Friday, November 20, 2009

Jada and the Myers-Briggs

The other day, Amy reported back to me on a recent visit by Jada's special instructor, who had suggested that we change our expectations of Jada. At first, I was miffed: what is that supposed to mean? A few months ago, Jada was diagnosed as being a full year behind on some important communicative skills, and today she is probably still that far behind. Though her memory affords her a wide range of statements and responses, she simply does not know how to have a simple conversation if it is on a subject that is new to her. And her moodiness and her sensitivity to a variety of sensory stimuli seem out of the ordinary to us.

So I was ready to discount Jada's special instructor's comments as unhelpful and unthoughtful. But Amy offered another perspective: what, she asked me, do you think Jada would rank on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test? Myers-Briggs is something we both can understand, as far as understanding fundamental differences between people: introverted (I) versus extroverted (E), present-oriented (S) versus future-oriented (N), thinking (T) versus feeling (F), wanting certainty (J) versus wanting options left open (P). We both like this system because it not only differentiates on these four axes, but it offers some insights about how people with different combinations of characteristics are different.

Both Amy and I are strong I's and strong J's; I happen to be mildly N and mildly T, while Amy is mildly S and mildly F. So that makes me an INTJ and Amy and ISFJ. Again, while we differ, where we are the same we are strongly the same.

Jada, circa age 4 1/2, appears to be solidly ESF: highly extroverted, focused on the now, and more emotional than rational. Though most little kids crave structure, and Jada is no different, I would hesitate to label her J rather than P. In fact, I am tempted to call her P because my college roommate and one of my closest friends is ESFP and Jada seems similar to him in temperament: sociable, lively, sensitive, fun-seeker. They call ESFP's "Performers," and Jada's special instructor has used that word to describe Jada more than once. Ironically, one of Amy's college roommates and close friends is also ESFP, and Jada reminds Amy of her as well.

As you can see, though Amy and I are strongly a certain way, we mix well with people who are our polar opposites. In fact, that shouldn't be surprising at all; our differences are what make friendships enjoyable and stimulating. In this regard, understanding what Jada's temperament is, and adjusting our expectations of her to allow her to be who she is instead of what might be easier for us, is helpful. After all, Amy and I both think very highly of our former roommates, and if Jada turned out like that, we can exhale that she grew up to be a happy and productive person in society.
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