Several weeks ago I drew the ire of several readers when I attempted to pass along congratulations to kids from this area who had gone on to excel at the college level. The column was inspired by this year’s TCU-Baylor football game, in which players from Brownwood, Early and Bangs high schools were on the rosters of the two universities. The feedback depended on the readers’ particular point of view, which is shaped by what is most important to them. That’s understandable, and they were correct to make their opinions known. They said my mistake was naming any players at all and/or not making the list more extensive.
That kind of feedback oftentimes leads to a very cautious, sometimes overly cautious, approach to assignments. That is only natural when someone has been conditioned to repeatedly have to take a defensive approach. Rather than doing what they feel is right, they try to please their audience (whoever that audience may be), often times trying to anticipate what will bring a favorable response. That doesn’t just happen at newspapers, but can be found throughout society.
There’s a saying that has been around for years, which illustrates the opposite approach. “It’s better to beg forgiveness than to seek permission.” Its meaning is clear — take the risk and try something new now and then worry about the consequences later, if indeed any actually arise. Rather than crippling oneself fretting over the outcome, it suggests that things usually work out and the positive result will outweigh any perceived negative.
There are personality tests that individuals can take to see which approach they tend to prefer. Although not designed to answer this question specifically, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory does show how different personality types approach problem solving and task handling. Individuals are assigned letters that represent their personality. ENFPs, or “extraverted intuition with feeling,” are enthusiastic and innovative, and they see the need for change within organizations. Their focus is on the possible, not necessarily facts and details.
There are 15 other personality types identified by Myers-Briggs, including some that are less inclined to take risks when they work on projects than are ENFPs. Over time, different circumstances can lead to changes in personality type. The approach someone takes in the office might be completely different from how they go about things at home. A person might go through a life-changing event that leads to a shift in their outlook and personality. Generally, though, most of us change very little over the years, having been shaped by the environment we find ourselves in, and the reinforcement we’ve received while there.
Which brings us back to the question of recognizing individuals, groups and other organizations for their accomplishments. As several readers pointed out following my column, the answer was that it would have been better to recognize none rather than a few. Others suggested doing more research and finding all the players from Brown County now playing football in college would have been the prudent way to go. Still different readers let me know that they think there is too much emphasis on football and I should have written about academics and students who have succeeded in that arena. All are valid points.
My own personality tends to be about as far from ENFP as Myers-Briggs can define, and I struggle mightily when pressed to “beg forgiveness rather than seek permission.” Neither of those, though, mean that people like me don’t appreciate and welcome feedback. The trick is in knowing when to let it roll off our back, or when to take it to heart. In the meantime, though, congratulations to Bart Johnson for his special teams touchdown last Saturday during TCU’s (my alma mater) game against SMU.
Bill Crist is associate publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.