traits but not pigeonholes

“Now is this something that we should be heedful of? Of course. It’s important that we know this. Is that all we are? Are we just a bunch of traits? No, we’re not. Remember, you’re like some other people and like no other person. How about that idiosyncratic you? As Elizabeth or as George, you may share your extroversion or your neuroticism. But are there some distinctively Elizabethan features of your behaviour, or Georgian of yours, that make us understand you better than just a bunch of traits? That make us love you? Not just because you’re a certain type of person.”

“I’m uncomfortable putting people in pigeonholes. I don’t even think pigeons belong in pigeonholes. So what is it that makes us different? It’s the doings that we have in our life — the personal projects… Don’t ask people what type you are; ask them, “What are your core projects in your life?” And we enact those free traits.”

*

“I’m an introvert, but I have a core project, which is to profess. I’m a professor. And I adore my students, and I adore my field. And I can’t wait to tell them about what’s new, what’s exciting, what I can’t wait to tell them about. And so I act in an extroverted way, because at eight in the morning, the students need a little bit of humour, a little bit of engagement to keep them going in arduous days of study.”

“But we need to be very careful when we act protractedly out of character. Sometimes we may find that we don’t take care of ourselves.I find, for example, after a period of pseudo-extroverted behaviour, I need to repair somewhere on my own. As Susan Cain said in her “Quiet” book, in a chapter that featured the strange Canadian professor who was teaching at the time at Harvard, I sometimes go to the men’s room to escape the slings and arrows of outrageous extroverts.”

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