When Focus is a Bad Thing

I took the MBTI many years ago and scored as an INFJ. I was really close to the P, though, so I often demonstrate the characteristics of both judging and perceiving.   As indicated by this type, I have a unique ability to tune out my environment and focus on one thing.  This got me in big trouble in college.

I had been selected to be an RA in the dorm at the University of Evansville.  At the end of the first semester, my reviews by other students were terrible.  They called me rude, stuck up, and insensitive.  The stories they listed were often of my passing them in the hall way or on campus and never acknowledging them.  I realized that I was so focused on whatever I was thinking about, that I was not perceiving my environment.  I worked hard the next semester to change that tendency with good results.  It was an early encounter with how I was wired and how it affected other people.  Now I spend most of my time helping others understand themselves and their impact on others.  But once in a while, I’m reminded that I can revert to old behavior.

The other day I was in the Grassland Post Office.  After mailing the packages, I came out and hit the clicker to open my 4-Runner’s doors.  As I stood at the driver side door, I thought it strange that I hadn’t heard the locks unlock , but they were clearly unlocked so I hopped in and put my key in the ignition.  It wouldn’t turn.  I pulled on the steering wheel a little and it still wouldn’t turn.  Frustrated, I got my phone out to call the Toyota dealer and find out what my options were.  Right about then, I heard a woman’s voice say, “Are you in my car?”  Suddenly all the little things I should have noticed came rushing into my field of vision – flip flops on the passenger side floor, a cat seat, and no big brush bumper on the grill.  I’d gotten in the wrong car!  My 4 Runner – same year, model, and color – was parked two spaces over.  Embarrassed, I apologized profusely and slunk away, got in my car and drove off.

Once again, my focus had so narrowed that I didn’t observe or pay attention to any of the small things that would have saved me a lot of embarrassment.  But it was a great reminder that I can fall back into behavior that could negatively impact those around me.   I’m practicing my observation skills and reminding myself that relationships are more important than to-do lists.