Suppressing and Expressing Emotion

Sometimes, letting out our emotions is easy, satisfying, a cathartic release. But other times, especially when the feelings of other people are at stake, it’s not so simple. More often than we may realize, we compromise between how we feel inside and how we want other people to feel, putting on a happy face, even if swallowing our anger and sadness causes us even more pain than letting it out would.

How might a tendency to conceal our emotions in the interest of others’ well-being relate to personality type? To examine this question, we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You would rather suppress your own feelings than hurt someone else’s.”

Roughly three-quarters (76%) of all respondents agreed with our statement. The Introvert and Turbulent personality traits made people slightly more likely to agree. The Nature aspect was the deciding factor on this topic, though – Feeling types were 24% more likely than Thinking types to suppress their feelings for the sake of another’s.

Which personality types are more likely to suppress, and which are more likely to express? Let’s take a look, starting with the Roles.

Roles

Diplomats (87% agreeing)

Because of their core Feeling trait, Diplomats’ sense of empathy can be so strong that the pain of others is sometimes a palpable presence in their own emotional lives. As such, Diplomat personality types may go to great lengths to tamp down any negativity, putting the harmony of the group before their own needs, much like a soldier might leap onto a grenade to save their comrades. But Diplomats must take care not to get so carried away with altruism that they neglect their own emotional well-being to an unhealthy degree.

This is especially true of Turbulent Advocates (INFJ-T), the personality type most likely to agree with our statement, at a whopping 91%. Many Advocates devote their entire lives to helping others, a mission that requires all sorts of sacrifices, including suppressing personal emotions for the sake of the greater good. While they may seem on the outside like constant sources of positivity, Advocates are actually quite sensitive and can burn out easily. But even if an Advocate is deeply upset about something, they’ll rarely allow others to catch a glimpse of their inner turmoil.

Explorers and Sentinels (78% and 76%)

Due to their shared Observant trait, Explorers and Sentinels are eminently practical people. These personality types may take a more pragmatic view toward the feelings of others, attempting to strike a balance in letting others know how they feel without causing unnecessary offense or drama. Both Roles may feel that, in the interest of maintaining a productive relationship, it is often better to watch what they say rather than to say exactly how they feel.

Surprisingly, the personality type that was least likely to hide their feelings for the sake of others was a Sentinel. Only 51% of Assertive Executives (ESTJ-A) agreed with our statement. Executives are leaders who are interested in getting things done right, and they stick up for what they believe in. If they feel angry, frustrated, or upset about the perceived incompetence, laziness, or dishonesty of someone else, they’ll call them out on it. A lack of empathy is perhaps Executives’ greatest weakness, which means that the emotions of others are, at best, usually an afterthought. For better or worse, with this personality type, you always know where you stand.

Analysts (64%)

As Thinking types, Analyst personalities are concerned first and foremost with rationality, logic, and impartiality. They care about what works, not what makes others feel good, and that attitude can often come across as insensitivity. Of all the Roles, Analysts are the least in touch with their emotions, usually preferring to hide them. But if provoked, they won’t hesitate to express their displeasure, with little consideration for others’ feelings. Analyst personality types value truth and honesty, and they may feel that sugarcoating what they have to say is dishonest and unproductive.

Strategies

Constant Improvement (84% agreeing)

As Introverted, Turbulent personality types, Constant Improvers suppress their emotions more than members of other Strategies. Conflict-averse and easily stressed out, Constant Improvers often bottle up their emotions, rather than deal with the messiness of confronting, and potentially hurting, another person. And since they’re perfectionistic and focused inward, Constant Improvers are probably going to continue to dwell on their negative emotions, regardless of whether they’ve expressed them out loud or not.

Social Engagement and Confident Individualism (78% and 76%)

Social Engagers and Confident Individualists may be driven by warring impulses, torn between wearing their hearts on their sleeves and keeping their mouths shut. As Turbulent personalities, Social Engagers may fear losing another’s love or respect if they reveal too much of their feelings. But as Extraverts, they might also see sharing their emotions as an inevitable, and even healthy, aspect of engaging with the world and building personal relationships.

Assertive Confident Individualists might look at it like this: “If you can’t handle what I have to say, that’s your problem, not mine.” Confident in themselves, these personality types may choose to keep quiet simply because they don’t feel the need to hash out every little thing. On the other hand, as Introverts, Confident Individualists may also wish to take some time to reflect and sort through their feelings before they share them with others.

People Mastery (72%)

As Extraverted, Assertive personalities, People Masters are comfortable expressing themselves and not too worried if other people don’t like what they have to say. Still, with a strong majority agreeing with our statement, it’s evident that People Masters do try to be careful with others’ feelings. If they believe that their relationship with someone is strong enough to handle honest, sometimes uncomfortable, dialogue, then these personality types may not hold their opinions and emotions back, especially if they’re confident that they can smooth things over once everything is out in the open.

Conclusions

The fact that a strong majority of respondents agreed that suppressing their own feelings is preferable to hurting the feelings of someone else may say something encouraging about what we, as a society, believe about empathy, considerateness, and decency toward others. Some personality types, especially those with the Feeling trait, clearly swallow their emotions more than others, though, and that’s not always a healthy way to live. Everyone needs to be able to express their feelings and clear the air sometimes.

There’s a fine line between speaking too freely (which can cause issues among even the best of friends) and bottling up all our feelings (which, all too often, results in a destructive explosion). It’s important to strike a balance in how we deal with our own emotions and those of the people around us.

Do you feel free to express your emotions, or do you often feel the need to bottle them up inside? Let us know in the comments!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

1 week ago
I’m an INTP and I often find myself almost instinctively suppressing my emotions until I’m by myself or they just become to much to handle, so I guess I’m not in the majority. Analysts were the most neutral, and Logicians had the highest agreement rate of Analysts, so I guess it makes sense.
1 month ago
There's a difference between suppressing your emotions in order to maintain internal self-control and suppressing them to avoid potential social backlash. As an INTJ-a, I dislike making a scene, especially if I can deal with my emotions internally and resolve the issue without a fuss, so I don't need to tell everyone what I'm feeling when I can just fix whatever's wrong instead. But because I have confidence in the veracity of my own feelings, I see no reason to hold them back if I feel someone else's behaviour is causing me a problem: either they're rational enough to engage is a rational dialogue and won't be offended by my emotions or they're not rational enough, if which case they don't deserve my consideration of their feelings for me to hold back mine. (Yes, I am perfectly aware of the fact that I made a rational, logical argument for why one should openly express their emotions where necessary.)
Discuz
2 months ago
As an INTP, I often bottle up my emotions until it gets too much for me to handle and I end up doing something unusual and sporadic. Often my intuitive trait makes things worst when I start to think about past events, imagining intentions of past people and connections with how they act in the present, or thinking about things I did in the past that yielded undesired results. I sometimes get unusually angry when I fail to meet my own expectations with a goal as well.
7 months ago
Me, with a loudspeaker: "Efficiency comes first." *Frustrated screams of the people who I have offended*
7 months ago
Same haha
Ice
7 months ago
As an INFJ T I strongly agree on that Though, I don't know why
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