I have always likened my awakening to personality type to the moment I first got glasses. I didn’t even realize what I hadn’t been seeing previously. I didn’t understand how I was even functioning in the world without glasses. Should have gotten these years ago! It was a tectonic shift in my internal world.
This article attempts to show how the understanding of your own personality type can lead to major changes in your relationships with others.
When you have an uncommon personality type, most of your early life is spent trying to translate yourself to others. You don’t understand what’s not to understand. You like what you like and I like what I like, what’s all the fuss about? For an outlier, you are forced to conform in uncomfortable ways that lead to constant exhaustion and frustration.
The continual process of trying to explain yourself can be so tiresome that you simply give up entirely.
Especially within internal family systems, this leads to members feeling like the Black Sheep and withdrawing.
You are going to find this frustration overwhelmingly represented amongst introverts. “My parents don’t know what to do with me…I’m basically an alien…they don’t get that I’m not interested in what they are interested in.”
A recent client relayed to me her frustration with her mom.
“She wants me to go to the mall with her. I hate the mall. She’s the one that likes shopping, not ME. I tell her, ‘Mom, you know I hate shopping, I’m not going.’ And she responds, ‘Why do you have to be so grumpy, you should like going to the mall.”
What do you do with this? Change your personality on the spot? Some would say so, but this is not a serious solution.
We start with the assumption that we are generally understood. Most people think like we think or can be brought around to thinking our way. The way we see the world is universally understood.
This is why the benefit of understanding Personality Type is so crucial. It gives us shared language and definitions that we can plainly see and identify. Humans love to categorize and do it unconsciously. There’s no way to avoid this. What Typology does is explain the differences that lead to misunderstandings.
As Dr. John Beebe said in a YouTube interview we did together, the formulation of Typology stemmed from our need to make sense of all these “psychological bewilderments.”
These bewilderments have been addressed time and time again in many excellent book titles such as:
- I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just Not You (Roger Pearman)
- Please Understand Me (David Kiersey)
- Was That Really Me? (Naomi Quenk)
If you explain your personality type and those receiving it are even mildly open-minded to the information, you can make real progress, if only to have them become more sympathetic.
If there is still a “what is this buffoon talking about?” look in their eyes, then you move to the stage of Accommodation. Simply put, you use your knowledge of Type to cater to their operating style in order to reduce conflict. In this way, you have to do all the work, but at least you have the right tools. This is the real fork in the road with personality conflicts in relationships.
Do you say, “Well if they don’t want to try and change, then why should I?”
Or do you say, “Well if they don’t want to try and change, then I will use personality type despite their resistance?”
People won’t believe in personality. And that’s fine. But denial doesn’t erase the existence of a thing. It simply means they can’t use the power of Type like you can.
Where do we see misunderstanding
One example where that is a large misunderstanding comes from the N vs S dichotomy (iNtuition vs Sensation). These are two opposing ways of gathering information that cannot be reconciled. It helps when we think of N vs S as simply different opposite data points.
Intuition is seeking connection points, either for how something is going to be or how something could be. Themes, motifs, trends, and forecasts are what the N types are seeing when this function is activated. Jumping ahead or to conclusions can be the most fascinating or debilitating part of using Intuition.
In communication, this is often a frustrating exchange:
N: “Yeah, yeah, I know I forgot to walk the dog, I’ll do it right now.”
S: “No, that’s not even what I was going to say at all.”
Jumping ahead, assuming, predicting, and guessing can be easy conflict areas for intuitives.
Sensation is seeking concrete and tactile information. It sees both what is and what was, and attempts to immerse itself fully in the current environment.
Sensation tends towards seeing what is tangible and real, and filters out the rest.
Again, in conversation this can be frustrating:
N: “We need to revamp our product training for the team.”
S: “No need, it’s always worked fine for our purposes.”
N: “It could be so much more fun and engaging.”
S: “If it’s not broken, why try to fix it?”
N: “Because I just know it has much more potential.”
S: “People get nervous when you change things on them.”
This sounds like they heard each other, but we know they truly didn’t.
This very simplistic example can be replicated endlessly because we all have moments in our lives where it shows up. What is important to remember is that not knowing this part about personality type will always be a missing link in understanding.
Getting off the Ride
At a certain point, the merry-go-round is no longer fun and it’s time to get off. You’ve explained your personality, the differences in your likes/dislikes, and yet the conversations all stay the same. “Yeah, I know you told me but…”
If accommodation works, then that seems to be the best method of keeping things amicable and digestible for the outlier. Though the impetus is on you, you now wield the correct tools to make the relationship better.
If accommodation does not work, then really it’s like getting out of an abusive relationship — you have to leave. Physical removal of yourself from the situation (either by moving out of the house, in the case of family, or by moving out of the state, in the case of friends) is the healthiest way to maintain your own identity and still have a relationship with the person (if so desired). I have seen countless examples of one party physically moving away that led to a marked improvement in the relationship.
When you aren’t willing to utilize all the tools available to know yourself and others, you will have more strained relationships than fruitful ones. It is more than a fun test you take on Buzzfeed, it’s a moral obligation to yourself and to others.
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