Monday, March 25, 2013

Personality analysis

I've been forcing myself to go to social events and meeting lots of kinds of people, some of which are really friendly and welcoming, which was a nice change. It's a good thing that in my new job I get to interact with a lot more people than during grad school, but at the same time, it's also a big challenge for me to work with people with very different personalities than me. I know that as a professional, one needs to set aside one's preference and dislikes for personality types and work with others' professional abilities, but I'm finding I'm horrible at it. It's a big wake up call I guess.

I have always thought I was an INTP, but recently, redoing the Myer-Briggs test and reading more into it, turns out I'm actually an INFJ, with dominant introverted intuition, extraverted feelings, introverted thinking, and extraverted sensing. I have always thought that I suck at reading people's intentions and feelings, but turns out I've been ignoring my intuition all these years. In reality, other people's energy affect me hugely, to the point that I can't hold my own state of centeredness when someone else is exhibiting different energies. For example, if I meet someone who is grumpy, it totally brings me down as well, no matter how hard I try to stay neutral and cheerful. Meeting super cheery people can bring me to a totally cheerful state as well. By this logic, I should always hang out with super cheerful people, but people like that are not super common around here. Also, I don't mean fake cheerful. I mean genuine happiness. My logical brain cannot tell the difference (and I've always relied on my rational brain without monitoring my own reaction to places and situations), but my happiness only lights up sometimes, for example at this Indian wedding I attended where I didn't know the bride and groom but my Indian friends' friends were all super excited to meet me (I was the only foreigner at the wedding... super exotic to them LOL). I think it was one of the happiest days I've experienced in a very long time. It wasn't because I was the center of attention, but because I could feel that everybody was grinning from ear to ear they could hardly contain their excitements. At work my colleagues also crack jokes  and break into loud laughters every single day at coffee breaks, but somehow it just doesn't feel like real happiness to me. I can't explain it and I could be wrong, but to me their laughters feel more like life-coping strategy than genuine contentment with life. These are definitely signs of extraverted feeling and sensing.

According to Wikipedia, only 1-3% of the US population of INFJs, the rarest personality type of all (compared to 20-28% ISTJs/ISFJs and 17-25% ESFJ/ESTJs). This means I belong to the most misunderstood loner crowd and I also think differently from most of the populations in the US and probably in the world.

INFJ weaknesses, according to the Internet, include being unaware (and sometimes uncaring) of how they come across to others, applying their judgment more often towards others, rather than towards themselves, having unrealistic and/or unreasonable expectations of others, having an intense and quick temper, can hold grudges, can have difficulty forgiving people, can be wishy-washy and unsure how to act in situations that require quick decision making, having difficulty communicating their thoughts and feelings to others, and can see so many tangents everywhere that they can't stay focused on the bottom line or the big picture.

Yikes.. how horrible it is to be born as an INFJ! I think the judgmental part of me prevents me from seeing the positive aspect of issues and focusing on working with colleagues' professional sides and take in their advice (because I've already decided that I don't like them as a person). But it doesn't matter why I am the way I am... I must come across as a difficult to deal with person as well. The website offers suggestions on personal development. Some of these I have already been attempting for years. As for the "do not express anger" advice, I usually try to suppress my anger by staying silent, but most of the time people can sense that I'm upset anyways. So then I get frustrated that the situation remains tense even though I think I haven't expressed my anger... perhaps my facial expression gives things away.. I don't know exactly.

I don't like to have a personality that only accounts for 1-3% of the world's population, and I don't like to be difficult. But being among this personality group means that I naturally think differently than most people and that it is hard for me to understand how others think and figure out most people's preferences.

I think I need to majorly relax, try really hard not to take things personality, try really hard to be less judgmental of others (the website suggests that I be as least as critical about myself as I do with others but I think I already do a lot of that), and assume the best - this one is quite important and useful for me. I think sometimes I dislike a person because they act as a mirror or even a magnifying glass of an aspect of myself that I don't like. I try so hard to eliminate that characteristic in myself, but how dare this person blatantly express this characteristic and seem to be so comfortable with it? I guess instead I should shift my thinking and be grateful to that person for demonstrating to me that one can exhibit these characteristics that I consider as "flaws" yet still live (somewhat) happily and have lots of friends.

It's a major challenge to be interacting with so many different kinds of personality types, especially ones that clash with mine. I guess it's a necessary part of life that I've managed to avoid until now. I hope I get through this and become a less judgmental, more accommodating and a more easy-going person.  If I cannot get through the challenge, I should perhaps seek out jobs with less human interactions maybe, LOL. Anyways, self-awareness is supposed to be a good thing, right? I genuinely want to be less of an asshole to the people around me. I'm also supposed to draw on my strengths, which I have trouble to  identify confidently. That'll be my task for the next little while - focus on the positives and figure out what exactly am I good at besides assimilating broad range of information obsessively but not be able to coherently organize them into useful thought systems.

Monday, March 18, 2013

First Mysore room practice in over a year

I finally dragged my lazy ass to a Mysore room for practice on the weekend. Being in a roomful of strangers must have made my adrenaline shoot through the roof. Endorphin levels were probably saturated as well. Every posture felt easy. I still can't jump back but it seemed like I could kind of jump through to seated dandasana. My drop backs were amazing. It felt like I could almost grab my ankles from the air ( I can't... can't even see my ankles). The legs were on fire but it was controlled almost all the way down, except the last 3 inches where I had to plop my hands down. The teacher said I did a great job. I was happy. Then I found out I couldn't do utplutih at all. Normally I could hold them for 10 speedy breaths, but for this practice I held for one breath and then my arms gave out.

Today my whole body aches like I had participated in some iron man training. Like I said, it must have been all the hormones that got me through the practice. I guess I need someone to watch me (or at least walk around me) to be able to "perform". But hopefully as I go more often this effect will normalize. It's not exactly the point to go through the primary series without actually feeling the asanas while doing them. That's like taking a drug before heading to class.

Great work out though.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Tai Chi of dealing with people

Last week I observed my boss and his more senior/established/famed collaborator undergo the "Tai Chi" of negotiation. On the surface it appeared that the two of them were joking around a lot during the meeting, but in reality it was a power struggle, where the collaborator was trying to entice the junior professor to take up a whole bunch of technical work by painting a verbal picture of the medical importance of these projects and how doing these work could put us in the forefront of the research field in terms of those specific subject areas. My boss was indeed intrigued by the medical potentials; however he was also aware that the senior guy wants to dump a huge amount of workload on him, so he made plenty of stupid jokes while trying to assert that these technical tasks are more time-consuming than people seem to think. The senior guy jokes that there are 24 hours a day and that should be enough time to work on multiple projects. He did this because my boss was over-claiming the amount of time required to perform some of the tasks. 

To me this discussion could have been 1000 times more straightforward. The senior guy could have just described all the interesting research ideas he has which our group could potentially work on. My boss could have just made a conservative estimate of how many of these ideas he can get his staff to put into implementation and make a rough estimate of the amount of time required. But I guess that would be too boring. For them it made more sense to just joke around to keep the atmosphere "light". My super boring linear mind was confused: why all these jokes and dance and over-exaggeration of potentials and difficulty level of the work? I thought this kind of stuff are reserved for politicians and are "beneath" science? 

Sadly I think this type of negotiation is not restricted to the world of business and politics. If we are too straightforward, the "truth" can hurt our relationship with others and our career potentials. To get ahead in the world we must all have the skill to sell ourselves, to joke around to establish friendliness, but also to work in our assertions and basic values without offending the other party.

Unfortunately I am totally unequipped with this type of skills to be witty and funny and manipulate/maneuver my way out of sticky situations. I don't know how to keep the people I am obliged to deal with happy even if I don't like the situation (or the people); I take everything people tell me at the face value and rarely ponder about the meanings in between the lines. To me it seems like it doesn't matter what field they're in (even if it's NGO or social or charity work), successful people in the world are people who are masters at playing the diplomacy game - people who can convince other people to do what they want them to do wins, which means diplomacy, persuasion, manipulation,  ie. marketing and sales skills trump all other technical skills. Even if I want to quit my job and go volunteer the the poorest village in the world or something, I still need to possess the above-mentioned skill set, or at the very least recognized others are manipulating me or selling me ideas that are not as straightforwards as they sound; otherwise I will be taken advantage of, being stepped all over, and become frustrated no matter what I choose to do with my life.

Another thing: I'm used to jokes back home that are light hearted and to some degree politically correct. I'm really tired of jokes being made around my social/work circles here that sound potentially offensive in a personal way, overly sarcastic, sometimes racist/discriminatory, and then they are like "oh I'm just  joking".  Back home people most likely wouldn't laugh at these jokes. But here I feel like I've been bombarded by this kind of "jokes" (you could argue that some of these are "socially awkward people"). I need to figure out some way to deal with this; otherwise I feel like I'm going crazy.