Bearing Ill Will: Why Some Personality Types Can’t Get Over Arguments
It can be hard to walk away from an argument. In the heat of the moment, we sometimes get carried away: we cling stubbornly to our point of view, we don’t listen, we say things we don’t mean. Reason gets thrown out the window, and feelings get hurt. The higher the stakes, the more intense it can be.
And after the dust settles, whether we’ve won or lost, moving on can be difficult. If we’ve failed to convince or we’ve been proven wrong, we may feel disheartened, frustrated, and angry. Even if we’ve prevailed, the memory of the conflict can be troubling, and we may feel lingering resentment for having been challenged in the first place.
Are some personality types better than others at letting go of arguments? We asked our readers to agree or disagree with the statement, “You do not hold a grudge after an argument.” The overall response was rather neutral, with 48% agreeing, but a few clear trends in the Mind and Identity personality aspects confirm that certain types are significantly more likely to harbor ill will after an argument.
Which personality types might be nursing a grudge against you this very moment? Let’s find out.
The Roles chart doesn’t tell us anything particularly interesting. Readers with the Feeling trait were slightly more likely than Thinking personality types to agree that they don’t hold grudges after an argument, but in isolation, the difference (4%) is practically meaningless.
People Mastery and Confident Individualism (62% and 59% agreeing)
The most significant division we saw in our readers’ responses was in the Identity aspect: Assertive personality types were 22% more likely than Turbulent types to agree that they don’t hold grudges. The People Mastery and Confident Individualism Strategies share the Assertive trait and agreed at higher rates. Assertive types have a strong sense of self-confidence that keeps them from taking arguments too personally, even when they are personal in nature. And because these personalities aren’t easily stressed out, they’re less likely to dwell on lingering emotions after a disagreement.
Extraversion and Introversion also played a role in this survey, with Extraverts agreeing at a rate 8% higher than Introverts, which explains why People Masters agreed the most. People Masters, as Extraverted personality types, generally work well with others and have good instincts when it comes to social dynamics. They may feel that an open exchange of ideas is valuable, and even if they don’t agree with others’ views, these personalities are willing to push resentment aside in order to enable productive communication.
Introverted Confident Individualists, on the other hand, may see the mere act of arguing as tiresome and frustrating, a drain on their energy that they don’t appreciate. Rather than expend even more energy formulating some sort of vindictive vendetta, they’d much prefer to be left in peace to continue doing things their own way.
Of all the personality types, Assertive Protagonists agreed the most (67%). These People Masters know how to stay positive, and their gregarious natures can handle a bit of disagreement now and then. Protagonists are focused on inspiring people, not on resenting them, and they recognize that getting wrapped up in grudges only impedes the social progress that they’re so often working toward. As former U.S. president Barack Obama, a Protagonist who built a political career around this kind of positivity, sagely counseled in his 2017 farewell address, “Without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent might be making a fair point... then we’re going to keep talking past each other, and we’ll make common ground and compromise impossible.”
Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (41% and 37%)
The Turbulent individuals belonging to the Social Engagement and Constant Improvement Strategies tend to care a great deal what others think of them, which makes it hard for them not to take arguments personally. If a dispute involves a direct personal attack, these personality types will probably take it as a blow to their own self-esteem, reacting emotionally and stressing about it for some time to come.
Again, the Mind aspect makes a difference in the extent to which Social Engagers and Constant Improvers develop grudges. When Extraverted Social Engagers have a row with someone, these personality types may prioritize strengthening their relationship with that person over licking their own wounds, especially if they perceive that a grudge could threaten their social standing. Introverted Constant Improvers, however, are more prone to getting stuck in their own heads after an argument, reliving every word and dwelling on how they’ve been wronged.
Turbulent Entrepreneurs, members of the Social Engagement Strategy, agreed the least of any personality type, at 27%, meaning that nearly three-quarters of them admitted to holding grudges. Entrepreneur personalities are men and women of action who tend to take an all-or-nothing approach to life. Tempering their emotions after a tussle can be a challenge, especially for those with Turbulent Identities.
Take Ernest Hemingway, an Entrepreneur known for his boisterous brawling and thin skin. As the story famously goes, Hemingway once attacked literary critic Max Eastman, who had given him a poor review, upon finding him in his editor’s New York office. Enraged by the memory of the review, Hemingway argued with Eastman about it, at one point picking up a copy of Eastman’s book and socking him in the face with it.
And if you think he stopped there, you don’t know Papa. He later told reporters all about it, challenged Eastman publicly to a behind-closed-doors confrontation to settle the score (which the critic wisely declined), and memorialized the incident by scrawling the following inscription in the inside cover of Eastman’s broken book, to be seen by readers for generations to come:
This is the book I ruined on Max (the Prick) Eastman’s nose. I sincerely hope he burns forever in some hell of his own digging. – Ernest Hemingway
If that’s not holding a grudge, we don’t know what is.
We’ve probably all, at one time or another, felt hurt or indignant after an argument, and we’ve probably all entertained a grudge at some point, if only for a short while. Those of us with high self-confidence who seek social interaction can apparently shrug off arguments a little easier. But for those personality types who experience things emotionally and internally, harsh words and critical voices from the outside may hurt more and linger longer, making it difficult to let it go and move on.
Despite these trends, the overall neutral response to this topic suggests that, for many of us, how quickly or how fully we get over an argument may depend a lot on the circumstances: what we argued about and with whom.
What about you? Have you ever held a grudge worthy of Hemingway, or do you think resentment is a waste of energy? Share your story in the comments below!