“You Ate My Sandwich?”: Keeping (or Losing) Your Cool by Personality Type

Remember that episode of Friends, “The One with Ross’s Sandwich,” where the usually reserved and logical Ross has a total meltdown when he finds out that his boss ate some of his special Thanksgiving-leftovers sandwich and threw the rest away? “You-you-you-you threw my sandwich away,” he says, beside himself. “My sandwich? MY SANDWICH?!” Afterwards, his boss puts him on mandatory sabbatical and sends him to a therapist to deal with his “rage.”

Although the scene makes for a hilarious episode of a popular sitcom, what if it happened in real life? When we, or those around us, become angry for no apparent reason, it’s not so funny. Often, there is a deeper, unrelated issue behind it. In Ross’s case, he was actually upset because he had turned 30 years old, had been evicted from his apartment, and was about to get divorced for the second time. As he put it, “That sandwich was the only good thing going on in my life” – and someone took it away from him.

When stress and pressure build up inside us, it can sometimes make us incapable of coping with minor, everyday annoyances, and when set off by even the smallest of triggers, we can explode. These emotional overreactions can be embarrassing to us, and disturbing to our friends and family. And it may be the case that some personality types are more prone to such episodes than others. To explore this issue, we asked our community to agree or disagree with the statement, “You rarely become angry without reason.”

A majority (68%) of respondents agreed overall, and the Identity aspect was by far the most significant factor in influencing their responses. Let’s look at the data and find out which personalities are cool as a cucumber, and which are hot as a jalapeño.

Roles

Sentinels (72% agreeing)

Although the personality traits that determine our Roles didn’t play a major factor in the results, individuals with the Observant trait were 4% more likely to agree than those with the Intuitive trait, and individuals with the Judging trait were 3% more likely to agree than those with the Prospecting trait. All Sentinels share the Observant and Judging traits, which makes them down-to-earth, pragmatic types who like stability and order. So it makes sense that these personality types are more likely to stay calm under pressure.

Sentinels tend to work well within social structures and value cooperation. Generally averse to conflict, they may have learned that a patient, impartial approach to people and situations can help things go more smoothly. That’s why we often see Sentinels in such professional roles as judges, teachers, and human resources administrators. Even when they do become angry, it is likely to be for a concrete, justifiable reason, and these personalities will make an effort to express their frustration constructively and seek a fair solution.

Explorers and Diplomats (69% each)

Explorers share with Sentinels the Observant trait, so these personality types also tend to handle their anger more pragmatically than others, focusing on dealing with upsetting things rather than simply reacting to them. Flexible types who are comfortable with changing circumstances, Explorers are less rigid and have a less intense attitude in general, which may help them keep their cool. They love to live in the moment, which means that they can become suddenly angry when provoked by perplexing and frustrating people or situations – but it also means that they can let go of that anger just as quickly and move on to the next, more pleasant experience. Less apt to allow their frustrations to bottle up inside them, they are also less prone to seemingly inexplicable outbursts of anger.

Diplomats, interestingly, agreed at the same rate as Explorer personalities, despite some core differences in their traits. Diplomats’ responses were largely influenced by their Feeling trait, which was one of the indicators in our results, albeit a fairly minor one. Feeling types were 5% more likely to agree with our research statement than Thinking types.

Diplomats, along with those Sentinel and Explorer types who possess the Feeling trait, may be less susceptible to becoming angry without reason because they are more emotionally sensitive. They are aware of and concerned with the effects their behavior has on other people. Valuing personal connections and relationships, these personality types may feel guilty if they inflict anger and negativity on someone else – especially if they weren’t angry with that person, but because of some unrelated, internal issue – so they attempt to hold themselves in check. Additionally, their inherent need for harmony makes them adept at resolving conflicts, not instigating them.

Analysts (63%)

Agreeing at the lowest rate, Analysts were thus the most likely Role to become angry without reason. People with Analyst personality types tend to have strong opinions about how things should be, and to invest a great deal of time and energy in strategizing and executing their visions. Even when no specific inciting incident occurs, if they sense that things aren’t going according to their plans, or that something doesn’t conform to their strict standards or personal convictions, they can become upset more easily. Due to their core Thinking trait, Analysts are inclined to put logic and efficiency first, burying their feelings rather than communicating them, so, just like Ross in Friends, they’re much more likely than other types to let their anger build inside of them until it finally boils over, unpredictably and seemingly without reason.

Strategies

Confident Individualism and People Mastery (84% and 79% agreeing)

As previously mentioned, the Identity aspect proved to be the most influential factor in respondents’ likelihood to agree that they rarely become angry without reason. Specifically, personality types with Assertive Identities agreed at a rate of 81% overall, compared to just 59% of those with Turbulent Identities. Interestingly, the Mind aspect had virtually no impact on the results; Extraverts agreed at a rate of 69%, and Introverts at 68%. Accordingly, the Assertive Strategies – Introverted Confident Individualism and Extraverted People Mastery – were the Strategies with the highest agreement scores.

Assertive types tend to have a more stable internal compass, not reacting as easily to upsetting things. Confident in themselves, these personalities tend to believe that things are, or will be, OK, instead of worrying about things that went badly or might go badly in the future. This lower level of stress-sensitivity can help them keep their cool, and not get angry without reason. Confident Individualists, as Introverts, might have agreed at the highest rate because they tend not to seek as much social interaction, and as such do not invite as much variability into their lives. Solitariness can enhance their control over their environment and experiences, so they may have less to get angry about.

Of all the personality types, Assertive Defenders (ISFJ-A), who are Confident Individualists and Sentinels, agreed the most (88%). Defenders gain personal satisfaction from helping and supporting others, and they are very sensitive to others’ needs and emotions. Blowing up at people unreasonably, especially when it comes to people who they’ve taken under their wing, just isn’t a necessary or productive use of their energy.

Constant Improvement and Social Engagement (60% and 58%)

Members of the Turbulent Strategies – Constant Improvement and Social Engagement – on the other hand, were the least likely to agree, suggesting that these Strategies are the most volatile with their anger. Turbulent personality types often have high levels of stress, and worrying is a part of their normal operating behavior. Constant Improvers’ and Social Engagers’ perfectionism often causes them to feel frustrated with themselves and concerned about how they’re performing in all areas of their lives, from work and hobbies to personal relationships. So it’s not surprising that they sometimes release their inner turmoil in the form of anger, even without any apparent provocation. It’s not necessarily a matter of resentment or antagonism toward others, it’s just that carrying around so much emotional baggage can, from time to time, become too much for anyone to bear.

Turbulent Entrepreneurs (ESTP-T) agreed with our research statement the least of any personality type (45%). As Social Engagers and Explorers, Turbulent Entrepreneurs are all-or-nothing types who tend to act now and deal with the consequences later, and their up-front honesty gives them a reputation for having a certain disregard for others’ feelings. Given that combination of spontaneity and insensitivity, heightened by a Turbulent Identity, it seems inevitable that Turbulent Entrepreneurs would succumb to more frequent fits of anger for no apparent reason. But even when this happens, their natural sociability and perceptiveness can still help them maintain strong connections with others.

Conclusions

Turbulent Identities, as the name implies, tend to translate into emotional volatility – and that may include seemingly unprovoked outbursts of anger. While those of us with more carefree attitudes toward life are less likely to get angry over nothing, those of us who live with stress and frustration simmering closer to the surface may be more likely to release it as anger, sometimes when we least expect it.

At the end of the day, we must realize that a sandwich (even one with Monica’s famous Moist Maker) is just a sandwich – there are things that just aren’t worth losing our cool over. Understanding what truly lies behind our anger can help us manage it more effectively, saving ourselves, and those around us, from a lot of unnecessary negativity.

Have you had any “you-ate-my-sandwich” moments lately? How do you think your personality type influences how you deal with anger? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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

11 months ago
Mwa ha ha! The sandwich is mine!
Naomi Wolfchild
1 year ago
I'm sorry, but I really don't think Ross overreacted. I could go on a whole tangent on the subject, but I won't...
Artemis
1 year ago
I am a mediator and hardly ever get angry, but when stress is dumped on me I have "off days". On these days I can't do anything to motivate myself, and if anyone approaches me I literally shut off. My normal stress relievers (drawing, reading and writing) do not work on these days, and it seems the only thing I can do is put on comfy clothes and watch tv. Do any other people get this reaction to stress? How do you deal with it?
1 year ago
I would completely freak out if you stole my sandwich.
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