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'Uncomfortable Subtlety', by Ben Turner Recommended:
Keirsey Temperament Sorter



It is not uncommon in today's world to hear or read accounts of sexual or racial discrimination, nor is it rare that people claim they're being held down in life by some part of them which they cannot control. But there is one aspect of ourselves which is rarely discussed, yet plays a major part in how we are all viewed in life: our personality types. Not all personality types are treated equal in society, particularly those who are introverted.

This essay does not set out to prove that there's a great injustice being done to those of undesirable personality types. Its purpose is to point out that the personality is taken into account all the time, yet is often overlooked as even a minor factor. The benefits and drawbacks of each basic personality type are ignored.

I am an introvert. I prefer solitude to the company of others. When I am alone, I am allowed to think freely and be unburdened with another person. Typical INTJ (Intuitive, iNtroverted, Thinking, Judging) personality. I have long thought about whether it was right for me to be introverted. Is it right not to contribute by speaking up all the time? Am I doing the best thing? I have come to the conclusion that it is how I am, and there's no changing that. It is a trait of mine which is entangled with my soul, meshed with my thinking. Perfectly justifiable.

[A REALISTIC COLLEGE APPLICATION ... Question 1:  Are you an outgoing person?  If no, trash your application right now.  Question 2:  So you're not a scum-sucking introvert.  Please enter SAT scores in the space below.] It is apparently not, however, justifiable to others, and I discovered this when I was filling out college applications. Universities aren't looking for loners who keep to themselves and read a lot. They're seeking bright-eyed bushy-tailed super heroes who are members and leaders of student clubs! (even if they don't care about the club, but that's another issue) Universities want someone who will contribute back to the university as professors, and, as a friend once joked, alumni who will donate money back to the university when they become successful.

And what of classes which give participation grades? The teachers who institute these ways of grading may have their reasons for doing so, but they discount the fact that not everyone feels like speaking up to the whole class, for their own justifications. The teachers mean to force people to contribute to the class, but there are other ways of doing so, like essays, private oral tests, or newsgroups on the Internet. Those other options are forgotten, and students who are not outgoing or who don't think they need to say anything are punished. I myself have been able to get out of high school with minimal punishment for not speaking up more in class, but only because the teachers have come to understand that I know what they're talking about, but I don't feel like proving to them that I do know what I'm talking about. (that's why a lot of people speak up, and don't you dare doubt it) I cannot pull off the same feat in college, though, as I'm now in large classes with 200 other students. Introverts' personalities are less likely to shine through in such classes.

So the introvert is wholly left out of these equations. Particularly the breeds of introverts like me. We don't like being with people all the time and we don't share the tendency to group together and form clubs and social identities. We don't share others' enthusiasm for social rituals like smalltalk and hanging out. What would seemingly indifferent people like us contribute back to the university if we never took part in its social sphere?

The answer is actually fairly obvious, if you think about what introverts usually do. Instead of contributing to the social environment, introverts contribute dedicated amounts of time to the thinking environment of the university. The introverts and other personality types which aren't outgoing have time to think about the strangest and most difficult things, and tend to write down or express their conclusions in some kind of art or writing. What introverts do is add a lot to the knowledge base of a university.

And getting back to what universities are looking for, this is what we call full diversity. The major races would take up a significant percentage of enrollment, the genders would be approximately equal in population, and a wide variety of personality types would be found on campus. I like that.

So in short, what we do is not as easy to recognize as references to organizations on a resume, but it is arguably just as important. Again, what is abstract and hard to see is slighted by what is tangible and easy to grasp.

And there is no changing that. Nothing will make us jump through hoops and join clubs we don't support. So let us do what we do best: perfectionism, hard work, and thinking. Those are qualities I would want in a student or in an employee.

Aren't those what you would want in someone too? The people who promoted Peter Jennings, Augustus Caesar, and Jane Austen certainly thought so.


by that guy who's sometimes Ben Turner



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