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Helping families make the most of personality differences.

Preparing for the 21st Century
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TAGS: Careers, Communication, Self-Management, Teenagers

Preparing for the 21st Century

Elizabeth Murphy, EdD
ELIZABETH MURPHY, EdD, 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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When families are first introduced to type the excitement is mainly about knowing the child's preferences and how to use that knowledge to make family life better and the child more successful in life.  It is all about the child recognizing the specialty of their personality type and helping them develop that to its fullest potential.

In his new book, Range (published May 2019), author David Epstein asserts it will be the generalist who is better prepared for the world than the specialist.  The book description states it is "the ground-breaking and exhilarating exploration into how to succeed in the 21st Century."  How do we reconcile wanting our children to become the best they can be at their type (specialist) with the call for a generalist approach?  There is a way.

In his book Epstein discusses well-rounded success and posits that having diverse experiences is best for success.  You do more than just expose your children to options.  You discuss these and reflect on that experience.  He terms it self-regulatory learning.  You "expose broadly and reflect on that experience."  It sounds like a good rule to follow but how do I follow that and still respect my child's individuality?  Here is one option.

Knowing about type differences and validating the worth of those differences can be done through our daily language with children by verbalizing opposite choices.  "Some children like to get their work done first and then play.  Others like to play while they work.  Both are fine.  One way may work better for you.  The other works better for someone else.  The key is to know which is your best way and to get the job done.  Everyone has to get the job done." (An example of the Judging-Perceiving difference.)

Another example might be to say, "Some children like to lead by being the person on the stage or in front and others like to lead by being the ideas behind the scene that set the stage for the work to follow.  Both are valuable.  Find your way but know the other way may be better for someone else." (An Extraversion-Introversion difference.)

"Some work better with clear and precise directions while others work better with more open-ended kinds of tasks" (a Sensing-Intuition difference).  

"Some give direct and maybe critical feedback they believe will help the project succeed better while others solicit the input of others and focus on a collaborative approach to project generation" (a Thinking-Feeling difference).  

Adding the vocabulary of difference to your language with your children engenders a greater awareness of options that Epstein suggests will be necessary for success in the next century.

When do I go for diversity of experiences and when do I focus on my child's individual type?  My suggestion is this:  When life is calm encourage your children to try activities outside of their natural preferences "just for the experience."  After trying something once they can evaluate whether they want to repeat the experience of not.  When a child is stressed or tense because of events in his/her life use what you know about type to respond in the way that works best for that type.

An introverted child may not want to "talk" when they are upset but really appreciate a hug and your company.  An extraverted child might say many things they wish they could take back when upset, but just listen without judgment.  Focus only on the problem that is current.  Help them experience the breadth of options that Epstein proposes when they have their energy free for exploration but when their energy is limited because it is being drained by a life issue, deliver assistance in a way that matches their type.  That is not a time for stretching to new ways.

Epstein also suggested that the individual "reflect on their experiences."  Instead of just admiring what a child does, a type approach would suggest talking with them about what makes a project fun and what is required to complete the project - the work!   An excellent model for this technique is the Z-approach to decision making, where we look at the experience from a Sensing, Intuitive, Thinking and Feeling perspective.

Type does not operate in a vacuum.  The concepts can blend with other ideas offered for helping children be prepared for a future with challenges that will be unique for their generation.  It is the blend of type awareness (and use) with the other good ideas that will really prepare our children to succeed in the 21st century.



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