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Helping families make the most of personality differences.

The View From Here
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TAGS: Decision Making, Listening, Relationships, Siblings, Choices, Communication, Self-awareness, Teenagers

The View from Here

Emma Brandt
EMMA BRANDT is a senior in high school. She plans to attend a university, majoring in Psychology and Spanish. Emma began learning about personality type early in her high school career, and she engages daily in extensive conversations with her mom about people's personality types.
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My younger sister, Melanie, is almost the complete opposite of me. She can be very stubborn and often says things that seem harsh to others. For example, she tells me immediately if she doesn't like something I am wearing or doesn't agree with something I said:

"That's a really bad color on you."
"No, Louisville is NOT the capital of Kentucky; it's Frankfort. How could you not know that!?"
"Don't put your arm around me, people are watching
."
In other words, Melanie is painfully blunt and makes little to no effort to deliver her perspective nicely. Although we have always been close, her communication style used to make it difficult for me to connect with her. I never doubted her loyalty to me, but I would sometimes wonder if she actually liked me.

This all changed three years ago when my family moved from Illinois to Maryland. Shortly after we moved, my mom went through Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) certification training to grow her business. The MBTI assessment is based on a personality theory that defines 16 different patterns people show in the way they interact with the world, process information, and make decisions. These patterns are based on four personality preference pairs: Extraversion vs. Introversion, Sensing vs. Intuition, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving.

My mom loves to process information out loud, so she constantly wanted to talk about what she was learning. I was typically the one in our family most interested in what she was explaining, so I asked questions to make sure I understood. She eventually taught me about personality type dynamics and how we all have a dominant personality type preference that is either extraverted or introverted.

Since we both processed the information differently, we were actually able to understand and apply these theories at a much deeper level by learning from each other. I realized how true it is that teaching someone else is the best way to learn.

Finding words to describe everything I already intuitively knew about myself felt incredibly freeing. I discovered that my preferences are ISFP: Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving. My dominant preference is called "Introverted Feeling," which simply means I tend to have a strong sense of who I am and how I feel.

I tend to be detail-oriented and thoughtful. Becoming more aware of these strengths as well as my blind spots has made me a better person. I am less judgmental. In the past I would get frustrated with myself for over-analyzing decisions or being sensitive and not being more outgoing. Now I appreciate these parts of myself and see how they are beneficial. I also see how other people's personalities and perspectives add value to the world, and I am not as easily offended or annoyed.

My new perspective has profoundly improved my relationship with my sister and helped me see her comments the way she sees them, as simply logical rather than mean. A person with her personality type preferences, ESTJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging), sees the world objectively and tends to be less aware of how others may perceive their comments.

Understanding personality types has also deepened my relationships with others: my parents, my friends, my peers, and even people I don't know. I now view the world from a different perspective, and I am thankful to say, the view is richer and far more beautiful from here.



Anything you can do...
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TAGS: Listening, Relationships, Communication, Differences, Mothering Styles, Self-Management, Teenagers

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

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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Sharing a story about something in your life that you are really excited about sharing and having someone counter you with a better version of their own story can be incredibly annoying, and for some people even downright rude.

Many people see the world through their own trusted experience, and they connect with others through this personal experience. A friend of mine and her mother-in-law seem to be in constant conflict with one another. When my friend Sally talks about her day or an event that occurred with her mother-in-law, inevitably her mother-in-law has a similar story with a better twist or ending to share.

In this case, it seems that her mother-in-law is just trying to connect, to share how she understands Sally's experience because she has had one, too. Unfortunately, the continued one-upmanship causes Sally to shut down and avoid any conversation at all.



Where do they go from here? Communication is basically at a standstill. Understanding that we all take in information differently and connect with others in ways that feel comfortable to us might be a starting point for appreciating differences. In this case, I expressed to Sally, her mother-in-law might find this to be her way of relating to Sally, and it may not be intended as a personal insult at all.

It's tricky, especially in the situation of in-laws. Ideally, I'd suggest talking it out, but it is hard to know how she might take it. With my own daughter, who tends to relate through shared experiences as well, I find at times that I need to stop her and ask her to just let me finish my story before sharing hers.

I don't belittle her and I do let her know that I'm interested in her story, but would like to be able to finish sharing my experience first. Understanding that this is how she connects helps me to distance myself from the feeling that she is trying to be better than me, as I know this is not her intent.

Of course, there are people in this world who are trying to show off their "superiority," but that's for another story, and another forum. 



Introversion-Extraversion
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TAGS: Guiding, Listening, Relationships, Communication, Differences, Parenting, Self-Management, Teenagers

Two Worlds: Extraversion and Introversion

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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My mother didn't know about Carl Jung, Myers and Briggs, the MBTI® assessment, or personality type, but she sure knew about people differences and extraversion and introversion. She seemed aware that sometimes I lived by what went on in the outer world of people and what I heard from others, while at other times I lived by the inner world of impressions and thoughts.

She had a message: sometimes answers and ideas are found with help from the outer world and sometimes they are found within. I got this message through her words.

When I pleaded: "But Mom, everybody is..." She replied, "If everybody jumped off a bridge would you jump off a bridge?" At other times, she'd say "Have you found out what YOU think?"

Thoughts on this came to me at the gym last week where, near the entrance lounge, where a small group of tweens clustered around one girl who held a cell phone. Hushed voices spoke:

"Do you want them to know?"
"You should say..."
"Yeah, but first say..."

With so many external voices flying around, I wondered if her inner voice was audible or was being drowned out. It would have been ideal if she really knew whether she even wanted to send a text, or what she wanted to say, when and in what words. Would she take time to reflect before she responded? Did she know she could stop and think on it before hitting send?

I find it troubling that the words "extraversion"and "introversion" (and active access to both) are often misapplied or misunderstood as mutually exclusive descriptions of sociability. When applied to people as a static label they seem much less helpful than my mother's approach.

When interacting with children (and adults) I try to keep both the extraversion and introversion preferences alive as common aspects we all share. Jung cautioned about one sidedness. He believed there are no pure and simple introverts and extraverts. It's more complicated than that. In my mind, it's more helpful to support the differentiation and use of both than it is to categorize social behavior. For example, when our hurried family lives are lived "on the fly," those brief (and precious) discussions with kids could be enriched by carving out some time for reflection.

I try to rely on the "communication cycle" which includes both reflection and expression. Some of us tend to move from reflection to expression while others tend to express first and then reflect on what's been said. Very often, after thoughts are verbalized and discussed, additional outlooks appear from reflection or chatting with others. It's helpful to have a follow-up discussion to add, modify, or clarify. Reviewing and summarizing decisions with your children can help ensure everyone truly understands the issue.

What are other ways to honor both extraversion and introversion? Rather than saying, "Pay attention." I could ask: "Are you paying attention to what's inside your head or outside your head?"

"What does that person say?" becomes a two-part question. "What do your friends say and what do you say to yourself?" Or "How often are you talking to and listening to others about the issue and how often are you talking and listening to yourself about the issue?" These sorts of prompts promote the awareness and use of turning both inward and outward.

The way I explain it may not be the way my mother would have, and the words may not be the same, but hopefully I'm passing on the intent of the message she gave me. You are under the influence of two worlds. I hope you become familiar with how and when they influence you. I hope you have experiences which allow you to know when to use each as the most relevant and helpful resource for information, inspiration, and energy.


Problem-solving
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TAGS: Decision Making, Guiding, Listening, Relationships, Choices, Communication, Encouragement, Problem Solving, Teenagers, Timeout

Toss That Time-Out Chair: Use the Z-Model

Elizabeth Murphy, Ed.D.
ELIZABETH MURPHY, Ed.D., is a psychologist and type expert whose research focuses on verifying the development of normal personality differences according to the theory of psychological type. She works extensively with families and teams of people to improve communication and resolve relationship needs.
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While you are clearing away decorations from the holiday and putting things back in place consider tossing that Time-Out Chair. Replace it with a Problem-Solving Chair.

Time-out is a staple in the set of parenting tools for managing a child's inappropriate behaviors. Children are emotionally upset and go to time-out. Children are aggressive and go to time-out. Children are destructive and are sent to time-out. When their time is "up" the parent asks if they are sorry or if they are ready to behave. Most children say, "yes." Many may not know what they are going to do differently but they are sorry they got into trouble. Time-out was a good alternative to spanking children but we can do even better.

Changing the chair to a Problem-Solving chair still removes the child from the moment and allows them time to regain control. The Problem-Solving chair requires the child to solve the problem and have an action or coping plan if the problem occurs again. The parent needs to take 3-5 minutes to talk with the child so the parent is more involved in the process than they are with the time-out method.

To successfully complete the problem-solving process the child would use the Z-model by looking at the problem from the perspective of the Sensing, Intuitive, Thinking, and Feeling approach.

1. Sensing: Ask "What happened? What was happening before that?"
2. Name the problem.
3. Talk about ways to solve the problem.
a. How have you solved that problem in the past? What have others done? (Sensing)
b. What else could you try? (Intuition)
c. Are you able to do your idea? Do you have the skills, the time, the tools? (Thinking)
d. How will others react when you solve your problem the new way? Is it important for you to learn a new way to solve the problem? (Feeling)

For example, imagine the child got frustrated because he could not get his truck to work. The wheels kept getting stuck and would not roll so he threw the truck against the wall. He is sent to the problem-solving space.


Tell him when he is ready to talk about solving the problem you will be ready to talk with him. If you are in the middle of doing something when he says he is ready, tell him you will be ready, too, as soon as you finish stirring the sauce, for example.

Then sit with him in the same space. Be at eye-level if possible. Ask question #1: What happened? What was happening before that?

Ask the child question #2: name the problem. If he is unable to say what the problem was, give him two choices and let him select. For example, you might say, "Is the problem that the truck's wheels were not working or is the problem that you do not like playing with trucks?"

When the child selects that the truck's wheels were not working say, "Let's decide how to solve that problem if it should happen again."

Sensing: Is the truck broken?  Can it be fixed?  Can you learn to fix it?  Will you need help to fix it?

Intuition: If the truck wheels cannot be fixed can you think of other ways to use the truck?  Can you think of other games to play? 

Thinking: Is this a special toy?  Is this an expensive toy?  What is the best way to get toys repaired?

Feeling: Is this toy important to you?  Is the wall important to the family?  How will people react to you if you ask for help or decide to fix the truck or to play with something else?

If the wheels on the truck do not work next time what will you do? 

Now you have a plan that will show you how to make good choices.

Invest the time to not only remove the child from the stressful situation but to use the moment to teach them problem-solving skills that will serve them for their lifetime.  This strategy also causes development as the child uses their personality preferences.


Family Meeting
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TAGS: Relationships, Siblings, Communication, Compromise, Differences, Problem Solving, Teenagers

Family Meetings – Creating a Safe Environment Where Everyone has a Voice

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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The other week, I could see tensions rising among the members of my family. There are many of us, 7 to be exact, and when dynamics are out of sorts, it can be felt in a huge way!

Family meetings are one way we try to work through frustrations and misunderstandings. Sadly, busy schedules, and everyone going in different directions, which is becoming more commonplace the older the kids get, have made it nearly impossible to find the time to talk.

We all know the importance in getting together and how it helps to keep us in balance. Having reached the critical level, a mandatory family meeting was set. We typically go around in a circle taking turns sharing our concerns, however this time, emotions were heated and those who are more vocal took center stage.

With my own emotions activated, I found it hard to keep order and structure, and more importantly, a safe and respectful environment, which is typically my role in the process. It is natural for me to pick up on the feelings of others and vital for my own sense of harmony to make sure each person is heard and respected. Keeping the peace became more challenging as this meeting took on a life of its own.


I knew deep down that there was more going on here than just a dinner squabble, and if we were ever going to get to the real issue, we needed to go deeper. Deep breath everyone! Not everyone can share their thoughts and feelings in a quick manner because some people need time to process before discussing their concerns. In a heated situation, those who are quick to react tend to get the floor, which isn't always good, as they may blurt out comments that don't necessarily reflect their true thoughts and feelings, or may represent them now but not later.

As the conversation turned to deeper hurts and a reveal of miscommunication and misunderstandings, tensions calmed. At least that is how it appeared on the outside, but what was really happening was that the vocal kids were feeling better having had the chance to express their issues, whereas two of the quieter family members who felt unheard had already left. The one who remained couldn't contain herself any longer, and firmly yet passionately, stated that no one ever listens to her, that she never has the chance to state what is on her mind or if she tries is often cut off.

Wow... this is our child who is accommodating, seeks harmony, and typically the peace keeper of the family, and sadly, due to this is she often overlooked because she won't speak out for fear of hurting someone. We listened now with our full attention and were enlightened by her wisdom and honesty.

In past groups that I have either led or participated in we often used a "talking stick" that would be passed around the circle. Speaking only when you have the stick in hand is the premise of this process.

Two major realizations came to me upon reflection of this particular family meeting, first, we need to meet more often before tensions reach maximum, and second, in order to meet the needs of all family members, we need to appreciate the differences in how we take in and process information. In other words, allow time for those who need to "reflect before they speak," and allow those who "speak before they reflect" to process as they speak.

Yes, it does seem that a family talking stick might just be the tool needed to help everyone feel listened to, and hopefully heard, throughout the process. I'm happy to say, we got to the real issue, shed tears, hugged it out, and now feel peace and balance in the house.

That is, until the next time!




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