Weekend Reads, Mid-October, Plus Some Thoughts on Myers-Briggs.

Lots of good reads the last two weeks, though I ended up writing on the Myers-Briggs Test instead.

First up, M. Sereno’s poem, which left me speechless — all I could say, repeatedly, was “wow:”

Diversity: what a strange and bloodless word, rinsed clean of the gore
birthed in war and struggle and the breaking of bones, cracking teeth,
the slice to open veins: to speak, write, survive.

Reasons I Checked out of Diversity Discussion Du Jour” (Awitin Mo)

On books and reading:

Some inspirational reads on writing:

And more:

  • Robin DiAngelo’s “White Women’s Tears and the Men who Love Them” (The Good Men Project)
  • “In any other sane situation, the Marcoses would be nowhere near magazine photo shoots or lecterns in Manila. The Marcoses would be languishing in prison, impoverished in much the same way they impoverished the Filipino people in decades of tyrannical rule.” An essay making the internet rounds after the Philippine Tatler placed Imee Marcos on its cover. Marck Ronald Rimorin, “The Crimson Stain” (The Marocharim Experiment)
  • “When the girl had learned that kids’ teeth fell out, she’d thought that eyeballs, fingers, and entire limbs were cast off and remade too.” One of the best stories I’ve read in a while: Michelle Ross, “Like Pulling Teeth” (Necessary Fiction)
  • An interview with Thomas Ligotti! (Weird Fiction Review)
  • So much love here. Adam Fitzgerald, “#Actual Asian Poets” (Lithub)

And finally, Merve Emre, “Uncovering the Secret History of Myers-Briggs” (Digg).

I am an INTJ. Or an INFJ, it’s not clear which. Apparently I exist in some sort of existential limbo, forced to endlessly vacillate between thinking and feeling.

One can even do a quick Google search for “INFJ or INTJ” and see similar confusion among people. One website — INFJ.com, naturally — writes “I wish I had a nickel for every INFJ who believes they have INTJ preferences; or for every INTJ who believes they have INFJ preferences.” That doesn’t help at all.

My only constants are introversion and intuition, as there used to be a time years ago — funny, before I started getting interested in project management — when I tested as an INFP. Or an INTP, I can’t remember which.

So: It may even depend on the time of day, or which online test I’m taking, or whether I’m feeling a little more confident when I got out of bed this morning, or whether I’m thinking about my workplace or how I talk to my wife and daughter and dog at home.

The protean nature of these personality types lessens their usefulness. And so I bristle at the idea that these are “natural tendencies,” to quote a book I read recently on “human factors in project management.” “Tendencies,” especially behavioral tendencies, are difficult to quantify, unless they really are genetically measurable. They are not.

My temperament, though fairly stable, can change depending on the social or emotional context; how I moved to judging from perceiving in the space of a few years surely can’t depend on any “natural tendencies.” Emre’s comparison to the Hogwarts sorting hat is particularly apt. The hat doesn’t lie, and neither does Myers-Briggs, but their respective locations on a spectrum of accuracy vary only by degrees.

Tests like these are hugely popular; there’s a reason why those Buzzfeed quizzes are so viral, since people want to learn about themselves, even if through the mere lens of popular culture. Tests like Myers-Briggs — sorry, I meant “indicators” — are used by career counselors, the latter using personality types to guide people to look into certain kinds of careers. Fair enough.

I have yet to encounter — and neither have other PMs I’ve talked to — a more institutional application of Myers-Briggs in, for instance, the hiring process, or figuring out who to put on a scrum team, i.e. the workplace. I might just be lucky, going by what Emre describes in her article.

Sure, we evaluate people on whether they are “good team players,” or “born leaders.” But I’m not convinced by this loosey-goosiness (and that’s the “thinking” part of my personality talking, desiring objective criteria). Or, to be precise, my discomfort lies more with the immutability of these labels, the veneer of “science,” and their application to the workplace.

(And yet there is something oddly compelling about how accurate the personality types are sometimes. But I do want to note that this may be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Back when I was teaching cultural anthropology, I had my students read their horoscopes first thing in the morning for two weeks as part of a discussion on religion and witchcraft. Almost all my students reported that the results were uncannily accurate. But they realized, too, that reading their horoscope after they woke up created an interpretive frame of reference that gave meaning to events the rest of the day, giving “truth” to the horoscope’s predictions.)

2 thoughts on “Weekend Reads, Mid-October, Plus Some Thoughts on Myers-Briggs.

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my poem — I’m honored that something in it resonated with you. Maraming salamat po, ako’y nagagalak sa inyong pagbibigay pansin.

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