Words. They seem benign when they stand alone, one at a time. But put them together just so and you can move minds, instigate revolutions, challenge, console, influence, cajole, cause heartache or laughter, emote and organize.
The power of words is easy to forget when we feel lonely and worn out, lacking inspiration to present our selves to a vast pond of eligible fish. But with some basic understanding of how we utilize certain thought functions, its possible to show who we are in a few sentences.
According to Carl Jung, we use our thoughts for two basic functions: perceiving information and making decisions. In perceiving information, we can be objective or subjective (Extraverted or Introverted). We can also be detail-oriented or holistic (Sensory or Intuitive). In making decisions we use either logic or emotions (Thinking or Feeling).
Whether we are perceiving information or making decisions, every person has a genetic preference over one way or the other. Though we are all capable of behaving Extraverted or Introverted, we each have a natural inclination to do one or the other. These natural inclinations are what defines us according to personality types. Isabel Briggs-Myers, following the work of her mother, Katharine Briggs, developed the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), an assessment tool to help people understand their own thinking preferences, or inclinations. The MBTI uses a fourth dichotomy which determines how a person handles his/her outer world (Judging-Perceiving); Judging types tend to be more comfortable after a decision is made and live a more structured lifestyle, while Perceiving types like to keep their options open and be more spontaneous.
Our preferences are just that: what we prefer. I might allow feelings to influence a final decision, but I prefer to be logical and feel more settled when using logic. I might look organized and know where everything is, but every day my schedule changes like the wind.
These tendencies don’t change as our lives change. Again, we can all think each way and become better at using the extremes of each function; but our inclinations to think one way over another are hard-wired into our psyche. These inclinations influence what we want to do with our lives.
When we are aware of our own patterns of behavior and how they connect to our thinking preferences, we are better able to understand why we have our particular strengths and weaknesses. We can also understand why we differ from other people, or why some people are interesting to us and why others are not.
So, to be an “interesting” person to some readers of your online profile, you want it to show who? A bored person with nothing better to do? Of course not. You want to show what makes you different from the next Joe or Jane. You also want to attract the kind of person you would want to be with.
To begin with, know what you prefer. Do you prefer quiet evenings at home? Or do you like being around a lot of people and take in the crowd’s energy? Who you are by yourself is the person you will be when you get seriously involved in a relationship and get comfortable with your partner, so you might as well be upfront and honest from the beginning. So, if you’re extremely Introverted, you wouldn’t want a relationship with an extreme Extravert to get difficult. (But I bet one date could be a blast.)
What do you like to talk about? Do you enjoy going into detail when you tell stories? Or do you think details get trivial and prefer to paint a general picture? Most people like details, so that’s something you can show in your profile. Go ahead and tell a story next to your profile picture. A story could tell your most embarrassing moment, an exciting trip you took, your first day at school, a dramatic event– for example. Or you could just list a bunch of your interests. But if you’re not big on details, find words to reveal your big-picture thinking. (I happen to be a big-picture thinker and wrote on a profile “little patience for small talk”. It’s arrogant, but hey, I’m arrogant and not afraid to admit it.)
Are you sensitive? Warm? A good listener to your friends? Or do you come across relatively cold, caring more about logic and facts? Even if you’re male, there’s a chance you are really a Feeling decision-maker. About 40% of American men have this decision-making preference. And for females, about 40% of American women are logical decision-makers. So, don’t be surprised when stereotypes are busted.
Your occupation provides clues about the way you deal with your outer world. Most people like spontaneity, but a “spontaneous” personality type, or the Perceiving type, would be someone who doesn’t mind living with the unknown, such as an inconsistent paycheck, or an inconsistent schedule. People who wait tables and rely on tips are often Perceiving types. A Judging personality (not the same as judgmental) prefers to know ahead of time when they need to show up at the office every day. There is comfort in its consistency. Though a Judging type might enjoy spontaneity, at the same time, there is a preference for stability, such as a secure career like law, IT, or accounting, for example.
When you write your online profile, consider your own preferences and how your words might reveal a glimpse of your complexity. (Compared to other animals, you are complex.) Remember that some things won’t set you apart from other people. Everyone hopes that you have an occupation, that you present yourself decently in public, and have a good sense of humor. And most people like spontaneity, passion, and confidence. Your words should paint an image people can see. Avoid being generic and boring by using descriptive words. For example, instead of, “I have a 9 to 5 job that I’m not crazy about,” say something like, “I get up in the morning to go to a finance job, but I’d rather bang on my drums all day.” (That would be a Perceiving type in a Judging environment.)
When you read other profiles, pay attention to keywords and phraseology. Do the words describe concrete things or are they more abstract, or intangible? For example, “I like beaches, amusement parks and horses,” versus “Being near the beach is important to me.” How words are used can show if a person is Sensory or Intuitive. Do words express feelings or logic? They reveal the decision-making aspect, but they don’t necessarily mean a person is gushy or icy. A sensitive person might also be pragmatic and a logical thinker could have tons of compassion.
Humor is part of personality, and everyone hopes you have it. So, don’t just say, “I have a good sense of humor.” Tell a joke to show you not only have a sense of humor, but also what kind of humor you have. Or incorporate humor into a fact. Instead of, “I work 9 to 5,” say something like, “My job threatens to give me paper cuts, but I like my cubicle neighbors.” If you get good at reading people’s personalities through what they write, even the kind of humor shown can clue you into their types.
Style is icing on our personalities that you can show through your interests. It’s easy to incorporate your style when you want to show a likable trait. For example, instead of, “I like to have fun,” say something like, “I like head-bopping at rock concerts.” If you’re not sure what your style is, sharing the things that get you excited will reveal a bit of your style. There’s nothing like music to reveal your style. Even if you like all kinds of music, try to narrow down to specifics. Maybe you close your eyes and sway to classical. Or try to remember how a specific song moved you.
In the ocean of single people and their profiles, there is a way to search for those who are probably more compatible with you. And you can set yourself apart among different schools. I suggest starting off with knowing your hard-wired thinking preferences.
There is an online dating site, which is an excellent resource for knowing and understanding your MBTI personality type (your hard-wired thought preferences). It’s Dr. Alex Avila’s LoveTypes.com. Dr. Avila, a clinical psychologist, has developed the LoveTypes® system to enable you to make your search for a compatible partner easier. On the site, you can order a copy of his book, which I read and recommend. I personally used his system to find my boyfriend who, I should add, I believe is my soul mate. (More on that in another blog.)
Once you have a working knowledge of your personality type (particularly the MBTI type), you might find that describing yourself will be easier. What you want in a romantic relationship will also become more clear, and perusing online profiles might become more fun and adventurous. Add personal style to your personality description and you can have a stunning portrait in words.