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Helping families make the most of personality differences.

The Z Problem Solving Model
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TAGS: Choices, Communication, Decision Making, Problem Solving

Family Holidays in the Time of COVID: Will We Celebrate Together?

Mollie Allen, M.Ed.
MOLLIE ALLEN, M.ED., is a certified coach, teacher and consultant working with groups and individuals. With undergraduate degrees in Child Development and Special Education and a M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision she worked in schools and in private practice with students of all ages and levels for 25 years.
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Knowing about the MBTI® or MMTIC® assessments and personality type is helpful in many aspects of life, but it hasn't made me a Superwoman. There's no cape or capital S to help when there's a problem. There is a Z though: the Zig Zag, or Z problem-solving model. Talk about handy! Because right now holidays are coming, COVID is hovering, and like everyone else my family wants to know: can we have holidays together this year? 

I'm not giving information that replaces CDC and state agencies publications. But I hope to show how using the Zig Zag process, which describes how we can move from the perception stages of Sensing and Intuition, to the decision stages of Thinking and Feeling. This process can guide our ability to make good decisions. 

My family has had two online discussions about getting together with about a week in between. Incorporating "wait time" brought up more questions and topics. Though we've covered what we know about new ways of doing things and we established some decision points, we remain in the perception stage. New considerations are coming in and we are looking at alternatives for the day but no final decision has been made. 

Here's a sampling of what we discussed. When the decision-making process follows these steps the group considers all aspects before coming to a conclusion. I'm sure many of these topics are familiar to you!

SENSING: What do we know?  What do we need to know?

  • Remember safety protocols
  • Research and verify details of mask safety, hand sanitizers, tests, and air purifiers
  • Observe comfort level of sharing space with other COVID pods
  • List menu and meal-time options.

Information: accurate, detailed, practical

Mindset: Identify and face facts; avoid sentimentality

Stay on track: Avoid talking about past mistakes if nothing's been learned; avoid overwhelming the group with endless details.

INTUITION: What else should we consider? What don't we know?

  • Brainstorm safe activities if gathering
  • Explore new ways to celebrate if staying home 

Information: hypothetical, imaginative, possible

Mindset: Look for things not done before; assume there are other, perhaps better ways to do things.

Stay on track: Avoid wandering into larger discussions. Stay grounded in facts; avoid getting hooked by doomsday.

THINKING: Is this reasonable? Use rational, logical criteria to decide.

  • Select masks, hand sanitizers, tests, and air purifiers based on objective data
  • Use data to plan time between testing, getting results, and meeting
  • Choose location based on recommended six-foot distancing, number of people, and room dimensions
  • Organize seating allowing for at least six-foot separation between pods

Information: Evaluations and conclusions based on objective information.

Mindset: Determine a path forward based on objective cause and effect; include pleasant and unpleasant outcomes. 

Stay on track: Acknowledge that personal concerns are valid; include them in problem solving. Do not dismiss or appear to dismiss them. Encourage full participation by avoiding personal criticism, sarcasm, and negative humor.

FEELING: How will this impact others?

  • Weigh safety and inconvenience vs. being together
  • Decide attendance based on comfort with agreed upon health protocols and with merging COVID pods
  • Select preferred meal option
  • Choose favorite dessert 

Information: Evaluations and conclusions based on convictions and concerns. 

Mindset: Determine a path forward based on personal cause and effect. Weigh what each person cares about. Emphasize long-term rather than short-term outcomes. 

Stay on track: Accept unappealing facts. Accept that it may not be possible to make a decision that accommodates everyone and that we may not meet at all. 

So far, we are relying on what we know. I'm hoping everyone will get the appropriate tests and use the proper guidelines. We agreed on protocols and have ideas for possible meal preferences and activities. We've discussed BYO meals in the garage and roasting marshmallows outside over a fire. 

One activity has us in cars, organized by households completing a town-wide scavenger hunt. Our town offers great trivia like: what's the name of the horse who is buried in the town cemetery? (Yes, really!) How fun is that!? Our back-up plans include Zoom meals and online games and tournaments. This year, like everybody else, we hope to be together, even if we're together while actually being apart.



What's next after high school?
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TAGS: Careers, Choices, College, Decision Making, Teenagers

Personality Type and What’s Next After High School?

Mollie Allen, M.Ed.
MOLLIE ALLEN, M.ED., is a certified coach, teacher and consultant working with groups and individuals. With undergraduate degrees in Child Development and Special Education and a M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision she worked in schools and in private practice with students of all ages and levels for 25 years.
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It's that time of year, and in spite of the pandemic, planning for next year is under way. After sitting with counselors, mentors, and parents, exploring all sorts of colleges, universities, gap-year options or entering the military service, some high school seniors are beginning to make decisions. Some are looking at careers and occupations, others have toured institutions on-line and (maybe) in person. They have accumulated a lot of personal information. They've invested in a good deal of self-searching about the future. 

That search for clarity brings up the idea of preferences and personality type. How can we use results from the MBTI or MMTIC type assessments to help shape the post-high school study and career search? 

Not long after my own four children completed various work and college paths, I began working with high school students as they embarked on the post-high school quest. One reason I took the work is that many of my adult clients remarked that if they had experienced an MBTI feedback session earlier, their lives may have been different. Another reason: some parents experience the on-going, months-long effort as very challenging. Some are ready to have the process roll along while they contribute from the sidelines when appropriate. 

I've learned over the years that although there's not a clear dotted line leading from a particular type to a particular course of study, college, or career, students discovering their type with a mentor can gain valuable insight about their choices. At a minimum, as part of a complete profile, MBTI or MMTIC results can begin to reveal subtle differences between students who, on the page, look pretty similar. 

Here's a recap of two students who had similar grades, GPAs and progress through high school. Along the way, both enjoyed math and were competent at it all the way through calculus. Both were members of the drama club for a number of years, one as stage manager the other in lighting. In extracurricular clubs and sports, they were chosen as leaders by their peers. By the time senior year arrived both were looking at electrical engineering. 

One claimed INFP preferences, the other ISTJ. Knowing about personality type was helpful during discussing and selecting a final college. We dug into what kept them engaged in electives and extracurricular activities. The ISTJ student imagined continuing tech projects while the INFJ was curious about pottery, drumming and off-campus offerings such as art and theater. For the latter in particular, it made sense to at look at what universities, campus-sharing colleges, and metropolitan settings might provide.

However, there's a richer and much more beneficial use of the MBTI or MMTIC experience in the post-high school search. It goes "beyond the code." Beginning before the fall of senior year, we can blend the feedback session with the problem-solving model and offer a repeatable process for future decisions and career searches. This process provides structure for meaningful conversations as the progression goes back and forth between seeking and deciding.

The perception phase of a feedback session opens a discussion about learning habits vs. cognitive habits. It widens the search to additional career fields and work environments. It invites questions about hopes and dreams. It helps hold off hasty decisions. The judgement phase provides space to examine academic and life values and for-profit and non-profit worlds. It allows for discussion about the "why's" behind extracurricular likes or dislikes. The structure offers opportunities to explore inner and outer influences. Type processes becomes active, and they don't stand alone.

So yes, knowing about personality type can be helpful as part of the post-high school search — as long as it's not used stringently or in a limiting way such as "matching" a certain type to a particular institution, or field of study, or occupation. In my mind, high school students (and perhaps all of us) get the most from learning about personality preferences if we remember to "hold type lightly." Personality type is only one part of any endeavor — it's not the only thing.



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TAGS: Communication, Self-Management, Stress

Coping with COVID-19

Yvonne Nelson-Reid, B.Ed., M.A.
YVONNE NELSON-REID, B.Ed., M.A., is a mother of 5, writer, teacher, depth psychologist, and career coach. As a certified MBTI and MMTIC professional, she uses typology as a tool for helping others understand differences and communicate more effectively.
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Coronavirus COVID-19, the pandemic that continues to wreak havoc upon the world, has thrown each of us into a new way of being. Isolation and social distancing, our new normal, catapults each of us into a surreal reality. Who would have thought that toilet paper would be a hot commodity?! Stressful times indeed! From empty grocery shelves, to lost income and jobs, families isolated at home, and sheer panic at the sound of a cough or sneeze, we are living lives that we have only read about in the history books.

Our lives are rapidly changing. Education has turned to online learning. For those fortunate people who still have jobs, many are now working from home. Curbside or home delivery are encouraged by restaurants and stores. Essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies strive to enforce social distancing and keep shelves stocked. Healthcare workers are putting their lives on the line day in and day out (thank you for your dedication and sacrifice). Fear for our health (getting sick or losing loved ones to this pandemic), emotional, and economic well-being, takes stress to a whole new level.

With many families living, learning, and working, under one roof, as you can imagine, tension and anxiety are at a pinnacle. Using personality type language, we call a reaction to extreme stress, being "in the grip." In the grip refers to those moments where we act, feel, and think out of character for ourselves. During these times people often see us as irrational or out-of-control. Extreme stress can trigger a grip experience.

In this Covid-19 experience, families are stressed, isolated, and forced into new ways of conducting business and education. Mandated to stay home, a variety of personality types in tight quarters and under stress may be like a powder keg ready to explode! All personality types are deeply affected by stress. During times of extreme stress, we are often the worst versions of ourselves. We tend to act childish and out of character.


People who take in information through Sensing in the outer world (ESTP/ESFP) like to experience life using their senses in the here and now. When under extreme stress, they catastrophize the future by becoming confused and seemingly out of touch with reality.  Sensing used in the inner world (ISTJ/ISFJ) emphasizes reflection and remembering experiences, especially remembering details. Under extreme stress, they too catastrophize. This leads to the inability to manage facts which leads to confusion and fear of the future, imagining all kinds of negative outcomes.

People who take in information through Intuition in the outer world (ENTP/ENFP) enjoy new ideas and possibilities and are enthusiastic about them. Under extreme stress, they may obsess over unimportant details and become withdrawn and depressed. Intuition used in the inner world (INTJ/INFJ) also focuses on possibilities, however these are often long-term possibilities and are often complex and visionary. When under extreme stress, they may obsess over details in their outer world and attempt to control these, along with over-indulgence in sensual pleasures such as over-eating.

People who make decisions using Thinking in the outer world (ESTJ/ENTJ), value competence and control through organizing their environment. Under extreme stress, they become over emotional but pride themselves on control, and they do everything they can to keep it hidden. Thinking used in the inner world (ISTP/INTP) focuses on analyzing pros and cons. Under extreme stress, they also become emotional, but on the outside. We see them drowning in emotion, often using excessive logic.

People who make decisions using Feeling in the outer world (ESFJ/ENFJ) enjoy helping people and creating harmony. When under extreme stress, they may turn inward, becoming overly critical towards themselves and rigid with "all or nothing" thinking. Those with a Feeling preference used in the inner world (ISFP/INFP) makes decisions based on their personal values. Under extreme stress, these sensitive types become outwardly aggressive and critical.

Research shows that all types benefit from exercise and getting out in nature to help bring them back into balance. More information on how to cope with grip experiences can be found in Naomi Quenk's (2000) book, In the Grip: Understanding Type, Stress, and the Inferior Function.

The bottom line for us is to recognize that we all may be acting out of character during these difficult times, so be patient. How do you react when someone says, "get over it" or "get a grip?" I suspect not very well. If we could, we would! For introverted types, having alone time to reflect often helps, and for extraverted types, it is often beneficial to talk with a trusted friend or loved one. If you find yourself unable to move beyond the grip, do seek professional help. We are all in this together, and you are not alone.  



Learning at Home
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TAGS: Communication, Differences, Encouragement, Homework, Learning, Relationships, Self-awareness, Teenagers

Pandemic - Online Learning Gone Viral

Yvonne Nelson-Reid, B.Ed., M.A.
YVONNE NELSON-REID, B.Ed., M.A., is a mother of 5, writer, teacher, depth psychologist, and career coach. As a certified MBTI and MMTIC professional, she uses typology as a tool for helping others understand differences and communicate more effectively.
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When I first heard that our spring break was being extended due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, I suspected school would likely be out longer. With the potential of online learning for the upcoming weeks, possibly the remainder of the school year, and as an educator and parent with a personality preference for Judging (scheduled, structured, and planned), I sprang to action.

My initial plan was to have my two school-aged high school kids join me at the kitchen table from 10-12 pm and 2-4 pm, Monday through Friday. This would be structured online learning time and I would be available to assist as needed, since, I too, would be working from home. As much as I loved my plan, it did not even last through the first morning. What works for one child may not work for another. My daughter loved the plan, my son did not.

Online learning is not for everyone. How do we help our children who struggle under this type of learning platform? Children who prefer Extraversion learn best through interaction with others. They like to work ideas out by talking them through and they thrive in environments which are social. When under extreme stress, they often turn inward with a risk of becoming depressed. It is vital during this time of isolation to provide opportunities for connecting and socializing.

For example, I have a daughter who prefers Extraversion who struggled those first few days with her online courses. She likes the classroom environment and interaction between the teacher, students, and friends, of course. To help her, I suggested online video lessons so that she can see and hear the lesson, rather than only read about it.

Another helpful solution, I have found, is letting her explain the lesson to me. Even if I do not understand the material (she is taking five AP classes!), just giving her the opportunity to talk it out makes a difference. Being in the same room with her is also beneficial. Knowing someone is nearby supports her need for connection.

I also encourage her to do schoolwork in segments. In other words, study for an hour or two, then take a break and call or Facetime a friend, study some more, then watch a favorite show, or go for a walk with a family member. If she can break up her day between homework and social time, or doing something she enjoys, she is a happier kid. A group of her friends even logged into Zoom and watched a movie together the other night. This interaction is necessary for her well-being. Check in with your children who prefer Extraversion often, social isolation can lead to anxiety and depression.

On the other hand, my son, who prefers Introversion, thrives in a virtual environment. For him, the ability to focus with no interruptions enables him to complete classwork efficiently. He learns best through reading and writing, especially when given time to reflect. Interacting with me and his sister at the kitchen table everyday felt more like torture to him. Lasting barely 20 minutes, he kindly requested to work alone in his room.

For children who prefer Introversion, having space away from other family members and a quiet environment is conducive to better learning. Rather than work in segments, my son prefers to get everything done at once. My recommendation for multiple breaks just annoyed him.

Under extreme stress, children who prefer Introversion can often lash out and become overly emotional or critical. Even though social distancing falls into their comfort zone, having family members in their space all the time can lead to frustration and potential outbursts. Provide private space, but balance is important, too. With the fear and worry around this pandemic, it is crucial to check in with introverted types, as over-isolation can lead to over-reflection, and potential anxiety and depression.

This is a trying time for us all. Our children have been thrown into a new way of learning. They are isolated from their friends and all their special events, sporting games, graduations, and proms are cancelled, not to mention the uncertainty of our health and economic well-being.

These are uncharted waters for most of us so understanding and supporting our differences is invaluable. Many parents are now working from home, and honoring your preference for private time (Introversion) or connection (Extraversion) within your work environment is essential to your well-being, too. Respect each other's various styles of learning and working at home. Take care of each other and stay healthy!



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TAGS: Communication, Decision Making, Differences, Problem Solving

Calling All Members to a Family Meeting!

Mollie Allen, M.Ed.
MOLLIE ALLEN, M.ED., is a certified coach, teacher and consultant working with groups and individuals. With undergraduate degrees in Child Development and Special Education and a M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision she worked in schools and in private practice with students of all ages and levels for 25 years.
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Recently, there's been a family dealing with change in the news - perhaps you heard -  Prince Harry and Meghan want a different sort of life. They had meetings with the Queen and others because everyone will be affected.

Like other family changes, such as a student returning home after leaving college, or a family having to move to a new community, it's not an emergency sort of situation, and there may be no need for a rapid response. It's critical in a different way; there are many things to discuss, many people will be involved, everyone will have to adjust, and the resolution won't happen overnight. Everyone needs to be heard, so a family meeting is the way to go.

Family meetings are not new and it's easy to find tips and how-to's. You'll find agendas, tips for selecting a leader, using "I messages," and suggestions on how to brainstorm. Often members are reminded to take turns while speaking. A missing component though, is how to approach the problem while keeping everyone involved and "on the same page."

If I had the opportunity to sneak something helpful into that meeting at the palace it would be the extended version of the Z model. This adds Extraversion - Introversion and Judging - Perceiving to the four cognitive functions of Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling.

To start, the royal (or not so royal) parents would spend alone time (introversion) identifying their individual observations, reactions, concerns, and suggestions. They would aim to come up with a shared broad statement alluding to the function-based discussions to come. It could go something like this:

"We have a family situation we haven't dealt with before. As we readjust, we hope we can work together to get the necessary facts as we know them (Sensing), exchange our hopes and wishes for the future (Intuition), analyze the causes and outcomes of how we got here (Thinking) and be open about what we're each concerned about most and why (Feeling)."

Next, they would meet for a kickoff session (maybe with popcorn or hot chocolate) to share their statement aloud (extraversion). Then, while everyone listens, each person would express their concerns and suggestions - not to discuss, decide or criticize - just tell. Next, even more tightly focused meetings would be arranged along with "between meeting alone time" (introversion) as part of the process.

We assume that complicated situations will take more sessions and more time to work through. Each discussion is followed by a pause (a couple of hours to a day). This allows each person to process their ideas and questions.  Judging and Perceiving also play a part. Initial decisions are labeled as "under consideration" until everyone has additional introversion time.

Once decisions are made, there's a reminder: if new information comes up, the decision is reviewed again. With these mindsets, there will be a lot of processing time and a lot of meetings! And patience will be called on - a lot!

Ideally, the Z model is used as a framework to guide the discussion and reflection sessions.
  • Sensing identifies the problem with a realistic, unsentimental eye and remembers known solutions.
  • Intuition flattens assumptions and encourages new solutions and new ways of seeing the problem.
  • Thinking fully analyzes the nonpersonal cause and effect and consequences without avoiding unpleasant, difficult topics.
  • Feeling is where you get in touch what really matters to you in the long term and what the outcomes may be for everyone involved.

It's not necessary to go in order though it is helpful to stay with one cognitive function at a time.

The whole process may seem lengthy or awkward at first and does take time to practice. But it can really pay off when crowns are askew, when a slipper is lost, when a festival gets out of control, or the family coach is off in a ditch. There's no way to assure the Z model will bring peace to the kingdom but my experience says there will be more quiet satisfaction in at least a few castles.



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