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Credentials and INTJs: An Uncomfortable Combination

Thursday September 19, 2019

Credentials can be a really awkward area for INTJs.

In one sense, it can totally bug us that the “piece of paper” may be socially necessary in order to feel valued and validated. The Fe blind spot.

In another sense, we want to celebrate the potential of even the lowliest individual: The Fi-aspirational bias. (And that lowly individual happens to be us? Well, it happens that we are pretty damn good! etc. Fi is endlessly kind to us, yet it’s also, awkwardly, us loving ourselves…)

And yet, we understand that credentials are a thing. It’s just how society works. You wanna argue my point? THEN WHO ARE YOU? We perceive the question; we may see it coming before the argument starts. The ultimate Se-attentive argument question.

So we get to this point where we feel the need to put up, or shut up.

This creates some amusing situations. Here’s what I’ve observed in other INTJs who were having argumentative moments, and—might as well admit it—even in myself, on your model M1-A1 really bad day:

When we think we are right:

  • We definitely don’t think we “need” any credentials in order to argue our point. We will even come out and say this directly, which can kind of shock other people.
  • We think people who do have credentials and expert experience who disagree with us are possibly just bumbling idiots, or possibly they missed the latest study on this or that, or possibly they are part of a conspiratorial cabal. There may be literally seconds between reaching that first conclusion and reaching the third one. (This can be especially true if our subjective intuition function is truly and awkwardly mixed with a lack of experience or perspective that we don’t want to admit…)

When we sense a need to be seen as even more right:

  • We spend time researching the “optimal” credential: Time, cost, social effect, broad applicability, title. From “hey, what do you got for ten bucks that makes people want to listen to me?” to “I made a spreadsheet, and I will go into reasonable debt for 20 years in order to earn a basic level of professional respect for the rest of my life.”
  • For the time being, we bring up our experiential credentials, even if we don’t have formal credentials: “I worked for 10 years as a construction foreman, and this qualifies me to tell you…” But really—it doesn’t necessarily qualify a thing. We have such a big performance shadow ESFP that we can usually come up with something, and let’s pray that no one looks into it, in extreme cases where we overextend ourselves rhetorically. The critic knows what a critic can dig up.

When we think someone else is right:

  • If they lack credentials, we find it easy to excuse their lack of credentials, and we refer others to their body of work. After all, it’s what they’ve actually done that’s important! Not a piece of paper! The Se-valuing viewpoint.
  • We may also point out that people with great credentials have been wrong in the past, and some have even been totally corrupt!

When we think someone else is wrong:

  • We can criticize any credential, no matter how bulletproof it seems.
  • We can, even unfairly, make our experience seem bigger than theirs. This is the “As a” gamble: “As a [user of this software for 10 years], I feel qualified to state [to its expert development team]…[certain harsh criticisms]”

And finally: When we’re really afraid of not succeeding in life:

  • We start to look, desperately, for sets of learning and achievement credentials that will save us from shame, and prevent bad outcomes, and make us seem like we’re a badass.
    • Is that so bad? Well, it can lead to a huge waste of time, is all I’m sayin’.

In Conclusion: Things to Consider

Well: Zoom out a bit, of course, and more often than not we find that low energy levels can cause us to get embroiled in some embarrassingly emotional and fundamentally flawed arguments. And high energy levels can cause us to overstate our case.

Also, being humans of a type, we pay attention to some things, and don’t pay as much attention to other things. That’s how personality type works. So it’s important to remember: None of those arguments or thought patterns necessarily have anything to do with making a logical argument, for example. Our argument may seem rational to our preferred perspectives, but it has other shortcomings.

Ti really is a great example of that, by the way, and this is why it voices itself as our critical parent: As a type we are so often guilty of nope-ing out of logic, of fundamental understanding, of depth-of-analysis. We didn’t do the homework, we did it intuitively. And unfortunately for people in that boat, some things that are logical can sound over-simplistic, and sometimes that over-simplicity is really, and embarrassingly, worth exploring with some humility.

Now to wrap this up, it’s true that we INTJs sometimes really have something going for us, with this “credentials are BS” viewpoint: Diving into life now in order to achieve positive outcomes and help people out really does matter. And many INTJs are really good at this. And they are rewarded for it. Smiles, hugs, thank-yous. (It can help if we have enough grounding in our gifts and position at this point to smile back and tell them it was dumb luck…)

(But should I get that credential anyway? Some of you have asked me, and continue to ask me.)

It’s hard sometimes, man. ;-)

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