TypeTalk Question of the Week

Answered April 28, 2014

Q: Dear Brenda,

I'm wondering how can I change my personality so that people will like me more and I will have more friends?

Anonymous


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A: Dear Friend,

Your question is one I have heard many times from many different personality types, with various amounts of loneliness and self-loathing detectable beneath the surface. My knee-jerk response is always something like: "You're perfect the way you are! Stop trying to change!" But that doesn't really address the problem, does it? Plus it's not terribly sincere, since I don't know you at all, my dear Anonymous, and although I suspect strongly that you are a lovely person you could actually be a serial killer (in which case I totally support the plan to change). So let me give you a more thorough answer.

God knows why we exist here on this planet, but here we are, wanting to be seen for who we are, wanting to be appreciated and treated fairly, wanting to bond in a real way with other people. This human need could originate from our more basic animal instinct for safety; the emperor penguins huddle together in a mass at the north pole to survive the brutal cold, and the wildebeasts of Africa run together in large herds to avoid the hungry lion, who preys on the lone, wandering animal. But beyond the need for safety, we humans feel a need to belong, to feel that we have a place in the world that is just right for us, a place in which we can snuggle down and relax and momentarily take off the fierce masks and costumes that we put on for most of our dealings with the people we encounter during our life experience. And though we can (and do) relax when we are alone, and take off the mask, there is seldom real validation in doing so, because we so often question ourselves. It is so much more satisfying and validating to our searching hearts when we can truly be ourselves with other people. How empowering to discover our Tribe! To find people who truly see us and get us, who understand what we have to offer and what we might take away, and who like us anyway! It's more than wanting to not be lonely; we want to be validated, we want to lend meaning to our lives, whether this is a conscious desire or one that has tagged onto our survival instincts. Until you find your tribe, Anonymous, your desire for friends will always be a thing grasping within you.

Along with our primitive instincts and the finer quest for enlightenment, we humans most uncontestedly like to assign value to everything. People, places, movies and restaurants, everyone is forever weighing in with their opinion on the value of every last little thing. And truly we can't help it; our brains constantly discern and filter incoming information. This is the Judging function's job in life, and where would we be without it?! Hanging around in some bar or standing in a puddle of our own drool, most likely. Of course we must make decisions and take action in the course of our lives! A side effect of the need to make judgments and decisions is our tendency to judge the value of people in our lives. Like, "Sally has great dinner parties..." or "Joe makes me feel good about myself," or on the negative side, "Jackie takes and takes and has no idea who I even am" and "if that man picks his nose one more time I will scream." These kinds of value judgments are strongly tied into our lifestyles and the things that we value, and are therefore very personal. (As an aside, you might think I'm talking about the Feeling function here with all this talk about value judgments, but I'm not; both Thinkers and Feelers make judgments about how much value someone has to add or take away from their lives. The judgments themselves can be objective and principle-based "Thinking" judgments or contextual, human value-based "Feeling" judgments.) So, how much we are valued by others depends not just on our personality, but on theirs as well.

For example, consider Samuel, an INTJ guy who values high-functioning critical thinking, and values people who brings this to the table. Samuel has no appreciation for "new age flim-flam" and therefore has no interest in Astrid the Astrologist (ESFP) who lives next door, no matter how friendly she may be. His friend Thomas, however, an intelligent and competent ENTP, shares a value for intelligent interaction with Samuel but also is interested in new ways of thinking, so he has struck up a friendship with Astrid. For her part, Astrid enjoys the company of Thomas, because he is interested in her metaphysical ideas, and because she values the idea of getting along with everyone (and most especially her neighbors), she is interested in liking Samuel. But Samuel would consider any effort toward friendliness with Astrid as hypocritical, not to mention a waste of time, so he doesn't bother, and Astrid eventually judges him as "cold and indicipherable." When she asks Thomas why he likes Samuel, he tell her that Samuel is engaging, intelligent, and passionately interested in many of the same things that interest Thomas. In this case, we wouldn't say that either Samuel or Astrid are wrong to not particularly like each other, they simply have conflicting values. Thomas can bond with both of them because he understands some part of what is important to them, and shares a value for it, but Samuel and Astrid will never bond in a real way unless they find something real to share.

In the end, Anonymous, it comes down to this: "You're perfect the way you are! Stop trying to change!" Seriously, your best chance at finding your tribe is to figure out what really matters to you and find other people who share those values. If you were to put on someone else's personality like a costume for the purpose of making friends, it might work temporarily, but how long can you get away with pretending to care about something that you really don't give a rat's ass about? Eventually you're bound to get busted. Plus, who wants to add another big costume to the unavoidable collection of masks? Isn't the goal to find friends who will look happily upon the real you? Your best bet, Anon, is to embrace your true personality, rather than try to get away from it. Who are you really? What do you value, what are you good at? Stay in your strengths, and the weaknesses will fall away.

All the best,

Brenda (ENFP)





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