“I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being – forgive me – rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”
Everyone knows that no one is perfect. But some of us have a more difficult time coming to terms with this axiom, due to how we perceive our own errors and the errors of other people. It may seem like some people, by being careful, confident, or brilliant enough, can virtually eliminate mistakes from their lives. Others are much too hard on themselves, constantly slipping up and feeling like they can’t do anything right.
Are some personality types more error-prone than others, or is the way we perceive mistakes a reflection of our own inner biases? To understand this question, we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You make mistakes far less often than other people.”
Although just a slight majority of readers agreed (53%), a few personality traits proved to be quite influential. Thinking, Judging, and Assertive personality types were each about 20% more likely than their respective counterparts (Feeling, Prospecting, and Turbulent types) to agree with our statement.
Which personalities believe that, compared to others, they rarely make mistakes? We examine the data in more detail below.
Sentinels (63% agreeing)
Given their shared Judging personality trait, Sentinels are known for having a firm sense of right and wrong that makes them more confident in their own work and behavior. Their decisions and actions are guided by rules, careful planning, organization, and meticulous attention to detail. This cautious approach is enhanced by their Observant Energy, which keeps them focused and aware of what’s happening around them.
For Sentinels, mistakes are most often the result of carelessness and lack of preparation, neither of which they find excusable. Sentinels may have a reputation for rigidity, but their conscientious sense of personal responsibility means that when they do make mistakes, they’re that much more careful to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
This is especially true of Assertive Logisticians (ISTJ-A), the personality type most likely to agree with our statement (82%). Logisticians pride themselves on their accuracy and reliability, excelling at tasks like finding the errors in another’s writing, the bugs in another’s code, or the faulty links in a supply chain. These personalities may sometimes feel that the entire world would fall apart, were it not for their commitment to perfection.
But Logisticians must take care not to grow too confident in their own abilities or too intolerant of others’ errors – everyone makes mistakes sometimes, and a little humility and acceptance can go a long way.
Analysts were nearly as likely as Sentinels to agree that they make mistakes far less often than other people, but for different reasons. For these personalities, self-assurance comes from their core Thinking trait. Analysts tend to be confident in their ideas, decisions, and actions because they are backed by sound logic and objectivity, an approach that minimizes errors.
Convinced as they are that their way is the best or “right” way, Analysts can sometimes come off as arrogant or find it difficult to admit their slipups. But you can be sure that an Analyst won’t make the same mistake twice – unless, of course, a mistake has inspired their Intuitive imagination to discover an even better solution.
The combination of Observant and Prospecting personality traits gives Explorers a different perspective on mistakes. Generally speaking, Explorers tend to be more laid-back and realistic than Sentinels and Analysts about the fact that mistakes are a normal part of life, taking the view that a misstep is not to be agonized over but dealt with when it arises. They don’t overburden themselves trying to prevent errors – they’d much rather learn by doing, diving into a project or an experience and course-correcting as they go.
While this relaxed approach may make other personality types nervous, Explorers are practical and alert, and they often have great instincts in urgent situations. They also have enough self-awareness to recognize that their attraction to spontaneity and risk-taking does expose them to the potential for more frequent mistakes or lapses in judgment.
Unlike Analysts, Diplomats’ ideas, decisions, and actions are often guided by their emotions – a valid approach, but one that is perhaps more error-prone. These Feeling personality types are also much more keenly aware of the effects their mistakes have on other people.
Furthermore, Diplomats may be more willing than Analysts to acknowledge that their Intuitive personality trait, while wonderfully valuable for dreaming up creative possibilities, can be counterproductive when it comes to focusing on and following through with details and plans, resulting in more frequent mistakes.
The least likely of all personality types to agree with our statement were Turbulent Mediators (INFP-T) (28%). Mediators may or may not, in reality, make more errors than other people, but they are in all likelihood hit the hardest by their own mistakes. Sensitive, creative, and idealistic, Mediators aren’t always the best at handling practical matters. When they mess up or allow something to slip through the cracks, they’re susceptible to feelings of guilt, failure, and regret – all the more so if they have a Turbulent Identity.
It’s not all negative for Mediators, though: these poetic, philosophical individuals are also more likely than most personality types to view their mistakes as opening the door to beautiful and exciting new possibilities.
Confident Individualism and People Mastery (66% and 61% agreeing)
As Assertive personality types, Confident Individualists and People Masters are much more confident than their Turbulent counterparts in their own skills and abilities, and thus were significantly more likely to agree that they make fewer mistakes than other people. Relaxed and level-headed, Assertive personalities believe that they can handle whatever life throws at them, and, even if they do make a mistake, they’ll be able to recover from it – an attitude that makes mistakes feel much more manageable.
Confident Individualists prefer to be self-reliant whenever possible, which forces a certain awareness of errors, as well as a determination not to make them. While they may not view themselves as flawless, these personalities proved to be the most secure in their correctness.
Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (43% and 42%)
Social Engagers and Constant Improvers, on the other hand, are more likely to make mountains out of molehills when they err. Whether it’s a minor blunder or a major faux pas, these Turbulent personalities tend to have more emotional and stressful reactions to mistakes because they’re overly concerned with what other people think of them and with their own performance.
Striving for perfection can produce remarkable results, but it can also make everything that falls short of that ideal seem like a mistake. Constant Improvers are particularly prone to feeling like they’re always letting someone down, including themselves.
Although mistakes are an inescapable part of life, it’s important to keep them in perspective.
Individuals with the Feeling and Turbulent personality traits, for instance, must remember that one misstep is not the end of the world and work to put their mistakes behind them without dwelling on feelings of guilt or failure. Prospecting types should be mindful that some errors are easily preventable, and that learning to compensate for some common weaknesses can make a big difference. For Thinking, Judging, and Assertive personalities, handling mistakes gracefully (and owning their own slipups) can help everyone be more positive and productive.
And we would all do well to think of the wise words of Albus Dumbledore, the beloved headmaster of the Harry Potter series: all humans are fallible, and the more confident and brilliant we think we are, the “correspondingly huger” our mistakes may be.
Would you say that you are more or less error-prone than other people? Where does your personality type fit in? Let us know in the comments!