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Helping families make the most of personality differences.

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College Search Adventure
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TAGS: Decision Making, Guiding, Listening, College, Communication, parenting, Teenagers

The College Search Adventure

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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The college selection process can be a trying, anxiety making, argumentative experience, or a time for healthy introspection, self-learning and a step toward the passage to adulthood.

In my case, the college selection season was long. As a parent of four it lasted nearly eight years. The experience was a learning opportunity for me and my children as we moved to a new stage of family life.  Before it was complete, I was offering these students ideas on how to choose a college that fit their self-image in the moment and in the possible future.

My first lesson was discovering the number of ways a student could complete college. I went to a panel of post-high school students called "What Comes After High School." One student had gone into the service; another had a "gap year," volunteering while living at home; another went to a community technical college; one went the traditional route; and another was alternating a year at college with hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail.

That panel was helpful because it changed my parental expectations of the college experience, and encouraged a broad look of what that might be like. But the panel didn't get into the nuts and bolts of the actual process of the college search and associated decision making.


To me and my friends, the senior year college search seemed like a massive capstone project, with each student approaching it more or less the same way they took on projects from third grade on. When we talked it was often about the process itself, how it could be distracting and disruptive because it went on so long, how there were so many ways to do it and how ownership was murky. Plus, it seemed, beneath the paperwork and timelines, something was lost. The examination of and attention to what mattered to others outweighed what mattered to students. Other than the essay and a high school resume there was little to suggest a high school junior or senior would benefit from devoting some time to gaining self-knowledge.

By the time I had my stories about the college search experience to tell other parents, I was wondering how to make it an opportunity for students to learn about themselves and their decision-making habits. I offered services to family and friends ("Thank goodness," a friend said. "I don't have to watch or ask, and I still know things are getting done.")

With a hands-off but supportive attitude, I offered opportunities to look at issues not typically considered by juniors and seniors on the "find a college mission." With me they devoted time to learning about their personality and mindset, and how these factors influence their decision-making process.

They investigated the overlap of academic values and learning styles. They looked at their skills, their strengths and weaknesses, and what they liked and disliked. They used the Z decision making model and they went off to campus visits with purposeful questions. When it came time to wondering if a college "matched" there was more to consider than just GPA, test scores, and extracurricular activities.

Over the years, I learned that personality type is not the only factor to consider when selecting a college. In fact, I would caution against operating as if a certain personality will do better in college X than college Y. I believe the more we know about ourselves and our decision-making process, the better our decisions will be, and we should explore all avenues of self-knowledge.

When I heard about the most recent college admission scandals, I was a bit surprised but not shocked. Some elements of the process have become so over emphasized. The student's personal experience is losing its centrality.

The college quest is a unique time and opportunity for students and parents.  It is a threshold of newness in the family as someone steps into adulthood. There are ways for students and parents to honor this passage without letting it become more than what it is: an opportunity to dive into the world and find our place in it.




PeopleStripes.org article
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TAGS: Guiding, Boundaries, Choices, Communication, Mothering Styles, parenting, Problem Solving, Teenagers

Helicopters and Snowplows

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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A recent article referenced a new style of parenting called "Snowplow Parenting." 

We know that Helicopter parents hover near their children to be part of every moment of the child's life.  They are there "just in case" the child needs them.  Snowplow parents predict which obstacles will be in their child's way and remove them so the child is able to proceed successfully - at least that is the hope.  

Every parent adopts a style they believe is in the best interests of their child.  Parents everywhere want their children to be happy, successful, and confident.  As far as I can tell Snowplow parenting does everything to undermine confidence.  Handling their own problems reinforces confidence in the child's own abilities.  Instead of teaching the child how to manage their life needs, the snowplow style of parenting sends the message that the child is not capable and needs the parent to prepare the way for them.

When a child has no opportunity to manage their world, they become less competent to manage life on their own.  A strong ego expressed as confidence comes from surviving faults and solving problems. 

What constitutes a problem can be very different for the various personality types, and each type has a certain set of skills to learn in order to be successful in life.  Everyone is born with strengths and everyone is born with stretches.  These are not the same for all the personality types.  So, what works for one child in the family may not work equally well with another child in that family.

  • Sensing types enjoy gathering information. That part is easy. Their challenge is to pull the information together into patterns and innovative ideas.
  • Intuitive types enjoy generating innovative and unique projects or contributions.  Their stretch is completing all the parts. They need more assistance during the work or implementation phase rather than during the design phase.
  • Feeling types start life trusting with a naïve innocence that makes them vulnerable to be fooled by false relationships. Their stretch is to learn to discern and be alert to the disingenuous.
  • Thinking types enter life independent. Initiating on their own is a strength. Yet they want to be competent at everything and struggle with accepting and enduring the frustration of failure.

A Snowplow parent removes all the obstacles.  If that happens, the Thinking child will not learn to cope with incompetent moments, the Feeling child will not learn the signs that a person is not to be trusted, the Intuitive child will not learn to pace their energy to keep working when things become boring, and the Sensing child will not learn how to organize all that they know so they can use the knowledge in new and productive ways.  The child develops from doing the work.  Being directed on what to do is not the same as solving the problem and coping with the consequences.

Resilience is a characteristic most parents want to see in their children.  This skill builds over time and is more securely established when experiencing many little blocks of problem solving rather than when the first real challenge happens at age 20.  

So, parents, when you are tempted to solve a problem for your young child (e.g. work the system to be sure your child is "on the team" or "in the play") you may be working against your goal: a competent individual.  Celebrate their achievements but also celebrate their handling of the bumps along the way.  These may have a larger impact on the child's character development and resiliency than any of the successes.


Guide your child rather than direct your child.  Give options and examples but allow the child to make the decision.  Teach them how to cope with the consequences if their choice does not work as expected.  The developmental goal is to teach children HOW to decide by looking at the issue from multiple perspectives, using Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling rather than telling them WHAT to decide. (See the article on using the Z-model of decision-making.)

As the parent, when your child fails or has a problem (and they all will) you may need to decide what you will do to hold back and allow their learning process to occur.  

The hardest part of parenting is watching our child be in pain, but a very joyful part of parenting is watching them handle their pain and handle the problem.  We must give them the freedom to try.  Use the snowplows for snow.





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.



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