I’m sick of dealing with incompetence

I’m an INTJ, and I have a quick question.

I’m a Ph.D. student of theoretical physics and as usual, I discuss my research with my supervisor. Because she doesn’t bother to get into the detail of calculations, or maybe because she doesn’t care enough, sometimes she makes obviously stupid comments, and such things make me angry a little. So I feel she thinks I’m arrogant, even if I don’t get angry and try to explain (explaining stuff is a little hard for me…). But I’m not. I do appreciate when she has some good comments (which she does sometimes…).

So can you help me to avoid such misunderstandings?

4 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    I have some ideas for improving your situation. But the biggest thing you can do, I think, is approaching the situation from a different perspective. For example:

    1. Why do you care if she is stupid? It’s your job to answer peoples’ questions. As a professor of theoretical physics, you will collaborate with people who do not know as much about your specialty as you do so they will ask annoying questions.

    2. It’s not your professor’s job to know everything about your topic. It’s her job to get funding to attract smart Ph.D. candidates. The best professors try to attract people smarter than they are.

    3. You are probably of equal intelligence to her. There is never one stupid person in a relationship. You are the one who accepted a position under her, right? If she is so much dumber than you then you would have gotten offers from someone smarter.

    4. Academia is all about politics. You are always competing against the top .01% for jobs. Everyone in the candidate pool is super smart. So people offer positions to candidates who would be nice to work with. If you can’t deal with answering questions that you don’t like, then you probably don’t have enough self-regulation to handle interview for a job.

    5. Work on understanding what drives other people. You should take the Personality Type Master Class that I created. Like you, I have very little patience for other people. Understanding personality type gave me tons of insight into why people do what they do, and knowing that allowed me to develop much more patience for other people.

    Here’s a link to the course:


    Good luck.


  2. May
    May says:

    Haha, I like this advice, Penelope!

    INTJ do often need to really understand that not everyone thinks like they do, nor should they. I think it doesn’t sink in until they are met with a lifetime of interpersonal failures.

    I mean.. maybe an INTJ just needs to learn to take advantage of the fact that everyone else is “incompetent” to them, since INTJ competence is often their only saving grace from their otherwise terrible personalities. :D

  3. INTJ Professor
    INTJ Professor says:

    Adding to Penelope’s fourth point: You may find yourself asking your research supervisor to write you recommendations for future positions. Although such recommendations include details about a candidate’s research accomplishments and potential, they also, inevitably, include a paragraph that addresses the candidate’s interpersonal comportment.

  4. Marisa
    Marisa says:

    You say, “she doesn’t bother,” and “she doesn’t care enough,” and “she makes obviously stupid mistakes.” These attitudes/behaviors fly in the face of your personally held values.

    Most of us have a tendency to react negatively to people who seem to run roughshod over our values. After all, if it weren’t important, we wouldn’t value it!

    But not everyone has the same set of values. You know this, since you began by introducing yourself as an INTJ.

    So, in order to avoid misunderstandings, you can work on stepping outside of your own framework of values. Penelope gives some excellent advice about this. When your supervisor doesn’t bother, doesn’t seem to care, and makes obvious mistakes, resist the urge to be disgusted or repelled by it. Remind yourself that she’s likely operating from a different set of values (either because of personality, or because of different goals). Relinquish the requirement that others live up to your values.

    I think you probably know all this, but it’s the INTJ gut reaction that’s causing difficulty. In my experience, INTJs don’t really seem to be very good at hiding their gut reactions. Because many INTJs aren’t great at noticing emotional nuances in others, they imagine their own are equally invisible. Not so. Even if you don’t mean to let her know that you’re annoyed, it’s likely that she perceives a change in your attitude toward her. You cannot rely on just “keeping it inside.” You have to catch the reaction & replace it with something else so that when it “leaks out,” it doesn’t cause damage. Again, Penelope’s got good advice for catching those gut reactions before they get away from you.

    Finally, make sure you communicate the good things to her when they’re there. When she does help you, allow your eyes to light up; smile and look her in the eye and give her genuine thanks. Take time to make a positive connection whenever possible. Think of the relationship as a bank account: positive connections as deposits, and negative as withdrawals. With most people, negative interactions carry more than twice the weight of positive. So you need at least twice as many positive ones to break even. Not groveling, fawning, or patronizing–genuine, respectful, positive interactions.

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