Why I don’t understand people

It’s fascinating to me how differently different people see the world. My recently renewed interest in the Myers-Briggs personality theory has had me seeing my family, my friends, and society itself in whole new ways. So far, I’ve observed that Intuition and Sensing may be the biggest divide, even greater than Introverted and Extraverted.

I have always had the lingering feeling that I just don’t understand half the world, and half of the world doesn’t understand me. Perhaps it is because of the differences between intuition and sensing. I’ll use my family as an example, with the understanding that I love them a great deal, and am not complaining about them. I’m only writing what I know.

I am an INTJ. My parents and siblings still at home are mostly made up of SJ’s, one SP, and all but one are introverted. So I am the only N. I often feel that my family doesn’t quite “get” me. And conversely, I don’t always “get” them. We have very loving, engaged, and healthy relationships; but still, there are times where we don’t see eye to eye, usually due to a silly, unimportant, or just plain weird reason.

To them, I think my head appears to be in the clouds. Why isn’t my room cleaner? Why did I forget to check the mail? Why haven’t I opened my mail? Did I forget I had to do this, go there, say that? They seem to wonder why I am not more observant, more aware, more engaged in reality.

On the other side, though, I get frustrated and impatient with my family’s apparent lack of concern for the big picture. What does it matter where we eat, as long as we’re eating? You’re lucky to have warm clothes, so why spend an hour looking at coats? As long as we’re bickering, let’s do it about politics or theology, instead of what movie to watch.

I only have a Wikipedia, YouTube level understanding of Myers-Briggs at the moment, so I appreciate any correction or clarification from the more knowledgible. I believe Kiersey wrote about the communication problems between N and S, but I admit to not yet having read his work. Is my observation correct, however, that these misunderstandings come from the different ways in which we gain information from the world about us?

I get information from behind the obvious. I see the meaning behind the meaning. I don’t care about a person’s mouth, or ears, or hands; I look at the eyes, the proverbial windows to the soul. I want to know who a person is. Not what they look like. What they believe. Not their opinions.

I hate asking what people “do”. Because I don’t really care. At least not at first. Maybe later I’ll ask where they work, live, what their favorite color is, and so on. But to ask those kinds of questions seems boorish to me, almost as if I am intruding on their privacy. Overstepping my bounds, as it were.

Why should I care about the mundane side of life? I know it’s important, and I think about it when I have to; but I would be perfectly delighted if I never had to again. Never had to discuss dinner plans, or travel itineraries, or someone’s hair. However, much as I would like to ignore facts, I’m realizing more and more that many people actually enjoy discussing the weather, their ailments, their friends. And worse, they are not seeking solutions, not seeking answers, not seeking meaning. Just talking. About unimportant things. And it bugs me sometimes.

This divide in interests, a divide in what is thought to be of importance, is a frustrating barrier to human communication. If we cannot first agree upon a subject worth discussing, how are we to then discuss our problems, much less find any solutions? Is that not the ultimate purpose of speech, to find answers? Perhaps I am the only one who thinks so. I know many who think speech is not a means to an end, but an end with meaning in itself. Who can truly say.

I haven’t found a solution yet, except, possibly, to strive for understanding of and patience with others. To humble one’s self. Perhaps that is the only answer needed.