You’re Too Kind

Starting with the expression that “it takes all kinds,” I explore just how many kinds there are.


It takes all kinds, or so I hear. Although it’s not when someone is being a fun, thoughtful, or salt-of-the-earth kind. No, I hear it only when someone is being an odd, difficult, or pain-in-the-ass kind.

Well, someone says, with a rueful shake of their head, it takes all kinds. And the head shaking of the speaker is transmuted into head nodding by the listeners around the table. Yes indeedy, it takes all kinds.

But this consensus leaves unanswered the bigger question: How many kinds are there? That, it turns out, depends on who you ask.

Ask someone armed with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and they will tell you that there are sixteen kinds. The MBTI is the work of Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers, a mother and daughter team who translated Carl Jung’s theories into a practical questionnaire on personality.

Ask someone versed in the work of Dr. David Merrill and Roger Reid, and they will tell you that there are four kinds: Driver, Expressive, Amiable, and Analytic. Among other group-dynamic activities, this framework has been used to train salesmen to recognize and adapt to their customer’s preferred communication style.

Ask someone trained in True Colorsâ„¢ assessments, and they will also tell you that there are four kinds — Oranges, Golds, Greens and Blues — which are not the same as the Merrill/Reid kinds only under different names. No, these are four entirely different conceptions of what kinds exist.

Now, some people take offence at being pigeonholed — typecast, as it were — and express this by challenging the very basis of the typing. After all, is it reasonable to think that the whole population of the world can be classified into just sixteen kinds of people? As for the four-kind models, those are clearly way too simplistic. And they laugh dismissively, if somewhat uneasily.

Yet if these personality, behavioural and style models seem to disrespect our individuality by putting us into a predefined kind, or if they seem to disrespect our diversity by limiting us collectively to four or even sixteen kinds, what shall we do with the generally accepted convention that there are just two kinds?

Where it all started I don’t know, but biblically, of course, there are male and female, and the quick and the dead. Chronologically we have young and old. Psychologically there are introverts and extroverts, or optimists and pessimists, depending on the point in question. At work we have generalists and specialists; in some workplaces we split into military and civilians. Overall our economy has producers and consumers; some politicians see a society of givers and takers. Under any sort of pressure our national discourse quickly lumps the world into us and them, friend and foe.

This tendency to bifurcate the world is so strong that professional wits rely on it, twisting our presumption of its legitimacy for comedic effect.

There are the iconic witticisms, whose attribution is hopelessly muddled. Who first said that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who follow the rules and those who make the rules? Or people who run out of burning buildings, and people who run into them?  Or people who make lists, and people who don’t? (Wait a minute, are there really people who don’t make lists? The things you learn.)

There are the self-referential witticisms, attributed or not.

There are two kinds of people, those who finish what they start and so on.  Robert Byrne

There are two types of people in this world: Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data

There are the witticisms that are attributed, correctly or not.

There are two kinds of men who never amount to much: those who cannot do what they are told and those who can do nothing else.  Cyrus H. Curtis

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who walk into a room and say, ‘There you are!’, and those who say, ‘Here I am!’  Abigail Van Buren

The world is divided into two types of people: those who love to talk, and those who hate to listen. James Thorpe

You see in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig.  You dig.  Blondie (Clint Eastwood) in ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’

For those who don’t buy into any of these viewpoints, there is always Benchley’s Law of Distinction, an example of what we might call the ‘you just can’t win’ witticism.

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t. Robert Benchley

No matter which kind you are, rest assured that you have a valuable, nay, an irreplaceable place in the world. After all, it takes both kinds.

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8 Responses to You’re Too Kind

  1. Dave J says:

    Loved your discussion.
    That is the world of certainty you discuss but behaviour is not constant over time nor consistent over circumstances.
    So our behaviour at any point in time is a random draw from a multivariate probability distribution. We all have our own unique distribution parameters which can be used to come up with predictions for our most likely behaviour but for some there is considerable variance and so on and so on.
    Then what are these variables we seek to measure? Do we agree on the concepts? How do we measure them?
    Oh, must be time to play golf.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Dave J – There are two kinds of people: the one guy for whom the probability that he will use ‘multivariate probability distribution’ in everyday conversation is non-zero, and the rest of us. To improve the probability distribution of your birdies, keep your head down and swing easy.

  2. Marion says:

    I think, someone correct me if I’m wrong, that what all this boils down to is that there are two kinds of people on this world: me (and people like me), and everyone else. Because for all of these sayings, the speaker puts him/herself into one category, and others into the other. Those who agree with me and those who don’t.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Marion – I think that’s largely right, although the Cyrus quote about people who don’t amount to much would be an exception. Some I find just funny; some are quite pointed (Robert Frost has one about the two kinds being people willing to work and others willing to let them).

  3. Marion says:

    Ha,ha! Just realized your title should have been “You’re Two Kind”.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Marion – I guess I could have got away with “Your Two Kind” as well. Back in the day, I wanted to copyright the phrase “Too Two” and sell imprinted t-shirts to parents of toddlers. Didn’t git ‘er done.

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