I Don’t Recall Agreeing To Pay For Curbside Painting!

Money 3 Comments

Yesterday, as I was taking garbage out to the curb, a young man passed a flyer to me. The flyer announced that the house numbers on the curb were to be repainted and residents were being asked to contribute money towards that goal. The flyer had wording that falsely implied the following:

  • With an official sounding headline “Advisory Notice To All Residents” and references to “911” and “postal-mail”, the flyer suggests a relationship with the city government; perhaps they are hired by the city. This is false; I doubt they are a real company (there was no telephone or website listed on the flyer) and definitely, the city did not hire them. The real story is that several years ago, the city did hire a company to repaint certain neighborhoods. After that, the city never repeated that initiative again.
  • The flyer asks for a contribution of $15 or “what is most comfortable for your budget”, implying that the city is asking for help to fund this initiative (if you believe they are affiliated with the city). This is false; you can bet that any money will go to their pockets, not the city’s.
  • If you do not wish to have your house number repainted on the curb, you must tape the flyer to the curb. Otherwise, they assume that you have agreed to the repainting. Of course, they don’t state on what day they would paint so there’s no guarantee that the flyer will still be there when they come.

At first, I was very annoyed. I didn’t want to pay to have my house number repainted on the curb. Now, I had to go get some sturdy tape so I can tape that darn flyer to the curb. Then I thought, these guys are marketing geniuses! They took the opt-out marketing idea from the Internet and added a bit of local patriotism (donate to help the city) to make a lot of money. For about 50 cents worth of spray paint (and an initial investment in number stencils), they could potentially get $15 back. Even if they just got a dollar, they would still be profitable! Most likely, they will get between 5 and 15 dollars from each house.

For those who don’t know about opt-out, it was a strategy initially used on the Internet by companies to quickly create email lists of customers. The trick is to assume that any time a customer provides an email address, the customer has agreed to receive emails from the company; for example, when you purchase an item and provide your email address for order/shipping updates. In order to not receive emails, the customer would have to explicitly opt-out of the mailings. Of course, most customers considered these company advertising emails to be spam.

Soon after, many web order forms (purchasing forms, download forms, information request forms, etc.) started to display checkboxes already pre-checked to subscribe the customer to the company mailist and even worse, to subscribe the customer to paid services. The latter is especially heinous because I have fallen victim to it several times. Years ago, after I had signed up for a 3-month special with Match.com and allowed it to lapse, I was surprised to see a charge on my credit card for another 3 months at full price. Evidently, Match.com opted me into an automatic re-subscription service (I do not recall seeing that checkbox on the signup form). Worst, Match.com refused to reverse the charges because I had “agreed” to the charge; I had not manually changed my account settings to disallow automatic re-subscription. A recent example is when I purchased a game from BigFishGames.com and found myself subscribed to their $6.99/month Game Club membership service; I quickly unsubscribed by calling their customer service number.

You will also see the opt-out strategy when installing software, especially free software. One of the many installation screens would have pre-checked boxes to install other software (such as browser toolbars, Google Earth, and Yahoo Messenger). This additional software will fill up your hard drive space (best case), slow down your computer with automatically-launched programs (worse case), and/or install viruses and spyware (worst case). Whenever I am diagnosing a computer because it was “too slow” or “acting weird”, my first action is to find and remove this unwanted software. I’ve seen browsers start with 5-6 toolbars, each with its own search input field. When asked about these toolbars, the user would invariably say, “I don’t know where they came from.”

Unsolicited company email is a nuisance and thankfully, there are mechanisms (“mark as spam” on Google or Yahoo Mail) that will eventually get that company email blacklisted. Extraneous software installations are the “payment” you make for free software; to avoid, just look carefully at every checkbox during installation. But companies that pull the opt-out paid service ploy are evil because they cost you your hard-earned money and time (which you spend trying to get out of the paid service). These companies get on my boycott list and they lose me, my family, and friends as customers.

My advice to companies is to not use opt-out because in the long run, they will lose their existing and new customers (once word gets around). However, the curbside painters are still geniuses because their use of the opt-out technique has very little downside. There is no need to retain customers as a repainting is not necessary again for years (though they imply that it is a yearly event) and there are many new neighborhoods filled with unsuspecting marks, I mean customers.

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Jungian Cognitive Functions: The Solution to Misleading MBTI Personality Codes

Personality 7 Comments

I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test years ago. It indicated that my personality type code was INTJ. I took the test again and got a different result, INTP. I read the portrait descriptions of both personality types (and other similar ones, ENTJ and ENTP). I was able to identify parts of myself in all four personality types, but none of them exactly fit me. Being human, it was very easy for me to read myself into each portrait, especially when they talked about the “positive” traits and behaviors. Frustrated, I decided that INTJ was good enough (I was a software engineer and that seemed to be the best match) and thought no more of it.

SpockAsciiArtFor several years, I thought I was an INTJ until I took a class about Tony Allessandra’s Personality Styles. At the end of the class, I was talking to the instructor and mentioned that I thought I was a Thinker. She replied that I was a Socializer (Feeling type). She said that she could easily tell from my face and body language what I was feeling. (I was always the joker in class.) That just blew me away; I thought I was a Thinker, but I’m actually a Feeler. With feedback from friends (very necessary to accurately determine your personality type), I finally identified myself as an INFP. Or at least, I’m more confident that I am an INFP than an INTJ; the portrait description for INFP seemed to match better.

I decided to revisit the MBTI and try to understand the theory so that I can understand myself better. Though I grew comfortable with what the MBTI type codes for N (Intuiting), S (Sensing), T (Thinking) and F (Feeling) meant, I could never quite “get” what I (Introverted), E (Extraverted), J (Judging), and P (Perceiving) meant. I always had vagueness in my understanding of what the meanings (in terms of behavior and traits) for these MBTI type codes were. There were certain parts of my personality which directly conflicted with some MBTI definitions for the type codes.

For example, I’m an INFP and I like to be on my own for periods of time, which explains why I am an “I” (Introvert). But sometimes, I want to be with people. When I’m out with my friends, I get energized from interacting with them. In fact, if you ask my friends, they will tell you that I’m an “E” (Extrovert) and the life of the party. Likewise, even though I’m a “P” (Perceiver) and like to have many open options, when I take on a task at home or work, I concentrate all my energy on completing the task, which is a very “J” (Judging) behavior. And, while I’m an emotional “F” (Feeling) at home, I am a coldly logical “T” (Thinking) at work. It seemed that I had a split personality.

Recently, I saw some videos about Carl Jung’s cognitive functions (thanks DaveSuperPowers!), which MBTI is based upon. When researching MBTI, I had seen mentions of the cognitive functions but had never explored them. Once I started looking into Carl Jung’s psychological types theory, I knew that I had to learn it. I could see that it was much more subtle than MBTI and suggested answers to the questions I had about my split personality.

The MBTI attempted to simplify Carl Jung’s psychological types theory. So there is a lot of overlap between the cognitive functions and MBTI in terms of definitions and type codes (which relate to function types N, S, T, J and each function’s I/E orientation). Unfortunately, the MBTI simplification only captured a part of Carl Jung’s theory and introduced standalone personality type codes I/E and J/P which can be misleading. I realized a deeper understanding of personality types can only be achieved by studying Carl Jung’s cognitive functions.

The Jungian cognitive functions consist of the N/S and T/F dichotomous (divided into two parts) functions, their strength of expression, and their I/E orientations (aka attitudes). N (Intuiting) and S (Sensing) are perceiving functions, used to collect data. T (Thinking) and F (Feeling) are judging functions, used to organize data and make decisions. The perceiving functions and judging functions are in dynamic balance, caused by different strengths of expression (Dominant, Auxiliary, Tertiary, and Inferior rankings) and orientation (Introverting or Extraverting) for each function. This dynamic balance provides a subtle, nuanced understanding of each personality type.

Note: While the Jungian cognitive functions N/S and T/F have direct matches with the MBTI type codes, there are no cognitive functions that match the J/P MBTI type codes. Similar, there are no cognitive functions that match the I/E MBTI type codes. In Carl Jung’s theory, the Introversion and Extraversion are orientation attributes applied to each cognitive function. The best correlation I can come up with is that the MBTI I/E and J/P type codes together can be used to determine the dominant and auxiliary functions (cognitive functions with the most powerful and second most powerful expressions in the personality) and their orientation.

To get a better understanding of the Jungian cognitive functions, let’s look at the four Jungian cognitive functions that match my INFP personality type:

My dominant (first) function is Introverted Feeling (Fi) meaning that my feelings are focused inward towards thoughts and ideas. I make decisions/judgments using an internal code of moral conduct, what feels right and avoids hurting others. Because I am focused inward, I am not emotionally expressive to people so they may think I’m reserved or a bit cold. A dominant Extroverted Feeling (Fe) type would be focused outward towards people and things, and would make decisions that preserve the social groups (family, community, etc) and cultural norms. A Fe type would be emotionally expressive, warm to people, and be more accepting of the general consensus. The above Fi and Fe types are descriptions of the extremes; we humans are on a gradient between the two and I am more towards the introverted feeling extreme.

My auxiliary (second) function is Extraverted Intuiting (Ne) meaning that my intuition is focused on getting subtle clues from my external world, with a focus on understanding people, patterns, relationships, and possibilities. An Introverted Intuiting (Ni) type would focus his intuition internally to build an abstract system of concepts and patterns. My Ne auxiliary function explains why when I’m with friends, I can be the life of the party; I’m expressing my auxiliary function more than my dominant. The Ne function helps me to get an idea of how people are feeling, and to match and improve their moods.

My tertiary (third) function is Introverted Sensing (Si) meaning that I perceive the present world in relation to my past experiences and reactions. I prefer to keep a concise internal view of the world and thus, I tend to be neat and a minimalist (I don’t care for owning things beyond the minimum). An Extraverted Sensing (Se) type would enjoy the physical world with all five senses. Se types love cool things and creature comforts. In extreme, a Se type could become a hoarder.

My inferior (fourth) function is Extraverted Thinking (Te) meaning that I prefer to think out loud. I can work on incomplete ideas by talking to someone (or by writing). An Introverted Thinking (Ti) type prefers to create an internal model where everything fits together perfectly. An extreme Ti type may ask you to pause talking while he internally processes an idea you have just introduced.

If you look carefully at the four cognitive functions, you can see that the fourth and third functions mirror the first and second functions, in that order. The mirror involves a switch to the other dichotomous function (N to S and T to F, and vice versa) and a change in orientation (introverted to extraverted, and vice versa) from first to fourth and second to third. In addition, the first and second functions must have opposite orientations (which results in the second and third, and the third and fourth, having opposite orientations). This is a useful shortcut because if you know a person’s dominant and auxiliary types and the orientation of either, the third and fourth functions (and all remaining orientations) can be determined using the constraints above.

Note: To map from MBTI personality type codes to Jungian cognitive functions, you can use the following rules: (a) the MBTI I/E indicates the orientation of the dominant cognitive function, (b) if MBTI “E” type, the J/P determines which is the dominant function, and (c) if MBTI “I” type, the J/P determines which is the auxiliary function. So for an ESTJ type, because it is an “E” type with “J”, the dominant function must be a judging function which is “T” and thus, the auxiliary is the remaining “S”. The resulting cognitive functions are Te, Si, Ne, Fi. And for an INFP type, because it is an “I” type with “P”, the auxiliary function must be a perceiving function which is “N” and thus, the dominant is the remaining “F”. So, the cognitive functions are Fi, Ne, Si, Te.

The inferior (fourth) function is special. Being the weakest, it is almost totally suppressed by the dominant. Most of the time, the dominant and auxiliary functions will be expressed (with the auxiliary playing a supporting role to the dominant), the tertiary function minimally expressed, and the inferior function barely expressed at all. Except, sometimes (usually under stress), the inferior becomes strong enough to suppressed the dominant function! When this happens, the mirror is flipped in that the inferior function becomes the dominant and the tertiary function becomes the auxiliary; the inferior and tertiary become expressed (with the tertiary playing a supporting role to the inferior) and the dominant and auxiliary almost totally suppressed. This is the sudden personality change! This explains why at work, my Extraverted Thinking (Te) function becomes dominant and I become an almost emotionless (suppressed Fi and Ne), talking egghead (expressed Te) who is a stickler for rules, processes, and details (expressed Si). I basically become the opposite of an INFP which is an ESTJ.

The order of the functions explained why I like to complete tasks as soon as I can. My dominant Fi is a judging function and creates the task by asking what should I do? Once I pick a task, my auxiliary Ne (with my tertiary Si), which is a perceiving function, explores options on how to best accomplish that task. My inferior function Te, which is a judging function, opposes the auxiliary Ne and tries to bring the task to closure/completion. Tasks are left incomplete if the Te is unable to bring the Ne to heel. Which is why when I start on a task, I try to complete it as fast as I can (without breaks), because the longer I let it go on, the more time is given to the Ne to become stronger than the Te.

According to the link above, the way an INFP approaches a task can be represented as a diamond with the dominant Fi at the top point, the auxiliary Ne representing the fat middle, and the inferior Te at the bottom point. In contrast, an INTJ’s approach would represent an hourglass with the dominant Ni at the top fat base (perceiving: what are all the possible things to do?), the auxiliary Te at the narrow middle (judging: pick something and do it), and the inferior Se at the bottom fat base (perceiving: Is the result good enough?). While the INFP may stop in the middle of a task without coming to completion, the INTJ may take forever to perfect the solution.

Besides MBTI, other researchers, like John Beebe and Linda Berens, have introduced four additional cognitive functions, called “shadow functions”, to Carl Jung’s original four cognitive functions. These shadow functions have the same order as the cognitive functions but with opposite orientations. For INFP (Fi, Ne, Si, Te), the shadow functions are Fe, Ni, Se, Ti (ENFJ). While the cognitive functions are expressed by preference, the shadow functions can become expressed when we are under stress. In some situations, we may purposefully try to express a shadow function and while doable, we will find that it is tiring (versus energizing when expressing a preferred cognitive function). This may explain why non-Fe and non-Ne types can get tired when dealing with people.

I feel that I am just digging at the first layer of Carl Jung’s psychological types theory. I expect to make more realizations, some of which might invalidate what I wrote above. So take everything with a large grain of salt.

Check out my followup post on this topic, MBTI: Not Misleading, Just Misunderstood.

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An Anger Antidote: Forgive Yourself

Self No Comments

Have you ever gotten angry, really angry at something that happened to you or something that you did? I have, and sometimes the anger is so strong that I could barely control myself. When I was young, I couldn’t even do that. I would shout, scream, kick objects, and even punch the walls with my bare fist. As I become more matured, I realized it was stupid of me to hurt myself or my surroundings over sometimes very trivial things. Nothing would have changed for the better. Thankfully this loss of control did not happen often.

Note: I focus on anger, but this post could be about any strong negative emotion about oneself or another, like shame or hate. And the method I use to handle anger works for those other emotions as well.

Anger is a strong emotion. It comes abruptly and overwhelmingly. And most of the time, unless reign in, it results in damage to oneself or others. Anger is not a “bad” emotion, it just “is”. How you react to anger determines whether you or others are hurt.

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Anger changes with your age. When young, my anger was directed outwards; I was angry at others. It was the fault of others, they caused it. Or it was the environment, misfortune, the fates conspiring against me. It was never my fault, never my responsibility. As I matured, the anger turned inward; I was angry at myself. It was my fault, I was responsible. I trusted others blindly, I didn’t plan for the unexpected, or I was too weak and powerless.

When I got tired of beating myself over and over, I learned to forgive myself. To accept that I was an imperfect human, that there was no blame, and that I can only strive to do better. That was the key to handling and dissipating the anger. If you can truly forgive yourself, you will realize that you have come to accept yourself. Acceptance without blame and forgiveness without anger are two parts of the whole. Eventually acceptance will lead you to find that you really like who you are. Once you can honestly forgive yourself, you will discover that you can accept and forgive others.

Many of you may respond that you have always been able to forgive others. In the past, I would have claimed that same. However, when I think back, I realize that it was more of a judgmental and patronizing forgiveness with repressed anger. You have done wrong, but I forgive you. Would you believe such a statement if you said it to yourself? Does it feel like true forgiveness, with acceptance, without blame, without repressed anger? After forgiving someone or yourself, do you feel the release of something heavy (experience a lightness of being) or do you harbor a bit of resentment (he got off easy)? The former is a sign of true forgiveness.

Growing up, I was taught to forgive others without being taught to forgive myself. Somehow, the adults assumed that I would figure out how to do the latter myself. Geez, leave it to the kid to figure out the more difficult part. By nature, we think the best of ourselves. It’s obvious that we are not to be blamed. It is hard to admit that we have wronged someone and to apologize, especially if we hate that person. We are especially hard on ourselves when we think we are perfect. It is not easy to forgive ourselves. But if we never learn to forgive ourselves, how can we forgive others?

With practice, I have learned to forgive myself quickly. Immediate forgiveness is required to avoid accumulating more emotional baggage. I still take responsibility, but don’t blame myself. I even forgive myself for getting angry or irritated at the actions of myself and others. When a car cuts me off on the freeway, I forgive myself for that quick flash of anger and the urge to retaliate. I forgive the action. Maybe the other person is in a hurry due to an emergency. Or maybe it’s just a not-paying-attention boneheaded move, which I am also guilty of doing in the past. If I can’t forgive the other person, how can I forgive myself for doing the same thing?

It turns out that forgiveness is the method for clearing out regrets, mental mass from the past. Regrets are past incidences where we have not forgiven ourselves or others. Most likely, we or someone had somehow violated our own internal code of conduct. These incidences are unresolved and still contain emotions such as repressed anger. They have the energy to return to haunt us continually, like heavy chains wrapped around our very being.

To clear that past junk, revisit the regrets and forgive yourself for the anger you feel. Forgive yourself for the past decisions which you believe are mistakes (decisions might only become “bad” in hindsight) and forgive the actions of others that may have hurt you. Accept and eliminate all blame. Finally, forgive yourself for having past regrets and for beating yourself over and over with those regrets through the years.

Forgiveness works for other emotions than anger. Supposed that my coworker, who is my good friend, is promoted to a level above me. It’s natural (at least for me) to feel a bit jealous and resentful. I try to quickly forgive myself for feeling jealous and resentful (without blame or shame), so that I can move on to be truly happy for my friend. Wouldn’t you want your friend to do the same when you are promoted?

We are emotional humans and thus, very imperfect and irrational. We have done and will do stupid things, sometimes immoral things, and we may intentionally or unintentionally hurt others. Forgive yourself, forgive others, accept, take responsibility, and promise to do better. That is the best that we can do.

Check out my continuing post on this topic, Acceptance: I Think And Feel, Therefore Nothing.

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