This week Melissa is working with clients in New York during the day and sleeping at my apartment in Swarthmore. I wait for her to return each night at 9pm like I am like the cranky wife frustrated by her spouse’s long commute. My kids wait to light Chanukah candles with her like they are the cranky four-year-olds frustrated by the long wait for gifts.

And my older son says, “If you bought me socks for Chanukah then can I have them now? Because all mine are dirty.”

1. Give gifts that affirm what the recipient is doing is ok.

Melissa gets home. With gifts. And we light candles immediately. Most people scold me that my kids don’t like to read. Melissa doesn’t care: She bought both the boys books with no words.

She is particularly good at buying my older son gifts because they’re both INTJs. Tonight she gives him Crap Taxidermy. The botched procedures are disgusting. I am grossed out by the implications of torture. My son doesn’t care. He says, “This book really shows how difficult it is to stuff an animal.”

Melissa gives me a glycolic mask.

I put it on my face right away.

My older son says, “Why are you trying to be young?”

I talk without moving my lips so I don’t crack the mask: “Women who look younger make more money.”

He says, “That’s so great for women. You are really helping to break stereotypes.”

“If I weren’t trying to be younger you’d be starving.”

Melissa says to me, “Tell him he doesn’t need to care about breaking stereotypes. He should just leverage them.”

I say, “Believe me, he doesn’t need to be told more things to not care about.”

2. Know when to shut up.

Melissa curls up on the sofa just like she used to curl up when she lived with me on the farm. I curl up next to her and we click click on our phones while we talk.

I love her silk pajamas. They are a striking step up from the pink velour sweatsuit she wore 100 days in a row on the farm.

I ask her about her boyfriend (fascinatingly well-adjusted). About her plants (none dead in Q4). About her New York client (I tell her that they should be using Trafficbot).

Melissa specializes in recruiting for hipster startups so she is always reading news about hipster startups. She tells me about one she read about that focuses on making fatherhood cool.

I say, “Where is the startup that makes being a mom cool? When will that happen?”

“Pinterest.”

“Is that a joke?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care about feminism.”

Feminism?!? I don’t think equating motherhood and consumerism is about feminism, but Melissa doesn’t even care enough about feminism to know what qualifies as feminism. So I have to move on.

3. Assuage a person’s deepest fear.

I am sitting close enough to Melissa that we can see each others’ screens when we get bored of our own; we are cozy and productive which is I think all I want in life.

One emailer asks me how to motivate each personality type. I tell her to take the Personality Type Master Class but then I see she said she loved it. So I have to write a real answer.

Her question turns out to be a hard one because motivating could be managing or incentivizing or something else.

I define motivating someone as making them feel good, and then the list also applies to a future post I might write about how to win over a date. My productivity level just doubled. I type:

INFJ – praise their rational approach
ENTP– praise their amazing productivity
INTP – predict their intellectual impact
ENFJ – tell them they’re smart
ENFP – predict their humanitarian impact
INFP – praise their logical thinking

I tell Melissa about my game. I tell her, “I need you to do the Ss.”

“What?” she says. “Why? You’re the one who loves Ss.”

“Well, do them with me.”

ISFJ – thank them for their insight
ISTJ – thank them for being flexible
ESTJ – fawn over their vision
ISTP – thank them for being fair
ISFP – thank them for their loyalty
ESFP – ask them for their opinion
ESFJ – let them lead by example
ESTP – praise their decision making

4. Teach them something about themselves. 

Its fun until we get to our own types. For my type, ENTJ, I suggest: tell them they’re inspirational.

Melissa says, “You already know you’re inspirational.”

“But INTJs always say ENTJs are full of shit.”

“We don’t care. But whatever. You want to be admired for winning.”

“Oh. You’re right.That’s so exciting. Winning is so exciting. Wait, what am I winning at?”

“Whatever. Just write it down.”

ENTJ – tell them they’re winning

Then we get to INTJ. Melissa’s type.

I say INTJs want to hear their ideas are good.

Melissa says, “We know we don’t have ideas. And we don’t care.”

I look at the list for a pattern to see what fits for INTJ.

I say, “Look, everything on this list is not nice. We zeroed in on the thing that each person deludes themselves about and we recommend motivating that person by catering to their delusions.”

“Who cares? As long as it’s accurate.”

“Ok, so how can I motivate you?”

“Thank me for caring.”

66 replies
  1. Erin
    Erin says:

    Suggestion: INFPs: assure us that we are unique and you understand our uniqueness and that nobody could replace how special we are. That’s what INFPs crave. We don’t give a shit about logic. Logic is just a tool we use so TJs will take us seriously. When we talk to ISFPs we never use logic.

    BTW: this post will win Bc each personality type will do what I just did and help you make your list better. Which is great management of your favorite resource, Penelope: the people who care about you.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is really helpful, Erin. Thanks. And I love the idea of each type making their part of the list better. I hope that happens here in the comments….

      Penelope

      • Ann
        Ann says:

        I’m INFP. I would love people to say to me, ‘I’m having a problem in life. What should I do?’ Solving ‘life problems’ fills me with glee and I like to be praised for my helpfulness and wisdom.

        • Lish
          Lish says:

          As an INFP, that would make me happier than being told I’m unique. What I most want to know is that I’m making a difference for people and what I most want to be praised for is how tuned in to other people I am.

    • Lena
      Lena says:

      Melissa’s response was merely sarcasm, correct? INTJs do care, but we certainly don’t want to be thanked for it. That would strike the ‘sentimentality’ nerve and repulse us. We make other people’s ideas work better (or work at all) so acknowleding the effectiveness would be the thing to do. Never mind the whole ‘thanking’ thing even. Just demonstrating brief awareness of the fact is fine.

    • Nur
      Nur says:

      Why logical? Logical is boring.
      I had the same reaction as Erin.
      But sometimes I have this feeling that Penelope is a secret INFP at heart and that she is always right and it’s just me being wrong again.
      I am used to being the craziest in the room and I learned to shut up because my answer is never the one that everyone expects or is thinking at the same time.
      So whenever someone asks me: do you understand? I just smile.

      • Anna
        Anna says:

        INTP here… logic, boring?! :) is what I thought when I read that. Logic is so interesting! But, as noted, I’m an INTP, so of course I’m enamored with logic.

      • Anna
        Anna says:

        The second half of the comment, though, is also how it is for me. Exactly. Only commenting because this is one of the key features of life for me. I’m always thinking something weird and everyone else in the room, especially if they are extroverts with sensing or maybe particularly those with Te, are all thinking the same thing as each other. Also, I have a deficit of common sense on somewhat of a serious level. Abstract math, yes. Common sense, no.

  2. Imogen
    Imogen says:

    INFJ here: for motivation, I’d prefer to be thanked for my insight, rather than my rational approach. As F’s, I find that a lot of our contributions come from a place of compassion, empathetic intuition and foresight rather than pure logic. For instance, “Dear Head of Department, if you action X, your team will probably react by doing Z, not Y as you think they will – because most people aren’t logical.”)

    We’re the ones who have great insight because we can read the logical and the illogical people equally well.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      I’m an INFJ, & I agree with Imogen on this. I like being considered rational, but on the whole, I’m like Erin: I think logic is overrated. And I would *love* to be told I’m insightful.

      • Lauren INFJ Bishop
        Lauren INFJ Bishop says:

        100% agree. I might act like I value a rational approach, but I honestly couldn’t care less about rationalism or logic. I prefer an intuitive approach, and would rather be valued for that because one of the most rewarding experiences is when someone really understands who I am at my core.

        I’m wondering if you see INFJs as valuing a rational approach because we pick up on the values of others and bring that to our interactions with them. We are like chameleons…

        • Sherri
          Sherri says:

          Another INFJ here, agreeing with the previous 3. Insight is much more of a compliment. While I’m quite capable of being rational, it’s often a compromise, and/or a decision to be rational based on my insight.

          • Tina
            Tina says:

            The rational compliment for in INFJ is stupid. The only point of being rational or logical for an INFJ is to win over Ts.

        • May
          May says:

          I am pretty sure Penelope is complementing/reassuring all the types towards what she herself finds useful about them when they are “at their best”. Call it author bias or motivator bias. haha

          Maybe she doesn’t care about your magical insights if they don’t make sense to her. Therefore she will praise you guys for being rational instead of “intuitive” in order to guide you into explaining your garbage to her.

          Same about Wendy’s comment when it comes to “working hard”. I dont’ think Penelope is too worried about whetehr INFJ works hard or not, because if they work, they do work hard. She more care if they make any sense when they do decide to “not work hard”.

          Penelope also wants INTJ to have good ideas even when we know they aren’t great/original/visionary most of the time or we don’t care. lol I’m sure Penelope also wants INTJ to care about what she thinks more or at least “show they care” as lipservice when INTJ are more often just stoic jerks. But that is how the “motivation” thing works. You praise and massage people towards the thing you want them to be doing, otherwise they will continue doing the thing you don’t want them to.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          I might be wrong about this one. However I hear a lot of INFJs saying they are frustrated that NTs don’t respect them at work. And while INFJs say they don’t reapect people who are purely logical INFJs do seem to want the respect of people who have power and influence, and those are usually NTs. So INFJs end up spending a lot of energy at work trying to appear rational.

          Am I misguided here?

          Penelope

          • INTJ who works for INFJ
            INTJ who works for INFJ says:

            No you are spot on! Please INFJs, answer penelope. My NT answer is: INFJs need reassurance, and they get frustrated because they don’t fulfill this need when working with NTs. NTs are a bunch of rude people! INFJs: first deliver results. That is something any NT respects. Then, give us feedback on our bad manners and how it hurts your productivity. Tell us all you need is a little reassurance. We’ll feel stupid for letting our rudeness hurt the company’s results!

          • INTJ who works for INFJ
            INTJ who works for INFJ says:

            Now I do regret not taking the INFJ course. I am in hell working for my dysfunctional INFJ boss. They do have this thing for NTs, instead of honoring their own needs and gifts. Do I have to worry about my 6-year-old INFJ daughter? She is so lovely now, what does she need to be confident in her own skin when she grows up?

          • California
            California says:

            If a person praised me for my rational approach (I am an INFJ), I would be considering whether or not I should be offended because that statement can give the impression that the person did not expect me to be rational.

          • Ellen
            Ellen says:

            Fellow INFJ here. Yeah, overly rational people irk me. But, I’ve learned how to adapt to people to make them like me by appearing very logical, even though inside it’s making my heart break. I’ve been told multiple times how logical I am to the point I probably look like an INTJ to some others. INFJs most want people to UNDERSTAND us. Or at least try. Or at least accept and appreciate our “weirdness” (rarity) instead of shunning us and casting us aside as quiet little oddballs. And yeah, being told we’re insightful, perceptive, observant, etc. helps. Or that we’re like the shamans, healing and guiding everyone else forward. But I have to say that some NTs (INTJs especially) are my favorite people, because they (along with INFPs) at least kind of, sort of get us. And can talk to us on a somewhat similar plane. But no one will ever understand all of us in our complicated glory, including ourselves.

  3. Tracy M
    Tracy M says:

    He says, “That’s so great for women. You are really helping to break stereotypes.”

    I find that line so amusing. In my book Penelope you’ve broken loads of stereotypes, yet here’s your son giving you a hard time – it just makes me smile. Children are such karma.

  4. Jen Kelly
    Jen Kelly says:

    You said…”I say, “Look, everything on this list is not nice. We zeroed in on the thing that each person deludes themselves about and we recommend motivating that person by catering to their delusions.”

    I had to reread your post to see exactly what you were trying to say. I’m an ENTP, and I AM delusional about productivity, BUT I don’t want anyone to call me out on it or I become “raging bull” mad. It’s a case of recognizing and encouraging what you’d like to see.

    My husband came home the other night in a sour mood and stated that I must not do anything all day because the dishes still weren’t done. I came out of my skin. We didn’t talk for 3 days. That was the WORST thing he could have told me.

    I LOVE this post. The whole thing. Melissa. Your boys and their fascination with gross and no words. Your acceptance of it. And Melissa’s fine tuned arguement for getting the most out of your gender. And the deep look at the psychology behind fear and motivation. OMG! Thank you.

    • Lauren Teller
      Lauren Teller says:

      He judged you. We all hate that. That would make dump dishes into the trash, a quick but in the long run, painful retaliation in a long term relationship. But as a T, would you dump? I’m an F, I would dump few. If he really wanted to come home to a clean kitchen, he could praise you for other things you accomplished, then do the dishes as a silent gift to your marriage, because it is obvious how busy you have been. Next time, you might be motivated to do the dishes too..to get more praise. I love praise. Dishes means someone ate, which means shopping done, and who did all that shopping and preparation to create the dishes? Sometimes I dont talk to my husband, was 3 days a long time for you guys?

      • Jen
        Jen says:

        Eurgh I hate doing dishes. It’s the main thing me and my partner argue about. Him expecting me to do the dishes all the time as he’s the main breadwinner. It’s annoying AF. Any other chore I’m fine with, but I seriously hate washing up. But I cannot convince him to help me with it more, so might start hiding cutlery and plates as opposed to binning them.

        Thanks for the idea Lauren :)

          • Jen
            Jen says:

            Paper & Plastic >< Love it. I actually think I will implement that idea. We're not married we've only been together 2 and a bit years. He does talk a lot about getting married though, especially more recently these past few months. But my argument is I can't marry someone who is too lazy to help around the house. But being an ENTJ his argument is that he doesn't have time to do the cleaning, and feels it should be delegated which is why I'm currently doing it, as I'm not in full-time work. However, once I'm back in full-time work (hopefully next month) he wants to hire a cleaner. Needless to say, I think that is an unnecessary expense.

            Plus I think some ENTJs (no offence Penelope) use delegation as a cop out as they don't want to get their own hands dirty (Ref above)

    • Wendy
      Wendy says:

      I am incredibly impressed by your ability as a professed ENTP to hold such an epic grudge at someone that you don’t talk to them for 3 straight days. I’ve NEVER heard of an ENTP having that kind of…introverted-feeling-driven…anger attention span. LOL

      • Missy
        Missy says:

        Wendy, I’d have to agree.

        How about this: ENTP, thank them for their attention span. Holding a grudge that long requires focusing on feelings. Good grief. Last thing I want to do…I’d just tune out rather than get in a fight. LOL

        • Wendy
          Wendy says:

          I am so happy that my, uhhh, observation got me a really useful piece of advice! Thank you!

          The ENTP I want to marry says that when we’re hitched, he’ll hire someone to clean our house. We technically won’t need it, but he says it because he knows I suck at cleaning. It may be an unnecessary expense, but the fact that he, in his NT way, wants to make life easier for me (because lord knows HE doesn’t care if his house is a mess or not) feels like one of the ways he lets me know he loves me.

          Love is tricky. Not only do we have to try to express it in a way the other person will understand and appreciate, but we also have to be alert to the ways the other person is trying to show they love us. Because they may do so in ways that aren’t naturally obvious to us.

          And you’re right, an ENTP using their attention span on someone certainly feels like a gift, one they should get appreciation for when it happens. :)

          • Jen
            Jen says:

            Good point, I forgot about the 5 love languages. They play a huge role in our relationships, and how we feel most adored. He feels love most/ appreciates mostly ‘Acts of Service’ eg doing chores, or running errands on his behalf etc.

            I’m more independent so acts of service mean nothing to me, I prefer quality time, and words of affirmation.

      • Lena
        Lena says:

        Yes, I agree…sounds more like an ENFP than an ENTP. ENFPs hate doing mundane tasks. Once at the beginning of a relationship I said I had a thing about toilets and said I never wanted to touch them. So he always did that one thing. I wonder what he would have said if I said I was ‘delegating’ it to him.

  5. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    I love this list because it doesn’t just make people feel good, it massages the areas they need to work on to make not only their own lives better but will help them make the lives of everyone around them better.

    Or, as you put it (I like your way better), it massages their delusions. Which will then push them to bring those delusions closer to reality.

    • Wendy
      Wendy says:

      Oh, and for improving the INFJ part of the list: Thank them when they’ve worked hard on something. Because we usually don’t, and when we do, we think it’s like, A BIG DEAL or whatever.

  6. harris497
    harris497 says:

    Penny,
    You forgot the biggest thing. Listen to them. Everyone that I know wants to be heard, and they love people who truly listen to them – non-judgmentally.
    My2centsworth

  7. Clara
    Clara says:

    ISTP here — thanking me for being fair sounds boring! (ISTPs are always on top of fairness.) Maybe playing to my weaknesses, like complimenting me on being considerate of someone’s feelings :). Or how well I handled my latest last-minute problem-solving challenge.

  8. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Melissa is caring enough to take some really great photos for your blog. I love this photo. A nice casual shot. It’s warm and yet also colorful. Everyone has their own menorah. Happy Hanukkah to you, Melissa, and your sons.

  9. melanie
    melanie says:

    That was my question! Thanks for answering…and you’re welcome for the blog inspiration! ENTP here – I’m not sure if I delude myself about being productive, but I do have “imposter syndrome” for being one of those people that SEEMS like I am super productive and “doing it all,” but really, I often feel lazy and like I haven’t accomplished enough. So if that qualifies for why you chose what you did for ENTPs, then you hit the nail on the head.

    The reason I asked, though, is to try to figure out how to motivate a team of people I manage – and I know, I’m not naturally a very good manager, but I’m trying…and I think that for now, they at least appreciate the effort, even if I am a pain in the ass sometimes.

  10. Elle
    Elle says:

    Every time I read one of your posts about Melissa, I feel like you and Melissa should get married. I think you’re perfect for each other.

  11. May
    May says:

    Oh yeah, btw, here’s what I think is motivating for me/INTJ:

    “INTJ, you’re so helpful. I learned a lot and will make use of this in the future so I won’t bother you about it again. Sorry and thank you!”

    Thank INTJ, say you became more competent because of them, then apologize for wasting their time and say you will try to avoid doing so in the future. This mix of praise and humility opens up INTJ heart to help again in future should you screw up. lol

    And I know no one really wants to praise people for the exact way the person wants be praised because that’s often the same area each type may be an asshole, so you end up praising them in some adjacent way they hopefully makes them better people instead of indulging in their jerk behaviors, but welp!

    • Mariana
      Mariana says:

      May, are you sure you are an INTJ? It seems you know what an INTJ is, but you don’t write like one. Your sentences are too lengthy.
      Please everyone, don’t praise any INTJ for caring, Melissa is just joking, if you tell us that we’ll think you are trying to manipulate us, because of course you are.

      • May
        May says:

        I ym aspergerss and i love making typos so my communication will alsways be a little bit”off” compared to some intj, but rest assures i have function stack researched this thing and i only have a 10% chance of being something else haha!

        i think i am actually warmer or quirky-cuter than stereotypical intj because of it. Kinda broken executive function makes you cope in weird ways! (I think also majorly focusing on psychology/occupational therapy for schooling gives me a bit of a wordy therapist touch).

        plus penelope said i was intj so i’m sticking to it as my proud badge of honor.

        and yeah my responses will vary from well-made with punctuaction when trying to explain something to spiraling into inreewdemably unrealdsble when gwetting more irrevenerent. :D

  12. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Do you ever worry your INTJ will grow up & go work (or start) some hipster start-up and just be another white privileged male who leverages stereotypes & doesn’t care about feminism?

  13. tak
    tak says:

    As an ESFJ working as a principal investigator at a research institution (a rainmaker in other words) I really wanted to be appreciated for my hard work. But since everyone else at my level was an NT, they thought that was nothing out of the ordinary. I worked against type for 30 years and retired to be an ESFJ grandmother and church lady. Happy life.

  14. Satya
    Satya says:

    Hi, it’s your long lost ISTJ. What I most crave is someone noticing my effort or how hard I’m trying, rather than my flexibility. I love this list and wish I could curl up on your sofa with you and Melissa in PJs with my phone too.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Satya, it’s such an interesting distinction you make here. Because really everyone wants to be noticed for the effort they are making. It’s just that we really only notice the effort people make in regard to something we care about. So, for example, what an ISTJ would DECIDE to make an effort about is not necessarily something an ENFP would NOTICE because they see such different things. An then if someone says, “Please notice how hard I’m trying for X” the person might respond “But I don’t even want X.” So I am realizing that a lot of the items on the list are what Melissa and I would want from a certain type… as I write this I feel like this comment is the embodiment of an Escher puzzle….

      Penelope

  15. Adrianne
    Adrianne says:

    You know…I actually like when someone notices I care – because caring can take a lot of effort. So, I completely see where Melissa is coming from.

    I also like when somebody listens to my ideas…but not so much if they agree, but they have to at least actually be listening.

    Being cozy and productive is something I like, too.

  16. Anna
    Anna says:

    Something motivating to me is when someone makes it clear that they are not going to muddy the air with interpersonal drama baggage, and especially not put interpersonal expectations on me, and even more especially, not require personal interaction that is feeling-based rather than thinking-based. The thing that makes me feel like I’m going to die is to judge me based on something related to their feelings or to judge because of my lack of feelings about something. I’m just not that kind of person. I like things to be happy, impersonal, information-based, airy, and peaceful so that I can concentrate and get lost in concepts and my work without being afraid anyone is upset.

  17. Ambra
    Ambra says:

    My first comment (I think) in the 5 years or so I have been following you. Just cracking up. about this last bit which is funny for its own accuracy

    I say, “Look, everything on this list is not nice. We zeroed in on the thing that each person deludes themselves about and we recommend motivating that person by catering to their delusions.”

    “Who cares? As long as it’s accurate.”

    “Ok, so how can I motivate you?”

    “Thank me for caring.”

    I feel like if Melissa and you had a baby, it would be me. Impossible to know LOL. Glad you’re here and grateful you show up the way you do. You set a great bar for those of us gone through periods of great vulnerability.

  18. Marie-Eve
    Marie-Eve says:

    Love how your play with the types and it’s such a useful skill to have, thanks for your work.

    I’m ISFP, homeschooling mom of 4 and have a biz teaching being a mom is cool, and you’ll win me over if you say that « what I do matters ». Because I don’t feel ISFP skills are valued in our society.

  19. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    You’re the ultimate feminist. You homeschooled two boys well. Worked. And use men. You should run for office!

  20. ranu
    ranu says:

    Enjoyed reading the article above , really explains everything in detail,the article is very interesting and effective.
    Thank you and good luck for the upcoming articles

  21. Information Hub
    Information Hub says:

    someone makes it clear that they are not going to muddy the air with interpersonal drama baggage, and especially not put interpersonal expectations on me, and even more especially, not require personal interaction that is feeling-based rather than thinking-based. The thing that makes me feel like I’m going to die is to judge me based on something related to their feelings or to judge because of my lack of feelings about something.it’s such an interesting distinction you make here. Because really everyone wants to be noticed for the effort they are making. It’s just that we really only notice the effort people make in regard to something we care about. So, for example, what an ISTJ would DECIDE to make an effort about is not necessarily something

  22. Latest Tech News
    Latest Tech News says:

    I think I am actually warmer or quirky-cuter than stereotypical intj because of it. The kinda broken executive function makes you cope in weird ways! (I think also majorly focusing on psychology/occupational therapy for schooling gives me a bit of a wordy therapist touch).

    plus Penelope said I was into so I’m sticking to it as my proud badge of honor.
    Thanks For Such Great Article :)
    Keep Updating

  23. Latest Tech News 2018
    Latest Tech News 2018 says:

    I Just love this list because it doesn’t just make people feel good, it massages the areas they need to work on to make not only their own lives better but will help them make the lives of everyone around them better.Or, as you put it (I like your way better), it massages their delusions. Which will then push them to bring those delusions closer to reality?

  24. Latest Tech News 2018
    Latest Tech News 2018 says:

    I think in the 5 years or so I have been following you. Just cracking up. about this last bit which is funny for its own accuracy I say, “Look, everything on this list is not nice. We zeroed in on the thing that each person deludes themselves about and we recommend motivating that person by catering to their delusions.”

  25. inthetrunk
    inthetrunk says:

    Most people are fascinated by the Briggs-Myers aspect of this post, but I love the gift giving thoughts…reinforce people on who they are, accept them as they are. Great post, Penelope.

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