In 2017, in Seattle, I moved in with a new roommate. A few years before, she and I had worked together at another company. Back then, we knew of each other more than we knew each other, if that makes sense. Familiar strangers.
It was a stroke of luck meeting her again. I’d been shopping around to buy a home but was getting priced out of the market. It turned out she owned a unit in the last building I looked at, and she was looking for a roommate. We talked a bit, and I ended up moving in.
It’s always a little awkward getting to know someone new, especially when learning to share a space. I made a good effort to spend a lot of my home time in the living room. I’d seen what happens to household relationships when someone gets into the habit of heading straight to their room. It’s harder to communicate as something like friends, but also about the basics of a functioning living space.
She made it easy. She was considerate. She gave me room in the refrigerator and cupboards and was comfortable both talking and just sort of coexisting in the same room. That all worked great as I got settled in.
Naturally, we started to get to know each other. We talked, I got a sense of her thoughts, habits, lifestyle, and general philosophy and approach to the world. Working at 16Personalities, I, of course, got a sense of her personality type as well, and we settled on Assertive Mediator.
On a theoretical level, I understand the Assertive Mediator personality type. A sensitive, flexible type who relies on interpreting the intentions of others. This is weighed heavily against an internal exploration and effort to understand the self through other human beings. A sort of extrapolated and internalized empathy, with an air of subtle confidence in their ability to do so. My new roommate fit the style.
I know all this in the abstract. But it’s interesting to see how theory plays out in the real world.
The Real World
Whatever the theory predicted, she revealed a new element of her personality type during a conversation about the local coffee shops – of which there were no less than 12 within a 10-block stretch. Not even kidding. It turned out that, despite liking coffee, she liked exactly none of the cafés.
She felt that, at each one, the service was pushy and rude. She wanted time to contemplate her order, even if she knew what she was ordering. She didn’t want the pressure of a line behind her. She wanted a sense of connection – greetings and a relaxed, conversational experience.
However, at all these cafés, the baristas tend to offer prompter service. A standard greeting is, “Hi, what can I get you?” To me, that’s good service. If a barista wants to chat, I do try to be friendly, so we can do that – after they get the drink going. This approach is good for me and good for the people in line behind me.
She disagreed. Not only did she disagree, she expanded their supposed rudeness in her mind to something beyond that experience, and elevated it to a different kind of deeper connection that she didn’t like.
I pried further about her understanding of the baristas’ intentions. Did she gather any evidence about their intent? Were they actually rude, or was this imagined? Was their intent in fact an act of consideration?
Her reply took me about six months to figure out: “It doesn’t matter whether they intended to be rude, or whether they were at all. What matters is that I felt this way, and that feeling made it unpleasant to be there. The feeling is the fact.”
The Feeling Is the Fact
I’m a Turbulent Logician. I do my fair share of interpretation and extrapolation. However, I value objective information and processing the rational facts of a situation. Yes, the baristas may have created that feeling, but is that feeling an accurate reflection of what happened in these situations?
In that moment, I wondered to myself, How does she function in the world when her interpretations in such situations are detached from reality?
And yet, she was functioning as an Assertive Mediator. She owned a home. She was steadily employed with more than a decade of experience in a reasonably high-paying job. She was in a committed, four-year romantic relationship. She felt good about who she was.
In my mind, there was a dissonance. It didn’t seem like one could lead to the other. Yeah, this took some time to parse.
(Admittedly, my quest for understanding at this point became more philosophical and professional than personal. Hey, what’s a Logician to do?)
What we explore here at 16Personalities is the idea that all trait combinations create unique attitudes. We look at how all those attitudes – no matter how hard they are to understand from our own perspectives – are valid and can create happiness and success. I faltered in that goal, as all humans do, but that never stopped my curiosity. I never dismissed it. My roommate’s interpretation was authentic to her. So, I treated it as authentic.
Internal Emotional Truth
I did understand, finally, that what she valued wasn’t an external truth, but an internal one. If a situation – especially an optional one like going to a coffee shop – makes her feel bad, why should she deny that feeling? And why should she continue to subject herself to it?
I came to see how her approach could be adaptive behavior in reaching a specific goal. Whether it’s achieved by striving for challenging career successes, debating philosophy, or caring for a family, satisfaction and fulfillment are arguably the point of any goal in life. Or indeed the most reductionist approach. Her approach. Feeling satisfaction and fulfillment as a means of feeling satisfaction and fulfillment. Any Logician would be proud.
As any Logician would, I couldn’t help but appreciate the elegance of the solution to that quest in life. The “fact of her feeling” was indeed a fact – as any internal, subjective feeling is. By defining and understanding that fact, she could explore her emotions in ways that made her life better. She had internal emotional desires that helped her strive for the reality that makes her happy. To have a comfortable home. To have work that she enjoys. To have an intimate relationship.
What’s the Lesson Here?
There are many variations of the quote, “To understand is to love.” With this new understanding, I came to respect the self-confident honesty of her perspective. She knew her truth and used that truth to create happiness. It was a valuable lesson for me.
By default, any Analyst personality struggles a bit with emotional intelligence, both when it comes to understanding others and when it comes to understanding themselves. My Assertive Mediator roommate showed me, as a Turbulent Logician, that an entire life can revolve around this alien intelligence with a level of success equaling (and, in some ways, exceeding) my own rational intelligence.
My experience proved to me that, with openness and intention, we can learn from every type – and every person – in our lives. On its face, such an alternative way of thinking and feeling can seem annoying, even absurd. But thanks to my attempt at deepened human connection and understanding with my Assertive Mediator roommate, I’ve grown professionally and personally. I’m now more in touch with my own emotional intuition. The tangible reality – the physical fact – is that we all have a limbic system. Emotion is inescapable. And it’s better understood and utilized than denied.