Full disclosure – I am proud to have a personality type among the Diplomats. Nobody has ever called me flighty, at least not to my face. But sometimes, when contrasting the depiction of Diplomats with depictions of other Roles, it can feel like my personality group is being called “less than solid” in subtle ways.
Consider: descriptions of Analysts often endow them with some form of the words “rational” or “strategic.” Sentinels are “practical,” “hardworking,” and “salt-of-the-earth” personality types. Explorers are “hands-on” and “resourceful” in their spontaneous way.
Then we have Diplomats: “idealistic” and sometimes “dreamers.”
See what I’m saying? Those Diplomat qualities aren’t necessarily bad qualities, and they offer something of value to the world. But “idealistic” and “dreamer” aren’t exactly nuts-and-bolts characteristics either, are they? Such descriptive words sound a little too abstract for everyday practicality.
Why Diplomats May Sometimes Be Misunderstood
Consider the two elements that define what it means to be a Diplomat: the Intuitive trait and the Feeling trait. First, let’s consider the Feeling trait. The Feeling trait doesn’t mean that those who possess it allow their emotions to drive them to the exclusion of rationality.
When Feeling personality types decide things, they are likely to apply a more emotional lens, rather than a logical one. This Feeling lens may not be about tears, laughter, or any other overt expression of emotion. It’s a thoughtful, humanitarian perspective. “Yes, it might be more efficient to close that department. But what about all the jobs and all the people who will lose them?”
People may sometimes dismiss anything even remotely associated with feelings because they tend to be transient: here today and gone tomorrow. According to Nicholas Sparks’s depiction in The Last Song, “Emotions come and go and can’t be controlled, so there’s no reason to worry about them.” They’re not seen as rock-solid or dependable. Feeling happy or hopeful in the morning doesn’t mean that a person will feel the same in the evening.
As a comparison, emotions may not seem as stable as the rationality of Analysts. Analyst personality types’ basis for decisions eventually comes back to 2 + 2 always adding up to 4, or they try to use some other undeniable principles as a foundation. They value measurable certainty. Diplomats aren’t necessarily devoid of such principles, but they aren’t as reliant on them, either.
Decisions made through the Feeling trait aren’t likely to be viscerally seen as substantial as decisions made with the rationality of the Thinking trait – at least on the surface. When making decisions, Analysts are more likely not only to have all relevant ducks in a row, but also to arrange them more permanently because of the natural consistency of rationality.
Feeling personality types may also form a neat row of ducks. However, if it’s based on their morality, the formation’s sustainability may depend on the source and foundation of the moral consideration. Does morality come from an instant reaction to a specific situation, or is it a long-held ethical standard that they can apply effectively to multiple situations? Is it a standard or a reaction?
Negative, unintended consequences are sometimes the result of deciding right and wrong too quickly. A more comprehensive overview is sometimes required. The instant ethics born of reaction can virtually melt if time reveals flaws in Diplomats’ reactionary thinking. Suddenly, there are ducks scattered everywhere. Emotions, feelings, and even morality can be subjective and, therefore, less stable. Such decisions never quite amount to the relative sureness of 2 + 2.
But what makes the four Diplomat types stand out as the most seemingly capricious when four other personality types among the Sentinels – Defenders (ISFJ) and Consuls (ESFJ) – and Explorers – Adventurers (ISFP) and Entertainers (ESFP) – also rely heavily on the Feeling trait? What makes the difference?
Enter the unique combination of Intuition and Feeling that only the Diplomats possess. Sentinel and Explorer Feeling personality types use the material to ground their decisions. Diplomats have their reliance on imagination. Sentinel and Explorer types work with more tangible things because of their Observant trait.
Our research suggests that Diplomats are less skeptical and more willing than other Roles to believe that which can’t be proven (the supernatural, etc.). They rank highest in magical thinking. Con artists may more easily dupe them because of their trust. Their imaginations offer them many more glimpses of potential positive outcomes or interesting ideas. Analysts also have the Intuitive trait and the imagination that goes with it. However, Analysts are likely to use their imaginations to manipulate accepted principles and strategies to increase effectiveness.
While it would be unfair and extreme to say that Diplomats are out of touch with hard reality, it’s fair to acknowledge that they have an extensive mental playground for their ample imaginations. Diplomat personalities can dabble in many alternatives when their Feeling trait takes over deciding what they do, think, believe, etc. And we’ve already established that the Feeling trait as a mechanism for decisions can seem a little flighty if not grounded by something more certain, physical, and practical.
There, in Diplomats’ imaginations, the Feeling trait can run free and play. Creativity, when paired with the concrete, can often produce something with a real-life application. Creativity paired with feelings and idealism may be imaginative, rousing, and even beautiful. But it isn’t always useful in some super-pragmatic sense. It may not put bread on the table. But that doesn’t mean that their concepts and creations are never practical. They often are. Many Diplomats inspire people, for example.
Why There Is Ground under Most Diplomats’ Feet
Isolated, the discussion above might paint Diplomat personalities as somewhat erratic or, at least, not very practical. But there is always danger in oversimplifying almost anything when studying humans. Despite the banner characteristics highlighted already, there are other qualities that help anchor Diplomats in life.
First, many of the things that lend themselves to the appearance of flightiness in Diplomats are also the same things that ground them. We mentioned that instant moral reactions are often unreliable and, therefore, inconsistent. But what if Diplomats transformed their feelings-based reactions into something more substantial over time?
Diplomats are more likely than other Roles to say they spend a lot of time thinking about their past actions and choices. They typically write in journals more. They profess a higher level of self-analysis and are less likely than others to say they ignore emotions they don’t understand. This all suggests that Diplomats are likely to respect their histories and may use introspection to establish meaning. Lessons learned often advance into the future as guiding principles. These may never quite have the consistency of a mathematical argument, but they foster some uniform behaviors.
Even though emotions can shift like the sands, one can also turn repeated emotional responses into a code to live by. For example, being deeply moved by seeing poverty again and again can create a willingness to donate or work more regularly to help. The new rule would be: contribute consistently and often.
When repeated compassionate impulses change from something that is spontaneously felt into a personal or shared code developed through thoughtful introspection, stability can take root. While such codes are likely embraced by all Diplomats, those with the Judging personality trait are more likely to identify with forming and adopting moral rules, because they value an organized existence more.
Already established moral codes that resonate with Diplomats’ own beliefs may also attract them. But whether their self-imposed rules are homespun or come to them ready-made, they provide a consistency that somewhat negates easy changeability or flightiness.
The second detractor from the idea of flighty Diplomats is the all-or-nothing cognitive distortion. This distortion highlights a tendency that most people experience in some form at various times in their lives. When experiencing this type of thinking, one considers a thing to be 100% one way or 100% the other. There is no middle ground in this binary style of thinking. There is no 99%; 99% might as well be 0%.
If a person applies all-or-nothing thinking to themselves, it’s likely to lead to overreactions, harsh self-judging, and difficulties like depression or anxiety. “I got a B instead of an A on that test. I’m totally hopeless!”
When all-or-nothing thinking is used to describe other people, it leads to a misunderstanding of someone’s true nature. People can easily fall into this distortion when describing people according to categories or, in our case, personality traits. (As someone who works in the field, I can attest to black-and-white thinking being a constant temptation to be resisted.) Our minds want to place items (or people) into neat categories for the sake of simplicity. But when describing personality traits, there is no simplicity, and a person is rarely 100% anything on our tests. And even the few who are will probably say they are more nuanced and intricate than any one description can fully contain.
All-or-nothing thinking might assume that if Diplomats are prone to believing in something questionable or unprovable, then they are prone to believing anything. But it’s possible to believe in ghosts and not believe in the latest nutritional-supplement fad – or even to believe in ghosts, but not Bigfoot. It’s also possible to decide matters through a humanitarian/Feeling lens and also subject decisions to the rigors of logic. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive. When we set up a rigid binary choice about anything to do with personality types and human behavior, we are doomed to miss the target of accuracy.
So, yes, Diplomats are flighty – if we see them as 100% pure Feeling trait. But there are very few of those, and they aren’t necessarily ungrounded because of where they fall on our scale. We all fall on a continuum between the different traits. Maybe a particular Diplomat tests as having 65% of the Feeling trait and 35% of the Thinking trait. This Diplomat’s preferred style of decision-making relies more on the Feeling trait, but it’s a mistake to count out the Thinking trait. It exists and influences how this Diplomat forms decisions, only to a lesser extent.
It’s all relative. Prioritizing compassion doesn’t mean that rationality isn’t in the picture at all. It just means that rationality is not in the picture alone, nor is it the main focal point.
Diplomats: Encouragers of the Heart
Last, let’s go back to the shorthand that is sometimes used to describe Diplomat personalities. Being “idealistic” and a “dreamer” is not necessarily a bad thing, no matter how abstract the concepts. One of the reported qualities of an admired leader is their ability to inspire or “encourage the heart,” and that usually takes a vision. Vision, used in this sense, is the appreciation for a potentially better way, and creating one often takes some dreaming.
Encouraging the hearts of others can be a very practical offering that leads to substantial results. Famous Diplomats include Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa – all inspirational people who could hardly be called flighty simply because of their connection to more Feeling-based ideas and their imaginations.
Diplomats, have you ever felt misunderstood or even dismissed because of your personality traits? How did you resolve the situation? Non-Diplomats, what is your experience with the Diplomats in your life? What words of appreciation might you offer them?