Negative Personality Traits: How Do You Confront Them?

Posted at 04:45am on 28th March 2010

Many of you have taken the free Personality Test here, on my website, so I hope you will understand when I tell you that I woke up this morning feeling somewhat at the mercy of my Type. Actually, what I thought, was that I must be turning into my father! He would tell you that he never achieved what he aspired to - and though it would be easy to put this down to a lack of discipline, I’m not so sure that it’s that simple.

PERSONALITY PROFILING

I am an INFP – Introvert, INtuitive, Feeling, Perceptive, and my Dad, as an ENFP, is the Extrovert version. Consequently, we share three of our four personality traits and are known as NF's (INtuition, Feeling)

  • INtuitive: We both take in information via our 6th Sense (rather than the faculties of Sensing Types). As a result, our imaginations and the possibilities of the future mean rather more to us than the facts and details that our five senses present to us in the here-and-now.
  • Feeling: Each of us processes what we’ve taken in on the basis of subjective, personal values. The decisions we make are thus formed by how they will affect those around us, rather than by the logic and analysis of Thinking Types.
  • Perceptive: We tend to be flexible and spontaneous when it comes to dealing with the world around us, and prefer to ‘go with the flow’ rather than stick to an organised, structured way of life – as favoured by Judging Types.

Can you see where we’re coming from, my Dad and I? There’s not a lot of substance or structure on which to hang our gifts! Think of a dressmaker’s dummy, which allows the seamstress to build shape and form into what she’s making. Or imagine a mannequin on which clothing is displayed in a shop window.

WHAT DRIVES NF’s?

We’re both driven by an idealism that wants to bring meaning and harmony to life in general; and in particular to those around us. We have a strong desire to help others achieve their potential. But if we’re not careful, my Dad and I, even the most brilliant scheme can end up like nothing more than the crumpled, shapeless, empty garment that is the result of having no tailor’s dummy on which to pin it, nor shop model on which to present it.

The difference between my Dad and I is the way in which we find our energy; our enthusiasm. And it is this, above all, which makes our other traits function dissimilarly.

INTROVERT AND EXTROVERT PERSONALITIES

The Positive Personality Traits of an Extrovert: Extroverts relate to the outside world, and my Dad has an extrovert personality. Throughout my life, he has been a clown, wooing an audience. As a pilot, during the war, he liked nothing better than showing off, looping the loop and generally being a dare-devil. By the time I came along, he was at his peak. My school friends found him irresistible, and I adored him.

The Negative Personality Traits of an Extrovert: The dominant feature of an ENFP is his INtuition – and this was true of my Dad. Always brim full of ideas, he was an enthusiastic and fun person to be with. He was also highly intellectual – a member of MENSA – and he knows, to this day, that he could really have ‘gone places’. But his mercurial personality worked against him, and meant that he had what he called a ‘jitter-bug’ mind. Routine was not his scene. He’d no sooner start one project than he’d be onto the next.

The Positive Personality Traits of Being an Introvert: By contrast, my Introvert personality means that my world is energised by an internal quest to find meaning and ideas, insights and patterns. Feeling is my dominant trait (a hidden one as I’m an Introvert) and this manifests itself in my desire to help others. With Sensing not one of my strong points, however, this is seen less in practical ways, and rather more through my writing, where I can examine ideas, observe patterns of behaviour, and look for meaning in life.

Writing is what gives me purpose and drive, but what I write is imperative to my sense of well-being. Unless it is of value to others, then it is of no value to me. I like nothing better than hearing from my readers that what I’ve written has made a positive difference to their lives.

The Negative Personality Traits of Being an Introvert: The downside of being an Introvert, is the persistent internal conversation which says: ‘could have done better; should have done better.’ This sense of inadequacy and guilt is the result of setting goals beyond our reach.

It is also the result of our Feeling trait. When all your decisions are based, not on expediency or logic, but on how they will affect the lives of others, it’s easy to see how your own interests and pursuits may be sidelined. Perhaps, even, manipulated by others!

You can end up being used and put upon without even realising it, because fulfilling the expectations of others is precisely what drives you. Often it’s only when you find yourself drained and frustrated because your own plans have gone awry that you recognise what’s happened.

PERSONAL GROWTH

So how can we NF’s respond to this understanding of ourselves? How can we achieve personal growth, within the parameters of our personality profiling?

  1. Acknowledge & Value Your Strengths: your idealism; good interpersonal skills; insight; love of harmony; vivid imagination; creativity; integrity; gift of encouragement; co-operative nature.
  2. Rejoice in knowing that in a world of greed and consumerism, where acquiring the next ‘must have’ is paramount, your ideas, creativity, selflessness, kindness and insight are of immense worth.
  3. Acknowledge & Heed Your Weaknesses: Look after your physical needs: meals, sleep, relaxation, or you may suffer burn-out.
  4. Be kind to yourself: remind yourself of all the good things you’ve done and stop beating yourself up for what you haven’t achieved.
  5. Don’t be so taken up with future possibilities that you fail to enjoy the things of today!
  6. As an INtuitive, your least preferred personality trait, is Sensing. Try to develop this function to make life easier for yourself: viz -
  7. The *possibility* that something might, one day, be useful, makes INtuitives hoarders. Try to adopt a more ruthless approach to filing and storing things.
  8. Give yourself an Agenda with a Schedule: “Every Monday for 1 hour I will clear my papers; on the last day of each month I will do my household accounts; on the first day of Spring and Autumn, I will clear my wardrobe of any clothes that have been unworn during the previous season.”
  9. With all those possibilities out there, you need to focus on one thing. Set aside the mornings for your prime occupation – writing, for me. Do NOT log on to your e-mail account or the internet until after lunch. (Reverse this if you are a Night Owl rather than a Morning Lark)
  10. Read my article on assertiveness and learn how to state your own needs and wishes without being aggressive.
  11. I'm leaving these last two items for you. Leave a comment to let us know what one thing do you have to offer by way of being kind to yourself?
  12. And what one thing have you found in yourself that you need to discipline or develop?

CONFRONTING MY NEGATIVE PERSONALITY TRAITS

With that, I am going to remind myself that the last year has been an exceedingly difficult one; that I have nursed my mother through a broken pelvis; pleurisy; and bronchitis; sorted out my father’s dementia needs; visited him regularly and had my mother to stay weekly, so that she might do so; rescued my mother from several travelling disasters involving lost passports, missed flights and forgotten tickets; visited my daughter on several occasions, and been at the end of a telephone, daily, to support her through a difficult divorce; cared for my twin grandchildren after school; and job-shared with my husband.

I am not going to pat myself on the back, nor shall I indulge in self-pity. I shall simply adopt the rationale of a Thinking personality Type (rather than a Feeling) and tell myself that it is no wonder that my latest book is so far behind schedule. I shall remind myself that all that I have done has been achieved by using my second worst trait – the practical functions of Sensing – which is an accomplishment in itself. And I shall rejoice in having put my family first and – for the most part (well, perhaps the odd lapse :() – done so with good grace.

Finally - by continuing to develop my least preferred trait and making decisions with a Thinking function instead of my natural Feeling trait - I will ensure that on my sister’s return from foreign parts to take up residence with my mother, my needs (and my husbands) are clearly stated and met. With any luck, I just might, then, get that book completed!

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Author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV. Book her here for your event.

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