Photo by Ilyass SEDDOUG / Unsplash

Think before you speak!

Business Apr 30, 2023

This is a well-known principle that we teach very young children. I have always resisted this rule, as my parents and others who have experienced me growing up can confirm. Descriptions of young Nikolas often include words like "challenging", "exhausting", and "annoying".

Today I often receive positive feedback for my proactivity, daring attitude, and having and communicating my opinion. Strangely these are similar traits that made me a difficult child to handle. How can this be?

I researched personality types a few years ago to understand myself and others better. People often told me that I was different, some meaning it positively, while others spoke and acted more hostile. Teenage Nikolas had problems connecting with others, especially people his age, and as a young adult, he finally found some answers.

One popular model for personality types is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The model defines four dimensions with two opposite extremes. A standardized test determines to which side of these dimensions you are leaning. These four aggregated traits will put you into one of 16 categories (2^4 for the nerds). As a single character labels each trait, the four concatenated characters label your personality type.

Here are the four dimensions with their respective opposite traits:

Extroverts ↔ Introverts
Sensors ↔ iNtuitive
Thinkers ↔ Feelers
Judgers ↔ Perceivers

My personality type is ENFJ, meaning I am an extrovert, intuitive, feeler, and judger.

A common trait among ENFJs is that they rely heavily on feedback from others in their cognitive processes. They often bounce raw thoughts and ideas with others and refine them further based on their initial reactions.

This description came very close to what I was doing throughout my life, and I was quite surprised that others would do this differently. Quite literally: Other people think more before they speak, while my natural tendency is to do the opposite.

Learning this has helped me understand why others perceived me as annoying, even though I never felt I was doing anything wrong. We just thought differently, which was mindblowing to me.

As children usually lack experience and understanding, I did not produce and bounce so many genius ideas. Now as an adult, the average quality of my ideas has improved, resulting in more positive feedback.

Learning more about my cognition and how it can differ from others has helped me grow. Instead of blocking my instincts trying to make other people happy, I embraced how my brain is wired while being more aware of the side effects.

This includes giving others enough room to shine and explaining my intentions when I sense that others are annoyed by my behavior. I found it especially helpful to openly admit when one of my ideas is flawed, no matter the audience. This encourages others to share imperfect thoughts and ideas themselves. Usually, no matter the quality of an idea, I can easily spark a conversation or re-ignite a discussion. In a professional environment, this is usually better than a room full of awkward silence.

I believe that my way of thinking is my superpower that, when combined with the unique superpowers of others, can achieve outstanding results. We are all different far beyond the 16 personality types described by the MBTI, and we should remember this when raising future generations. Forcing the wrong social norms onto children cripples their self-esteem and blocks them from unleashing their full potential.

I am very grateful to my family and others who encouraged me to stay the same even though I was super annoying as a child.

What do you think about this? As you know now, I heavily rely on your feedback 😉


Nikolas Knickrehm

I am an IT consultant specializing in product management. My strong technical background allows me to drive innovation, balancing the needs of customers and the business with technical feasibility.