Type AB+/-, or how to survive other people’s personalities

I’m married to a Type A Introvert. I’m not either of those things, but I get it. My previous job was working with a Type B extrovert. I’m not either of those things either, but I get it. Somehow, I was born, or have become, depending on your philosophical leanings, a person without type. Or maybe both types? One would think that this would mean I am capable of maintaining traits from both personalities, simultaneously – that I am balanced. One would be wrong. As a type AB extroverted-introvert, I experience manic ranges of “THIS HAS TO BE THIS WAY” to “meh, it’ll organically and beautifully come together as it’s supposed to”. I have moments where I need to cook seven course meals for 20 people, and moments where I want to be a in a quiet room alone, straight jacket optional. It’s bizarre, but it’s taught me some things about dealing with my own expectations, as well as the expectations of others, when working toward a common goal. It has also given me opportunities to feel exceptionally rage-y when people are too married to their own personality

In addition to the A/B, Intro- vs Extrovert dilemma, we also all operate under the lens of previous experiences. You can (and should) try to understand how others feel and experience things, but you won’t ever truly know. You can work toward eliminating that lens, but it will always be there. This lens doesn’t often change the intentions of a person, but just like personality type, can affect the followthrough.

The question we must ask ourselves, and those with whom we are working, is, “does it matter?” When I look back on projects I’ve completed under my Type A traits, versus those completed during times of Type B traits, there isn’t often a difference in level of success. What does matter, and what we must start looking at more critically, is our ability to take our intention, look at our group members (whether they be As, Bs, Intros, or Extros), and be able to accomplish the goal at hand, together.

I’m in education, and I understand the need for scaffolding, differentiation, modification, and the other buzz words in our schools. I have to understand how my students learn so that I can get them the information in a way digestible by both Suzie and Billy. The problem is when those students use their types and traits as crutches and excuses when they become adults. It becomes an issue when we lose sight of the goal, because Susan can’t follow a checklist and William can’t understand her stack of neon post-its. These identifications become unacceptable masks when one’s own comfort zone (whether as social butterfly, or blanket hermit) interfere with one’s willingness (notice I did not say ability) to work toward a necessary goal.

When does this matter? Does it matter if Susan and William need to build a new spreadsheet for a project? Maybe not. But what if that spreadsheet is a budget? Does it matter more? What if that budget is for a non-profit? What if the non-profit provides education and medical care for women working in New Delhi brothels? Because that is the truth today. We are a global community, and one that is getting smaller through international connections. While Susan and William are operating under their first world, upper-middle class, public school, no-child-left-behind lens of privilege that has taught them that they are special, someone across the world is going without life-altering care and services, because “I’m sorry, but I can’t work with these notes written on napkins.”

Yes, knowing your personality traits and learning styles is important. It is important for you so that you know how to adjust yourself to the world. It is not an excuse to forget your intentions or fall short on your goal.

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