Misidentifying Ones and Threes

Average Ones and average Threes are sometimes mistaken because both types are efficient and highly organized. If an isolated behavior is the only thing being considered (chairing a business meeting or planning a vacation, for instance), their organizational abilities are similar–hence the confusion between them. Both are highly task-oriented and tend to put their feelings on the back burner to get things done. Also, both share a desire to improve themselves and to meet high standards, although the basis of their standards and their key motivations are quite different in nature.

Average Ones are idealists, striving for perfection and order in every area of their lives, especially their emotional lives, in an effort to control both themselves and their environment so that errors and failures of all sorts will not be introduced. Inner-motivated by strong consciences, they are organized and efficient so as not to waste time and other resources or allow themselves to be in a position for their consciences to rebuke them for being imperfect, for not trying hard enough, or for being guilty of some form of selfishness.

Average Threes, by contrast, are efficient pragmatists, not idealists. Threes are driven more by their goals than by standards–they care more about getting the job done than about the particulars of how it gets done. Ones tend to be attached to particular methods or procedures (“This is the best way to do this.”) Threes are more adaptable, and will change tactics quickly if they feel they are not getting the desired result. Average Threes are primarily interested in success, prestige, and advancing their careers, and the efficiency we see in them is a way of attaining those goals.

While both types tend to put their feelings aside for the sake of efficiency, average Threes are more able to mask whatever is bothering them. On the surface, they rarely appear emotionally disturbed for long by anything (although they may become momentarily discouraged or even depressed by setbacks), nor are they generally ever distracted by their feelings. They are able to invest most of their energy into achieving their goals and in staying focused on them single-mindedly. Ones are far less able to conceal their irritations and disappointments. Others are almost immediately aware of their agitation.

Both types can be cool and impersonal, although they are usually polite and well mannered. With average Ones, we get the impression of deeper feelings being held in check or sublimated elsewhere, say into organizing and maintaining their office space, or giving time to a local ecological organization. Even though Ones do not ordinarily allow their passions to be expressed, their emotions remain potentially available should the self-control Ones typically exercise be lifted. (Their most prevalent negative emotions are righteous anger, indignation, irritation, and guilt.) In average Threes, however, the impression of aloofness and of emotional coolness comes more from a detachment from their feelings rather than a suppression of them. At the same time, average Threes tend to present whatever emotion seems appropriate at the time. If seriousness is called for, they tend to project seriousness. If levity is required, they will “do levity,” smiling and being chatty, even if inside they are feeling frightened, overwhelmed, or even sad. For better or worse, Threes are more skilled at projecting charm and “personality” than Ones. However, we can discern the underlying detachment from deeper feelings when Threes are “performing” by the abruptness and ease with which they can adjust their affect from situation to situation and from person to person. (In contrast to Ones, their most prevalent negative emotions are hostility, arrogance, and underlying feelings of shame and humiliation.)

In addition, Ones are trying to be perfect to fend off their own superegos, while Threes are trying to excel to overcome feelings of family shame. In effect, Ones say, “Listen to me–I know the right way to do things,” whereas Threes say, “Be like me–I have got it together.” Ones offer themselves as examples of those who are striving for perfection, particularly moral perfection, they see themselves as those who can meet the highest standards; Threes offer themselves as exemplars of individual perfection, particularly personal desirability, and as those who can accomplish and be the best.

These two types are similar because both types are “thinking” types–the One corresponds to Jung’s extroverted thinking type (PT, 381), who attempts to be objective and impersonal, while the Three’s thinking is goal-oriented and pragmatic, similar in orientation to the extroverted thinking of the average One, although technically, there is no direct Jungian correlation. Both types have in mind some sort of goal that they want to achieve. The difference is that Ones attempt to discover which objective means will best lead to the desired ideal, whereas Threes are pragmatists who work backward to find the most efficient means to achieve their goal. The differences between these types can be seen by comparing Al Gore (a One) with Bill Clinton (a Three) or between Emma Thompson (a One) and Jane Pauley (a Three).