We Underappreciate How Different We Are

9 min readFeb 24, 2023
Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

After I started working for my current employer, I met a colleague with whom I simply could not work with. We disagreed on almost everything — not on a factual level, but rather on how we approach working with problems and identify solutions. I felt like that, despite many similarities, we are the diametric opposite of each other.

This was the time when I got interested in fundamental differences regarding how people think and feel about the world and themselves. I started out by trying to better understand myself: somehow I had a hunch that this conflict has to do something with personality types. I filled out countless personality tests, read tens — maybe hundreds — of articles on different methods for dividing people into personality types, on how these can (or cannot) predict future behavior and so on. Finally I settled with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, largely thanks to a fantastic website promoting the idea (full disclosure: I have no connection whatsoever to the creators and owners of that site and their personality test is free to use).

There were other factors at play, of course, like how differentiated the given personality descriptions are, but the fact that convinced me (and your mileage might greatly vary here) is the system’s ability to predict a certain type’s behavior in new situations, and the vast amount of additional information it revealed beyond the answers given by the participant in the questionnaire.

Figuring out my type (and guessing my colleague’s type with whom I could not work with) has led to one of the biggest revelations of my lifetime. I can still remember the moment. It was a cold but sunny winter day. As I was walking around a building in the campus pondering the issue I had a sudden epiphany. It was like a lighting strike.

Everything has suddenly became crystal clear as I realized how fundamentally different we are. Suddenly all the anger, together with all the recriminations went away, and was replaced by a stoic feeling of ‘such is life’ and a strange empathy towards my colleague. I knew that we will never be able to work together and its none of our fault. Although I was not collapse aware back then — it has become absolutely clear to me why there can be no solution to any of humanity’s bigger “problems” like wars, climate change, pollution, etc. — things which are rightfully called predicaments.

What are these differences that make us unable to understand each other then? Why can’t we share the same beliefs on how the world operates? Let me explain.

It really doesn’t matter witch personality test or grouping method is your favorite. The key thing to understand here is that there is no such thing as a (singular) “human nature”. You can pick many factors (or scales), along which you would like to measure people’s responses, but you can be certain of one thing: that you will find people on both ends of (and all along) the scale of your choice. I picked the MBTI method because it offers 4 factors (or scales) which is not to much, not to little, and results in 16 sufficiently different personality types (more on the math of that later). But first let’s review those factors.

E/I: Are you an Extrovert or Introvert? Perhaps the most obvious differentiator between people, yet many of us are completely unaware that such differentiation exists, and feel extremely uncomfortable as a result (and for no apparent reason whatsoever). In a nutshell: if you are an extrovert, you enjoy the company of others, you are most probably an outgoing, talkative and energetic person. You feel recharged after a good conversation, while you might feel depressed and stressed out if you are left alone and cannot contact others for a long time (an hour, a day — depending on how extroverted you are).

On the other hand if you are an introvert, you enjoy being alone minding your own business. You don’t like being in the center of events and probably don’t talk too much. Consequently you may feel drained after a lot of socializing, but feel instantly recharged after reading, gardening, tinkering etc. alone for an hour or two, sometimes more. Too much socializing for these types might even lead to irritation, or in extreme cases ‘introvert overhang’ (social fatigue), leaving one with a feeling of mental (and sometimes physical!) burnout for a day or so. No joke, really. This is not a mental illness, this is just how different we are.

Needless to say, this is not a black and white scale either, but rather an infinite shades of gray in between. Yes, there are some extremely introverted people (like myself) and some extremely outgoing personalities, but most of us stand somewhere in-between.

S/N: Are you a Sensing or iNtuitive type? Now, that’s a more tricky one, but nonetheless an important factor. Put simply: this is how you collect information from the outside world. Sensing types prefer information which ties directly to their own past and present experience. They prefer things which they can touch, hear, see, feel, remember to and with which they can personally and directly connect with. Consequently they approach world events based on their own experiences, and distrust grand theories and abstract thinking.

‘The world has not collapsed yesterday, it is clearly not collapsing at the moment — at least not for me — so why bother then?’

On the other hand, intuitive types collect and access information in a completely different way: randomly, jumping from one topic to another, and enjoy working on far fetched ideas, theories and the like. They are interested in future possibilities, deep time, far away lands and people — and distrust individual accounts of events as being ‘too subjective’. They often experience sudden, unexpected, random recombination of data and memories in their heads, coming up with ‘funny’ ideas as a result. You have probably guessed right, I’m one of this later type.

T/F: Are you a Thinking or Feeling type? This is how (or based on what) you make decisions. Thinking types prefer numbers, facts and figures — no matter how they collect them (whether through first hand experience or intuitive exploration) — while Feeling types judge events based on ethics and values. Needless to say one type simply cannot convince the other about their right: thinkers disregard or assign secondary importance to feelings (or what is just and what is right/wrong), while feelers hate topics being reduced to numbers, and talk ceaselessly about ethics, the role of good and bad and moral responsibility. As a result feelers tend to be more optimistic, trusting that human ingenuity and our inherent goodness will help us solve every issue. Thinkers, on the other hand, are more of the realist type, sometimes feeling depressed about our prospects.

The funny thing is, that both types have something from the other — it is a scale after all — with some people being more balanced in their decision making than others. I for example consider myself a predominantly thinking type, but with a very strong desire for justice and truth combined with strong negative emotions towards deception, lies, propaganda and BS. It might sound funny, but sometimes I wish I could be a more rational, balanced and calm person — and not someone feeling so upset about current world events. But, as they say, such is life.

P/J: What is your preference: Perception or Judging? Last but not least, the personality trait, which throws a monkey wrench into the model we have built so carefully this far. This last one affects all traits which came before it, and therefore I consider it the most powerful one. (Actually this was the only trait which set me apart from my colleague, and boy, what a difference it made!). In a nutshell: Judging types make up their mind very quickly, decide fast but change their plans very reluctantly. Combined with Extroversion and Thinking this judging trait makes one a natural born leader (manager, general etc.).

Judging types are (usually) annoyed by Perception types: who on the other hand make decisions slowly and carefully, and love to leave their options open as long as possible, so they can walk back their prior decisions and change their minds (which they often do). I myself belong to this later group, and if you belong to the former, trust me: we are not changing our minds because we lack character, or values, but because new information instantly and automatically causes our brains to recalculate and reevaluate everything we think we knew before. I repeat: automatically. It takes an immense mental effort for us to stay on track — especially for those of us who belong to the intuitive camp — with our brains not only recalculating things every time, but discovering new aspects as a result (leading to another round of recalculation). If you are a sensing-judging type chances are that you never experienced something like this in your life, but rather felt frustrated and betrayed that your expectations were not met — again, it’s neither of our fault, we are just that different.

Now, that we have reviewed the basic traits, and understood how they are a scale, not a yes or no type of distinction, we can better appreciate how immensely diverse we are as a species. Just by doing the math (2x2x2x2), one gets 16 individual buckets, each of which being populated with people from wall to wall — with some of us sitting on top of those walls (in between categories). I encourage you to discover your type and figure out where you stand on these scales. It is going to be revelatory, of that I’m sure.

And now, about some words about probabilities and ratios — sorry, I’m a thinking (numbers) guy. The interesting thing is that we are not evenly distributed along these scales. While there are roughly the same amount of Extroverts vs Introverts, the same is not true for Sensing vs Intuition, with Sensing being almost three times as common as intuition (73%/27%). And while there are only slightly more judging people than perceiving, feelers outnumber thinkers by a wide margin (60%/40%). Based on this you have a much-much higher chance to meet a person who collects data based on his own senses (S) and who then makes decisions driven by their feelings (F), than by finding someone who does this task intuitively (I) and decides based on facts and figures (T).

Being an INTP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking and Perceiving type) — or a Logician for short — I belong to one of the smallest personality group representing a mere 2% of humanity. Being somewhat of an outside observer to society, I thus find it logically impossible for humanity to find common ground in global issues (I’m sure feeling types will push back here): sharing a common understanding of something as abstract as ‘overshoot’ and then making decisions based on this common understanding. It is never ever going to happen. We rather go to war (both on the propaganda front and on the battleground), than to try and understand each other. Perhaps we are just like ancient Romans who experienced the same at the time of their fall…

Add to this that not all of us are open to even discuss such topics, with many of us remaining totally uninterested, or simply left unable to fathom such abstract things as resource depletion — not because they are unintelligent — but simply because their brains are wired completely differently. And with a vast majority of us belonging to the sensing camp I don’t expect this to change anytime soon.

Last but not least, this brings us to one of my pet topics: free will. If we are so predictable as this model suggests, where is individual free will in this whole process? We did not make a conscious decision to belong either to this or that personality group, nor can we switch between them freely (just give it a try)... Knowing, however, how these traits affect our behavior this leaves little room for an ‘individual self’ making decisions, independently from past experience, mental wiring, peer pressure and the circumstances around him or her... But that’s another story for a different day. With all that said I leave you with my favorite quote from C. Wright Mills:

“Fate is shaping history when what happens to us was intended by no one and was the summary outcome of innumerable small decisions about other matters by innumerable people.”

Until next time,





A critic of modern times - offering ideas for honest contemplation. Also on Substack: https://thehonestsorcerer.substack.com/