I started writing this post several months ago. Put it on the back burner as I got tied up with other things. Distractions, work, my ongoing frustration and funk. Fascination about the third President of the United States. The unabomber and Henry David Thoreau. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pearl Jam and Bob Dylan.
Now I come back to it during the COVID19 stay-at-home situation. I actually spent the morning in my office. TRUE. I went to work. I have been able to go there over the whole stay-at-home ordeal, if only for a few hours. Quite deserted, but on occasion, I would see colleagues that I work with. Face-to-face is so much better than over the telephone. It certainly is better with my kids. It is certainly better with people.
I will probably never understand people. I know that I may not be the easiest person to talk to. I am an introvert. I have no problem doing things on my own, exploring, hiking, going to the movies or museums. I do not do well in terms of making small talk, either in groups, or one-on-one. I tend to keep to myself. My communication skills are not polished. I deal with it and at different times I have tried to improve upon those skills. But I can still “um” right up there with the best of them. I hope to improve my writing skills through this blog.
Don’t get me wrong. On most days I don’t hate people. Well OK, on some days I might. On other days there are people who I will never like. So does my personality type influence people that I interact with, whether it is my coworkers or my friends? Are the people with whom I met over the years friends or acquaintances? Or are we like ships that pass in the night, forgotten or a desire never to meet again?
An article in Inc. ( https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/psychologists-say-there-are-5-personality-types-heres-how-to-tell-which-one-you-.html ) tells us that there are five personality types according to psychologists. One’s personality influences everything from the friends we choose to the candidates we vote for. Many people never really spend much time thinking about personality traits. I’m guessing that includes me. Understanding my personality can give me insight into my strengths and weaknesses, and that it can also help me gain insight into how others see me. Does it also help me understand others? Is this why some people are dog lovers and others are cat lovers, and there are others who like all animals. I’m in the dog-lover (and horse-lover) camp. OK son, I also like Johnnie the hamster.
At this point, I would venture off and talk about how this article ties into this posting. But as I researched the personality types, I found different types have been qualified and quantified. One article talks about four different types. Another talks about eight. Another has three, then there are seven, eleven, and twenty. Do I hear nine, fifteen, thirty-one?
This article from Northwestern suggests that there are four ( https://www.haaretz.com/science-and-health/there-are-only-four-types-of-people-psychologists-say-based-on-new-data-1.6489904 ). The four are: average, reserved, self-centered and role model. Another article ( https://www.today.com/health/personality-types-average-self-centered-role-model-or-reserved-t137902 ) quoted the same Northwestern study and provided more detail that the groupings make more sense. This article was altogether confusing because it went back-and-forth between personality types and personality traits. People fall into one of the four types based on how they rank on the big five personality traits: openness, agreeableness, extra version, neuroticism and contentiousness. Understanding how high or low someone ranks on each of the traits can be useful and predict things about people, such as their risk of mental illness or likelihood of divorcing.
In the end I suspect that a person’s personality is comprised of a great many types of traits. Each and every one is unique. One’s personality is comprised of a mixture of traits. Some are more pronounced than others, some are more endearing than others. I’m not a psychologist and I have already said that I do not understand people.
My spin in writing this post was going to suggest that there were only two types of people. There are people who like people regardless of their personality. The other are the people who only like themselves. Are these types, or traits? The workplace is full of different people, different personalities, different traits. How can I say this, and yet argue that there are only two types of people? Let me continue.
The genesis of the “only two types of people” was reinforced when I was walking the dog. I was thinking about the types and traits of people. Don’t you get up at 5am on a Saturday and then read obscure articles about the traits of people? Of course this was some months ago, but it is as true today as it was then. Jewel and I were about 3 miles into our walk near the East Gate dog park. I spied a former coworker, who I have known for 29 years. We worked together for about four years when I first arrived at Los Alamos. Now the lab is a big place, and we went our separate ways in terms of career, working on different projects in different parts of the laboratory. We followed different pathways, and over the years we would cross paths again at different times, albeit the interactions were very limited.
Anyway, I was walking Jewel, came across my coworker who was there with her dog. I said “hello” and she replied “hello”. I then ventured to ask “how was it going”, to which there was no reply, other than “I need to get my dog to the park to play”. No “take care”, “nice dog”, “how are you doing?”. That was it. Like two ships passing in the night.
Over the years, I have met and encountered many people. I find that I enjoy those encounters. As is often the case, people come and go. Whether those contacts continue over time is often guided by whether I liked them, or whether I felt used by them. Time causes people to drift apart. Time also allows one to to think, to reflect, to determine if it was a genuine positive experience, or was it mutual admiration, working towards a common goal, or just one of being used. It is also possible that time doesn’t leave people with the opportunity to catch up, to talk, to laugh.
In the case of the individual with whom I passed walking the dog, I immediately jumped to that type definition. I was the one who was being used. I have seen this individual use many people over the years to advance her career. We all characterize this person the same way. Those who have been able to get away have gone on to be successful. I think that I am in that category. Those who did not get away suffered, eventually leaving into obscurity. Clearly, in my opinion, this individual is self centered.
Now as the months have gone by since I started this post, I have read and reread the words that I put down. I have changed some of the sentences, added some qualifiers about today compared to several months ago to put things into context. My opinion of how I characterized the encounter has not changed, filtered through the passage of time. Still think that there are only two types of people. Weather hasn’t changed my feelings, my environment has changed since the COVID19 but that hasn’t altered my thinking about the types of people.