Christina was just about the perfect fit for an ISTP. As a toddler, she sometimes struck her parents as a pleasant little alien child who had come to Earth to study our customs. As is true for both of the Introverted SPs, she was not one to spend a great deal of time in her parents’ laps. She was comfortable with them and would retreat to them as a young child when in need of comfort or when faced with scary strangers, but from a very early age, she was happy playing alone for remarkable periods of time. Like many SPs she enjoyed all sorts of sensory play, from making mud-pies to jumping enthusiastically to her parents’ music.
Early on, it was clear that her fine motor skills were exceptional, from artwork to quickly putting pegs in holes in her craft set. Most of all, though, she seemed to amuse herself trying to understand how things worked here on Earth. Before she was three, she was able to pick out her favorite videos from the pictures on them and punch the proper buttons on the VCR to get them going. As she grew older, she continued to love mastering every skill around the house. Even at nine, she was a great little cook, but her how-to interests were truly gender-free, and by eleven she was up on the roof helping her dad replace the shingles. How to do things was fascinating, but how to do them better was even more interesting.
Christina’s attitude toward school was mixed. She enjoyed sports, liked arts and crafts, was actually pretty good at math, but was largely bored with the rest. Her memory skills were very strong and that carried her through, even though she made a minimal effort. However, as schoolwork became more abstract and theoretical in middle school, her grades dropped. She enjoyed a wide variety of computer games at home, and because no one else in the family was the least bit talented with computer problems, she became very good at troubleshooting software glitches. Any problem that she had seen once, she would recognize again and be able to solve. This led her to one enduring interest in high school.
Budgetary problems at her school had resulted in their keeping old computers and software programs, and had prevented them from keeping a full-time technician on staff. When the computer she was working on malfunctioned in a lab class, Chris was immediately able to spot the problem and suggest a solution. After a couple of similar happenings, her lab instructor approached her about a student assistant job doing repair work. Chris was delighted. She could work when she had the free time, setting her own hours, and could do so alone and in peace. She kept this job throughout her high school career, to her own and the school’s delight. Her parents were pleased also, since it seemed to help to motivate her to keep her grades at an acceptable level.
After high school, she enrolled in a two-year technical college, studying computer programming. She did not show any great talent for thinking up new programs or even new twists on old programs, but she became one of the fastest software code writers her instructors had ever seen. Tell her what program was wanted and Christina could produce it in record time. In this time period, she made an unlikely friend—a warm, outgoing fellow student who wanted to start her own business. This student, Carlota (Carly), was taken with Chris’s simple honesty and her great competence. Turning Christina into a friend was a labor of love. It took many patient weeks of brief conversation after class, many refused invitations for coffee, and some serious studying together for exams before Chris thawed. She did eventually come to trust Carly and over time it would be fair to say that they became true friends. Carly’s idea was to start a service for small business owners, especially those just starting out, in which they would help with getting the best computer system, setting it up, teaching employees to use it, and troubleshooting as needed.
Chris had to think about it for a long time, but eventually came to see it as a good thing. Carly would do most of the sales and personal contact work while Chris could concentrate on setting up systems and training employers and employees. It looked to her like she would be able to work at her own pace and time, and this was very appealing.
Did it turn out that way? Well, yes—and no. Setting up new systems was the perfect job for her, and used her skills very well. Training other people was a whole other thing. Rudely enough, they expected you to turn up right on schedule, so that was the first problem. Second and more serious was the fact that they needed to be handled as if their little selves were made of tissue paper. You couldn’t be impatient when they didn’t understand. You could never say something was stupid—never! She completely failed to see why the same thing had to be said—and demonstrated—three or four times before these idiots would begin to get it. And you certainly could not say they actually were idiots.
Christina was generally quite tolerant of the differences and foibles of others, but in this case, these shortcomings were directly conflicting with her own wants and needs. She really did not enjoy any kind of repetitive activity. It was one thing to learn to use and set up a new system, but quite another to repeat the instructions over and over and over. Furthermore, with the exception of Carly and a very limited number of other humans, Chris much preferred to be alone rather than to socialize. These clients—on top of being so slow on the uptake, also wanted to stop and chat about their lives, the weather, the news—practically anything. A two-hour session that went like that very nearly drove Chris mad.
After they lost one client because Chris was both very late and very brusque, Carly sat her down for a long talk. Chris could see logically that she needed to be on time—as Carly pointed out she was wasting the time of others if they had to sit waiting for her. (Then again, to be fair, they wasted a lot of her time once she got there.) She swallowed that thought and vowed to do better on punctuality. But the idea that the client’s feelings were hurt because she seemed impatient was beyond her. Most of what she said to Carly could be summed up as “Why on earth should they care what I think of them, as long as I teach them what they need to know?” At some moments, Carly felt as if she were talking to a space creature. Chris could understand clients being angry if their system didn’t work properly, or was unfairly priced, or their lessons were not thorough and complete—but hurt feelings? A ridiculous waste of energy, in her opinion.
From then on, she was on time and kept her opinions to herself. She was careful to go over the material as many times as necessary. Her presentations had always been clear and straightforward, and this continued to be true. Nevertheless she carried with her an unspoken attitude of impatience that was often picked up by a client. Carly began trying to cover for this by taking the follow-up lessons herself, turning on her warmest charm to keep the situation in hand. Obviously, this could not go on indefinitely, since she had her own tasks to take care of. One day, Chris came into the office and found Carly in tears. She was totally taken aback. When she realized that Carly was exhausted from trying to keep everyone happy, including Chris herself, she realized how unfair the situation was. She would probably never have much insight as to why the clients got so upset with her, but she could recognize that it was a fact that was affecting her friend very seriously.
After several long discussions, Carly suggested a new strategy that might be a better fit for her friend’s abilities. Chris would create a series of “learner” CDs, one for every software program that they used. These would show the screens and menus graphically and would give the learner repeatable exercises for every software function. They agreed that they would hire students at their old technical college to meet with clients and work with them using the CDs. This would require a new CD every time they incorporated a new piece of software, and revisions every time the software was upgraded, but Chris was all for it. She could do it on her own time schedule, and—happy days—no more working with clients, except when there was a software bug to cope with. Even then, she could mostly do that on her own.
It proved to be a good solution, and in the long run it produced a new saleable product in the learner CDs. Both women were happy and relieved. Chris was grateful that her friend was willing to work with her as she was, and not demand some total change of character. Carly, of course, was delighted to have the problem solved without having it destroy the partnership. Both of them learned a lot about how very differently they saw the world, and Chris’s trust in Carly turned out to be helpful in other, unexpected ways. She developed a serious relationship a few years later that went through some very stormy times, mostly because she seemed to trample hopelessly at times on her boyfriend’s most tender feelings, without seeming to understand how this was happening. Frequently, she relied on Carly to translate for her. Over time, she did seem to gain some insights into her own behavior, and eventually married the young man, with Carly as her maid of honor.
Christina could have benefited greatly from parents who recognized her “blind spot” early on and worked with her to develop more sensitivity to others and a better understanding of differences in human feeling. No doubt that would have helped her in early friendships and in the serious male/female relationship she developed later. On the other hand, this really would not have equipped her to be a happy software tutor. She would still have been bored, restless, and misplaced in that position. The plan that she and Carly came up with was quite appropriate for the person she was. This makes the very good point that one of the benefits of self-knowledge is a better ability to structure your life to fit the person you are. She was fortunate to have a friend who understood her better than she understood herself.
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