This entry was published at least two years ago (originally posted on December 5, 2002). Since that time the information may have become outdated or my beliefs may have changed (in general, assume a more open and liberal current viewpoint). A fuller disclaimer is available.

It’s kind of funny how one subject will lead to another, which then takes off and gets something of a life of its own. A throwaway comment by Mark Pilgrim in the midst of explaining a new data format giving his Myers-BriggsType Indicator led to an interesting couple of posts by Jonathon Delacour relating MBTIs to the blogosphere.

I know mom was big into the MBTI tests a few years back, and I may have taken the test at some point — though if I did, I don’t remember how I came out. So, since one of the posts gave a link to a free typology test, I took it and ended up coming out as iSfP: Introverted / Sensing / Feeling / Perceiving.

Besides being concrete in speech and utilitarian in getting what they want, the Composer Artisans are informative and attentive in their social roles. Composers are just as reluctant to direct others’ behavior as are Performers, though they appear even more so, since they are more attentive.

While all the Artisans are artistic in nature, Composers (perhaps ten per cent of the population) seem to excel in the “fine arts,” having not only a natural grace of movement, but also an innate sense what fits and what doesn’t fit in artistic compositions. Of course, composing must not be thought of as only writing music, but as bringing into harmonious form any aspect of the world of the five senses, and so when an especially gifted painter, sculptor, choreographer, film maker, songwriter, chef, decorator, or fashion designer shows up, he or she is likely to be an Composer.

Composers, like the other Artisans, have a special talent for “tactical” variation, and such talent differs radically from that possessed by Idealists, Rationals, and Guardians (who have their own unique and inherent abilities). As the word “tactical” implies, Artisans keep closely in “touch” with the physical world, their senses keenly tuned to reality. But, while the Crafter is attuned to the tool and its uses, the Composer is attuned to sensory variation in color, line, texture, aroma, flavor, tone-seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, and hearing in harmony. This extreme concreteness and sensuality seems to come naturally to the Composers, as if embedded “in the warp and woof” of their make.

— Description from The Composer Personality Temperament Style

It doesn’t sound too far off — some of the time. I do know that I tend to move between two extremes, though, and I’m not sure how accurately this version of the test (it felt like a shorter, less detailed version) would pick that up with it’s 72 yes/no questions. I’ll have periods where I’m much more social and extroverted, and other periods when I’m much more solitary and introverted. I did my best to give accurate answers to the questions (though I did wish that some of them were more of a sliding scale than simply yes or no), and as I said, the iSfP profile doesn’t sound too far off, but I’d be interested at some point in investigating whether the full “official” MBTI test is any more accurate.

All this did also remind me of something else mom relayed to me a long time ago. I don’t remember where it came from, but she was reading something that gave an alternate explanation of “extroverted” and “introverted” that I found to make much more sense than the typical definitions, especially as applied to my own life.

Traditionally, extroverts are those ebullient, outgoing people at the heart of every gathering. The life of the party, always surrounded by people, comfortable in every situation. Conversely, introverts are the shy, quiet type, often off in a corner if they’re out of the house at all, observing rather than participating. The book mom was reading, though, posited that rather than defining extro- and introverts based on their outward, public personas, we should look more closely at how they see themselves, and most specifically, what they do to relax and “recharge themselves.” In many cases, this would end up flip-flopping the definitions around.

For example, my brother has always been the classic extrovert, while I’ve been more the classic introvert. He often had large circles of friends, was involved in sports, student government, and other such group activities. I, on the other hand, prefered to stay at home with a book or a computer, hang out with Royce (who for years was my only close friend), and generally stay “behind the scenes” while my brother took the limelight. However, our methods of relaxation couldn’t have been more different. My brother would come home and hole up in his room, spending time by himself, even at one point taking up stamp collecting for a while. I, though, have always felt a need to be surrounded by people. Even when I wasn’t directly involved or the center of attention, as often happened later on in life when I was DJ’ing, I would often go out to the school dances or other large events, just to be around the groups of people and feel the energy and social dynamics present in such situations. By that, then, this source would classify my brother as the introvert and me as the extrovert, because though our more visible public personas fit the classic definitions, this argued that it was what we did to relax, recharge, and stay at peace with ourselves that really determined our emotional/temperamental makeup.

I always like that a lot, and felt that it made much more sense as a way to classify people (if one really feels the need to find little boxes to drop everyone into, at least).

Hmm…this entry just keeps getting longer and longer, too. Another aspect of my personality that I’d be curious as to how it fits in with everything is my tendency to be what my friends at one point deemed an “instigator.” A few years ago, James (I believe) and I were discussing the dynamics of our particular group of friends, and he realized that while I wasn’t the most obviously outspoken member of the group, and would rarely actively take the lead in any activity we were doing, if one really traced back where any particular idea came from, it often came back to me. I’d make a comment here, or a suggestion there, dropping hints at the right time or place in a conversation, or to the right people, and after a while, that’s the direction things would end up moving in. It wasn’t obvious, and I can’t even claim that I did it consciously or intentionally most of the time (though, there are times when being able to do it does come in handy), but with a close enough look at how things went, it did seem to show as a fairly common pattern.

I’ve looked at myself occasionally since then, and that does seem to be something I’ve always done, and probably always will do to some extent. Why? I’m not entirely sure, though I’d hazard a guess at one possible source in my psyche.

Basically, it’s my love of the “behind the scenes” aspects of life, the drive to find out “how it works.” That’s been a running and fairly obvious trend in how I approach things for years. In high school, the two things that I got really involved in and enjoyed were yearbook and the tech crew side of theater. My jobs for years have been in the copy/print-shop industry. Much of my fascination with movies is the special effects, and the fascinating high- and low-tech ways people have of solving problems. All of these share a common theme — finding and playing with the pieces and parts that make something up. It’s often not the final product that interest me nearly as much as the component pieces. In my world, the parts are far greater than the whole. Even my interest in web pages, where the actual design is of less import than figuring out the code beneath it that makes it work, or my love of Star Trek, where the weekly soap opera in space is of less import than the fascinating technobabble and world building that has gone on to create the Trek universe, carry on this theme.

When you apply all that to social dynamics, it seems fairly obvious that I’d end up being something of an “instigator.” Just doing something, or tossing out an idea to the group at large, well, that’s boring. The sledgehammer approach to making progress towards a goal. It’s far more satisfying to take what I know of people, their interests, how they will react to given suggestions or situations, and make a few small adjustments here, a few tweaks there, until suddenly all the pieces fall into place and we’re off and running. Far more satisfying. More fun, too!

Of course, on re-reading all that…it may be a good thing that I never got into politics. Or that I’m not more self-serving. Or both. Something to think about, at least.

And with that — I just ran out of steam. And I need to get going to work.