For the past five years, I’ve done a lot of walking. It’s my primary mode of transport to and from work. Vehicles and people pass by, but for the most part, I do not notice. I want to get where I’m going, so I move briskly from point A to point B. It’s as though I’m in a rush to reach some refuge away from pubilic scrutiny. All the while, I’m often spaced out in a trance sifting through a mental RSS feed of ideas stimulated by the steady cadence of my footfalls.
The spell is broken when suddenly I detect another pedestrian approaching. In spite of my efforts to block out that fact, my concentration is reluctantly compromised, and I feel myself tensing up in response to the mere presence of a stranger. I would prefer to quietly pass by without so much as a “hello” or “good morning” if I can get away with it. If someone greets me, however, I will certainly oblige them out of politeness, but, as a rule, I avoid making eye contact in hopes that they will not bother to.
My behavior is not meant to offend nor is it personal. Yet I know from experience that many people equate my silence with arrogance and snobbery. I’ve been literally referred to as “not a good person” by a complete stranger I passed on my way to work. The audacity of it caught me off guard, and I couldn’t even process the rude remark right away because it was too absurd and awkward.
At work and with family, I’ve been persecuted for my “antisocial” yet benign disposition, which frankly, only gets worse when I’m over-stressed. I tend to catch static from people over trifling perceived offenses that were not intended, and I really cannot deal with overreactions from emotional people. I consider much of what goes on around me as childish, unimportant, or meaningless but I have no desire to rain on anyone’s parade or ruin their fun.
Coworkers have interpreted my disinterest in attending office parties as a sign of conceit. It’s as though they can’t understand why someone would not be interested or that they somehow feel entitled to frivolous uses of my time. It doesn’t help that I really don’t feel the need to explain myself either, because while I’m not a particularly convivial person, I do expect people to figure out that I’m a decent person simply by how I actually treat them.
I feel I have solid consistent principles that should allow any observant person to recognize that I am actually very respectful of others and moderately conscientious. I extend to people the same considerations I desire in return, and that’s the same standard as the age-old “golden rule.”
INTPs Are Not as Unemotional as They Appear
I’ve taken internet Myers-Briggs personality tests enough times to be firmly convinced that my INTP diagnosis is accurate. It was a relief to discover that my social adversity was not unique to me, but an issue shared by a percentage of the population. I will confess that I enjoy the majority of descriptions about INTPs. I find them rather flattering and affirming. INTPs are described as being highly creative, independent, analytical, and rational. To me, there is no greater compliment.
(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)
I also identify with the not-so-flattering characteristics: slovenliness, procrastination, and social awkwardness, to name a few. Learning about the cognitive functions was eye-opening for me and provided a useful language and framework through which to understand people that I previously used astrology for. I still find astrology interesting though.
INTPs are also depicted as being rather un-emotive and stoic, like Spock. They consult their head and not their heart when forming decisions. As a result, they have been described as sometimes harsh and tactless in how they communicate with others. Additionally, when it comes to interpersonal relations, INTPs tend to avoid addressing things that get under their skin for too long until they finally snap without warning.
This tendency to deny their emotions in an effort to maintain a rational focus on what’s objectively important can be a disservice to themselves. When the repressed tension builds to a feverish pitch, they become volatile and wind up making the spectacle of themselves they were trying to avoid in the first place.
Instead of showing our affectionate side, I think INTPs (myself included) are more comfortable trumping up the phlegmatic, sociopathic characterizations of our personality type. Feelings? What are those? We are beings of pure objectivity, logic, and reason — feelings are irrelevant!
So what if we are socially inept? Socializing is pointless, most people won’t understand or appreciate us anyway. It is the tragic price we pay for our genius! This, of course, is hyperbole, but if other INTPs are anything like me, they may find themselves rationalizing their interpersonal inadequacy in similar fashion.
In truth, INTPs are not as apathetic and unfeeling as they may appear. We’re uncomfortable with showing vulnerability and messy displays of emotion, but we’re not emotionless robots. I got the “feels” when I watched The Notebook, and yes I am a hetero-male. I get tingly when I see adorable animals and funny babies. Sometimes I wonder if I really am an INTP at all. I begin to wonder if maybe I’m a mistyped INFP, and then I’m reminded of the fact that I don’t read novels and never enjoyed reading them. Perhaps this is an inaccurate stereotype, but I perceive all INFPs as avid readers of fiction.
I spend a lot of time thinking, though, and walking is good for that. Every now and then, as I’m briskly making my way somewhere, I will sometimes encounter someone who makes me feel like they’re on the same wavelength. A kindred spirit. I break my own rule and make eye contact. In a brief moment of acknowledgement, my notions are tacitly confirmed. We say nothing, but simply exchange subtle nods like two members of a secret club who unexpectedly cross paths in public.