I never know what to do when people get mad at me. “I’m sorry” never seems to suffice, and reciprocating the anger is just tiring. Maybe the solution is as simple as listening? That is if you’re not being given the silent treatment. Maybe I should specify: I’m referring to one of the rare occasions when a person got mad at me. It doesn’t happen often, but I always feel so awful when it does.
However, the last time my boyfriend became angry with me was actually somewhat amusing for me. I was telling him about Youtopia, and how on the site I learned that the magical bond I share with one of my coworkers is probably due to our NF compatibility. I totally forgot that I had not yet told him about the theory or the test, so I was practically speaking another language. He knew of MBTI, but not in the way that I understood it. This misunderstanding was the seed that sprouted into a memorable lesson, one that I needed to learn.
We were doing homework on our laptops in my kitchen, our usual weekend shenanigans. I, of course, was distracted by more interesting things (Youtopia) and was doing some personality research (reading different portraits). I was genuinely engaged in my studies, which gave away the fact that I was not doing homework. He, my studious tutor, asked what I was up to, and I told him that I was on a personality site trying to figure some people out. He stopped his typing,
“Hmm, that sounds cool. You never said the site was up.”
“Yeah, you should take the test,” I enthusiastically responded. “I would have told you to take it before, but the portrait for your type wasn’t up yet.”
My last statement seemingly appalled him. His state of disbelief was easily seen in his intensely confused face, furrowed eyebrows and all.
“Wait, you know what I am?”
“Well yeah, I think (know) so… what do you think you are?”
He confidently explained how from a podcast he once listened to he had concluded that he was an INFP. I thought that was interesting- and wrong- so I promptly suggested he take the test.
He took the test and after peeking the whole way through, I noticed he was finished. I asked him what his results were and lo and behold, he’s got ISTJ! I couldn’t be less surprised, but he wasn’t taking the news so lightly. Maybe it’s because I smiled and slid my laptop towards him with an Igor-esque eagerness displaying the same ISTJ portrait that I was already reading. His response was to ignore me and keep reading.
In between the silence and his occasional drawn out “what?” was an even distribution of sighs, snickers, head shaking, and yet, scrolling.
I finally broke the silence with the typical “are you mad?” He first said no, and that he was just bothered because I wasn’t telling him any of this, like this information was a secret that I withheld. He went on to explain his frustration by reasoning, everybody’s different, and this typing stuff is cheating.
“You can’t know what a person’s like, let alone their complexity, unless you take the time to get to know them. It’s like you think you’ve figured me out but you haven’t.”
“So, you don’t like it?” I questioned coyly.
“I don’t need it.” He continued to read. “Hall monitor? What does that even mean?”
By this point I was in full on make-it-better mode. I tried to explain how understanding personality theory has helped me understand and accept people better, especially myself. I even suggested he read my portrait so as to provide some kind of explanation for my actions. After a couple minutes of silence, he said he didn’t need to read my portrait.
“I’ll figure you out on my own.”
He clicked around the site and returned to his portrait; he had not yet finished reading it. He concluded that the insight on his type was cool and fairly truthful, but he didn’t want to know anymore.
I felt bad for rocking his boat. I gave him a hug once he finally stopped scooting away from me. I understood that I had likely made him feel uncomfortable, unsure of himself, and unsure of my intentions.
In retrospect, I wish I had prepared more for a possible unfavorable reaction. My INFJ self had a more “Wow that makes so much sense and I need to know more!” sort of reaction in mind. However, I could have better planned for his feelings of skepticism, categorization, and/or vulnerability. I had forgotten that he’s a beaver- he’s studying accounting for heaven’s sake- and that he feels most confident and safe when working within the systems he’s familiar with. He does not seek the reassurance I desire for empowerment, and that’s where my expectations got cloudy and definitely biased. Maybe learning about personality theory is not for everyone. I seemed to have forgotten for a moment that it is not just beauty that is in the eye of the beholder, but values as well.
All in all, I think the best way to deal with angry people is to listen… and maybe not be so amused when their reactions expose their vulnerability. Additionally, it is equally as important to be accepting of one another’s feelings, as they are as individual as the person and situation itself. It would be wrong of me to pressure him with any expectations I might have of his interests, reactions or feelings; what works for me might not work for him. We’re all humans, but it’s our different preferences and complexities that make us individuals. I need to remember that next time my head is up in the clouds, and he brings me back down to Earth- I could not be more grateful for the balance.