I Love personality tests. Really, they’re fun. I like taking them, whether it’s the classic Myers-Briggs, the one with the four colours, or just a basic Strengthfinder test. I like what you’re able to learn from them. Even if their methods don’t seem that reliable, they at least give you a neat framework through which you can think about the way people are wired, yourself included. They don’t give you the whole picture, but they do give you a picture, and that’s really important to have. It allows you to empathize with other people. Learning the different approaches people can have to different situations and where that comes from allows you to be more understanding when it differs from how you would’ve done things. Ultimately, it’s a helper during those times when you need to give or accept some grace from somebody- and that right there is the key to all relationships.
As I mentioned, I like the Myers Briggs test. I like that it plants people on a continuum of different personality facets, which is something you see a lot in social science theories. Understanding the true definitions of introvert and extrovert helped me to realize why some situations are easier for me than others.
Lately I’ve been discovering another sort of double-ended continuum. I suppose it wouldn’t be too hard to tack it on to a pre-existing personality test, and I’d even think it could be worth it.
I’m talking about whether people are detail oriented or big picture focused.
I think it’s simple enough, and I don’t think it’s all that difficult to see which side of the fence where people end up. Some people pay attention to details, they just have a knack for it. They can see a situation for its mechanics, if everything is going the way it should be. Other people are more big-picture focused. The details are too far zoomed in for them, and in situations they focus more on how the moment relates to their larger existence. It’s not so much the mechanics of a situation that interests them, but its artistry. It comes back to bite them often, but it’s just how they’re wired.
Personally, I’m pretty sure that I wind up on the big picture side of things. I have little doubt about that.
In general, but not always, I think detail-oriented people tend to be more left brained. They act on empirical logic primarily, and approach things systematically. They’ve got a plan of action, and they’d make great event coordinators. They are a bit more focused on what needs to get done, and are more task-driven.
So let’s say you and some friends made plans to go get dinner. The detail oriented members of the group would immediately take to orchestrating rides and meeting information. They’d arrive on time, and leave on time too, factoring in work the next day. They essentially make everything happen. They’re good communicators, making sure everyone knows what’s going on and can keep up with the group. They desire for everyone to hang out and have fun, and will therefore do everything in their power to make the event run as smoothly as possible.
There are a handful of times when this could backfire. Detail oriented people might not be quite as keen on reading the actual mood of a room instead focusing on the things that should logically create a pleasant atmosphere. For example, a detail oriented person walking his date from dinner to the theatre might be walking briskly, with the intention of making it there on time. He may miss the cue that walking at that speed is uncomfortable for his date who is wearing heels.
Hopefully that was a decent portrayal of a detail oriented person. I hope it was accurate enough. The thing is, I can only write about them so well, since I’m not one of them. I can speak a lot more about being a big picture person.
Big picture people tend to come up with many ideas, but are only capable of making a few of them actualize. The indeed do everything in their power to make all their ideas become reality, and the issue isn’t so much their lack of ability, but the fact that they have so many ideas. They’re a bit whimsical and spontaneous, but also lose sight of a lot of important information.
I’m the idealist of the group. When I plan events, I’m not necessarily thinking of how everybody will get there or what time things should happen. I’m thinking about what sort of night I’d like to remember a year later. I’m thinking about my relationship with each individual person. At a ballpark or a movie, I will choose the worser seats as long as that means all my friends can sit together. In a large group hangout, I will focus my attention on a couple individuals with the realization that a hangout so large can only be so intimate.
One thing that I hate as a big-picture person is how absent minded I am when it does come down to details. I often forget to bring things, arrive to things a little late or underdressed, or have too much of an expectation of how long a hang out session is supposed to run. I get upset at myself often for missing out on details and I oftentimes hate how restricted it feels when everyone has to leave a party at a certain time. After I forget to leave my key at home for my roommates to move my car for the billionth time, I almost feel a little bit like everybody else has this superpower of flawless memory that I just wasn’t gifted with.
The world has both big picture people and detail oriented people, and it really needs both of them. They make it more colourful and keep it in check. It’s like we’re different lenses you can attach on to a camera. There are awesome people on both sides of the spectrum. My friends Lindsay, Dan, and myself are big picture people. My stepdad, and my housemates Mike and Chris are more detail focused. There are strengths and weaknesses that come with both types. I personally believe that for every strength a person has, he or she has an equal corresponding weakness. Detail oriented people often stress out about situations they lack control over. Big picture people often get down on themselves when a simple act of absent mindedness leads them to feel like they let the group down. What’s useful is someone from the other side can offer some perspective to help carry the other.
That’s why empathy is important, and that’s why I like personality profiles that aid with empathy. My strongest relationships benefit from being with people who understand that I’m apt to forget things despite trying my best. I also hope that people benefit from something I often find myself doing in social situations, which is lightening the mood by joking or deflecting blame. It’s because I’m sensitive to the overall mood, and want to offer that. The part of my brain that doesn’t do so well with clocks and fitting people into cars is strong when it comes to making sure everyone in a group feels included in a genuine way. I seek to learn from the detail oriented and I hope I can offer something unique to benefit and learn from.
And that’s why I like studying opposing personalities. They benefit mostly from each other.