I live in a culture of people who deem themselves “nice”. Why else would the Nobel Prizes be given out each year in the “nice” utopia of Norway? In most respects, I concur with the “nice” label. But occasionally the niceness mutates into either avoidance of issues or passive-aggressiveness. Both of which I, as an INTJ, deplore.
There is an old Norwegian joke about a woman who was so angry with her husband that she almost told him that she was angry. Norwegians are so passive aggressive that they use the same word for marriage as for poison. As a neighbor explained to me, this style of interaction is a defense mechanism. Norway does not have a large population, and many of the people live in small isolated villages where, no matter what you do, you cannot avoid all of the annoying people (or your relatives). So rather than confront each other head-on, Norwegians keep the peace with passive-aggressive approaches to problems.
(I will not divulge any specific details because I already know that by writing this article, I have angered some nearby sweet-smiling person who will destroy my flowerbed during the night and blame it on a moose).
The truth is, the thought patterns of these blond-haired, blue-eyed ski junkies are alien to me. Having spent 10 years in the military, I am accustomed to being direct. Although I have learned from many years' worth of failed interactions that sometimes there is a need for me to rephrase my thoughts so they can exit my mouth in a more diplomatic and supposedly constructive way. Living in Norway has required me to reach a new level of word-smithing.
In truth, I get along pretty well socially. My Norwegian friends are attracted to my sense of humor: sarcastic and blunt, with a tendency to point out the elephant in the room. And, even though I am actually more of an Introvert, my naturally friendly Californian personality comes out in social situations—so the more reserved Norwegians feel very comfortable in labeling me the loud, Extraverted American. It doesn’t bother me too much, except that when I have a problem with a situation that I deem important enough to address, the advice I always receive from my Norwegian friends is that the situation definitely needs to be addressed but, maybe, I should not be the one to address it.
In these situations, my very tall, kind, red-headed, blue-eyed Norwegian life partner is eventually deferred to for problem-solving. He then employs the ever-popular strategy of “letting the problem work itself out.” This strategy is known to us INTJs as avoidance. And sometimes—let’s just put it bluntly—we see it as cowardice.
Hmmm, that was not very high-minded of me. Let me rephrase that. My beloved has his own tried-and-true method of approaching a problem where the offending party has an excellent chance of never knowing that they are doing something offensive.
But what I have learned from my Norwegian partner is that sometimes (I cringe to admit) there is a certain strength in avoidance. You can allow people to be properly wrong, and as long as they are not harmful to themselves or society, they can sit and stew in their wrongness. And, many times, by a little nugget of wisdom from above (or in many cases, social alienation), these people will eventually find the way out of the paper bag resting comfortably over their head and become their own solution.
I do not appreciate dealing with issues by proxy. But, I am truly making an effort to study and understand this alien culture. It is a new adventure that, for the most part, I have embraced wholeheartedly. There is a great amount of empathy and kindness that Norwegians bestow on others that so many cultures should take note of.
The truth of the matter is that, as an INTJ, I am the actual alien. Empathy is not my knee-jerk reaction. I will never whole-heartedly embrace being passive aggressive, but I am grudgingly learning some aspects of avoidance. I guess my Norwegian friends are allowing me the space to find my way out of the paper bag resting comfortably on my own head.