges early in life, and our auxiliary function develops in our teenage years. But our tertiary function doesn’t come out until mid life, and our inferior function may never become developed. This is one reason we change over time.
Bringing new people into your life can also have a significant impact, as can a traumatic event, as can doing enough of one thing and just wanting to try something new. But I think the changes are more along the lines of changing the way you express your type, rather than changing your type itself.
While we have our preferences, we all have a bit of everything in us, and sometimes the lesser seen parts of us can come to the surface.
You went from being very concerned with rules and regulations when you were younger, to being more relaxed about a lot of things now. In MBTI terms, we can wonder whether you changed from a judger to a perceiver.
Not having known you back then, I can’t say. But the judger/perceiver dimension is where I’m the most borderline, and I do see how I bounce from one extreme to the other, depending on my mood and the task at hand.
Some people are probably used to seeing me one way, some the other, and some must think I’m really inconsistent. So it’s not hard at all to believe that a big event like having kids could make me swing one way or the other, at least in some aspects. I still think I’ll always have an overall preference for perceiving though.
Randy Pausch is a good example here. A lot of people think he changed from thinker to feeler (in MBTI terms, not to be confused with their common meanings). Actually, he was always a thinker, but he changed his way of expressing that as he got older.
An advisor once told him that his perceived arrogance was going to limit what he accomplished, and so he worked on minimizing that weakness (though in his book, he confessed to not having much patience for incompetence). As his student, I found him to be very nice, but unmistakably a thinker.
Anyway, the MBTI theory says that the strength of your preferences is less important than which side of the middle you lie on. For example, a mild introvert may be more similar to an extreme introvert than they are to a mild extravert. Thus, you can change without really changing.
Hunter will be around to respond to your comments, and also please remember to Digg, Stumble, Tweet, and otherwise share this if you like it! Check back tomorrow for the rest of the interview, including something specifically for us introverts!