“Thankfully, my mind will forever contain many more words than my mouth ever will.”

The source for this wonderful bit of KJRSpeak is my friend and colleague, Drenda Maahs.

I’ve never had much use for Myers-Briggs, or, for that matter, any of its competitors in the fit-all-seven-billion-plus-human-beings-into-just-a-few-categories industry. Among my concerns: I’ve never understood what makes one set of personality categories special.

Not to mention their marvelous utility for making excuses for yourself while helping you stereotype everyone else.

But if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. And so, I’m proudly announcing the Keep the Joint Running WPAM personality indicators (Ways People Annoy Me). Here’s the framework:


Personality dimension Response type #1 Response type #2
Patience (N)one

Archetypical response: “Don’t waste my time with two-syllable words. Or subordinate clauses.”


Archetypical response: “Whenever you’re ready. In the meantime I’ll just enjoy the scenery.”

Communication (T)alker

Archetypical response: “What do you think oh, wait, I forgot, I have more personal brilliance to share with you first.”


Archetypical response: “Tell me more, because if you don’t I’ll have to come up with something to fill the silence.”

Confidence (A)rrogant

Archetypical response: “I’ve never been wrong. I know because nobody has ever proved to me that I was wrong.”


Archetypical response: “This idea is probably worthless, because so am I.”

Integrity (S)cout

Archetypical response: “I adhere to my principles, even if the result is that the world will end.”


Archetypical response: “I always do the right thing … defined as ‘what’s best for me.'”


The WPAM personality indicators are far more useful than Myers-Briggs. All Myers-Briggs can do for you is to help you understand how different people reach an understanding about the world. That’s nice … it might even help you communicate with them more effectively.

But compared to what WPAM can do for you, namely, brace yourself for the next encounter so you can successfully hide your irritation, the value of being able to communicate better pales in comparison.

Over the years I’ve probably been too hard on the poor folks who live in Myers-Briggs-land. If everyone would limit their use of it to what it actually means … how different types of person start their process of understanding something, then it would be pretty useful.

After all, if you know your colleague George tends to build up an understanding of a forest by starting with each individual leaf, gradually assembling them into trees, and then assembling the trees into an ecosystem, you’ll know something about how you should go about explaining the role squirrels play to him.

That’s compared to your other colleague, Julie, who starts her understanding with a vague sense of “a bunch of tall green things,” gradually drilling down into the details.

The key to this is the word start. When you need to understand something you have to start somewhere, and no single starting point is superior to any other.

That’s as contrasted with where you finish. Because some forms of understanding clearly are superior to others. For example, imagine what you need to understand is how to design the footings for a bridge.

One form of understanding is based on estimates of how many vehicles it can hold, their average weight, the weight of the bridge itself, the compressive strength of different forms of concrete, and careful calculations. Another is based on the design engineer staring at drawings of the bridge and letting his eyes unfocus as he absorbs the bridge gestalt. A picture of the footings pops into his head. Voila! He “knows” how many footings the bridge will need and how big each of them should be. Time to organize the work crews, order the concrete, and have a beer.

I’d say one form of understanding is clearly superior to the other.

Think it’s a rigged example — that a different example, rooted, perhaps, in aesthetics, might argue for a different approach to understanding? Okay, it’s time to redesign the home page and templates for your company’s ecommerce site.

One designer, equipped with a list of ecommerce home-page and template design rules, applies them to develop a text-book perfect look and feel. Another, more of an artist, waits for inspiration to strike, then comes up with a thing o’ beauty.

Which is better?

Answer: The one that generates more orders. A/B/C test them (“C” being the current design) with your company’s web merchandising system.

You can start your path to enlightenment whichever way is most comfortable for you. You’d better finish it with the best evidence and logic you can muster, though.

Because if you don’t, you don’t actually understand anything at all.

Now, if you’re like most people that won’t stop you from having strong opinions.

But it will make you an NTAP.