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Helping families make the most of personality differences.

14 Results tagged "Problem-Solving"

Still Coping with Covid
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TAGS: Communication, Crisis, Parenting, Problem Solving, Resilience, Siblings

Still Coping with Covid-19

Yvonne Nelson-Reid, BEd, MA, MA, PhD
YVONNE NELSON-REID, BEd, MA, MA, PhD, is a mother of 5, writer, teacher, depth psychologist, and career coach. Teaching in a classroom, in her home, or on the ice as a figure skating coach has taught her a great deal about relationships and the importance of communication. As a certified MBTI and MMTIC professional, she uses typology as a tool for helping others understand differences and communicate more effectively. As a career coach she assists others in discovering careers that suit their personality.
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Back in April 2020 (which feels like a lifetime ago) I wrote about type and stress during a pandemic. Who would have thought that we would still be in this position nine months later?

Living in a state of extreme stress over long periods of time can tear apart the fabric of who we are and wreak havoc upon our relationships. People are slowly returning to their offices and students to the classroom in a world that is anything but normal. Donning masks and social distancing while attempting to engage with clients, colleagues, teachers, and friends has its own set of challenges.

Add to this a heated cultural environment fraught with protests and politics along with media misinformation, 2020 will certainly be one for the history books. How can we possibly withstand this kind of pressure, sadness, frustration, and anxiety for this length of time with no end in sight?

In our house, our motto is "it is okay to feel your feels." But what if those "feels" trigger the inferior process in others? And what happens when this is activated for months at a time? The inferior (least favorite) process is the opposite of our dominant (favorite) process; it is the place where we feel the least competent and equipped to manage life. For example, if my whole type preference is ENFJ, then the favorite process is Feeling directed in the outer world (the F in my 4-letter type), and my inferior process would be Thinking directed towards the inner world (T is not in my 4-letter type but I still access it). Think of it as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk. Imagine living with or as the Incredible Hulk for months on end?!

This is new territory for many of us and the effects are beginning to show. This extended period of stress creates chronic stress reactions. Based on personality type theory, we may behave out of character or act in childish ways when gripped by the inferior process. We begin to lose sight of ourselves. Chronic stress encourages these often short-lived and episodic inferior process reactions to become pervasive and habitual. We can come across as incompetent or exaggerated versions of our opposite type!

I have noticed something interesting within my own family. Out of 7 family members, 3 people prefer Introversion, and 4 people prefer Extraversion. Imagine now what that may look like within our family when under stress, such as when faced with a pandemic that has been pummeling us for months. We flip! In other words, when under chronic stress, we now see 3 people activated by Extraversion and 4 people activated by Introversion - both areas that reflect where we feel the least competent.

I am not sure if this is playing out in your families but how this is showing up in ours is quite fascinating. Keep in mind this is just a hypothesis and my "research" pod is very small (my family!). Those of us who prefer Extraversion are more hesitant to go out, have turned more inward, and experience some anxiety when needing to engage with the outer world, whereas those family members who prefer Introversion are engaging more in the outside world. They still experience some anxiety which is to be expected, but they seem more willing to do errands, get groceries, and so forth.

Of course, we all abide by mask wearing and social distancing without question, regardless of type preference. We speak openly on how we are feeling and support each other as we go through these experiences. Type language and understanding help us cope with this new "normal" that we find ourselves immersed in and we do what we can to support each other as we bring ourselves back into balance. Some days are easier than others. What have you noticed from your own family members?





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, MEd
MOLLIE ALLEN, MEd, 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.



PeopleStripes.org article
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TAGS: Communication, Decision Making, Differences, Problem Solving

Calling All Members to a Family Meeting!

Mollie Allen, MEd
MOLLIE ALLEN, MEd, 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.


Failure might be an option
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TAGS: Guiding, Listening, Problem Solving, Relationships, Self-awareness, Teenagers

Failure is not an option - or is it?

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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In the movie Apollo 13, when the NASA team on earth was trying to determine a way to get the astronauts home, the team leader says to the group, "Failure is not an option." It sounds good in the movie but let's see how that plays out in real life. Here are some examples from Wanderlust Worker:

  1. Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt Disney "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."
  2. Oprah was declared "unfit for television" by a TV producer.
  3. J.K. Rowling had 12 publishers reject the Harry Potter manuscript.
  4. According to reports, Colonel Sanders had 1009 people reject him when he pitched his chicken recipe to restaurants.
  5. Michael Jordan failed to make the varsity basketball team.

The list goes on. The website lists 48 overall successful people who failed.

Michael Jordan said, "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed." He was still inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Thomas Edison once told a reporter, "I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work." Failure can be part of the path to success.


With all that said the moment of failure feels miserable. Emotions are all over the place and the brain is not thinking at its best. We each need to have a regrouping strategy to get us through the immediate impact of the failure.

Those with a Feeling preference need reassurance that the failure will not impede the relationship. When someone with a Feeling preference feels like a failure it tends to be accompanied with another thought. They worry that they let someone down. "Mom wanted me to get that scholarship." "I thought I could do this for you but I can't. Now you don't believe in me." The younger they are the more convinced they are that a revealed flaw means others in their life may reject them.

For some people with the Feeling preference this translates into an intense pressure to always do things right. You can help: hug them. Acknowledge the failure is there but the connection with them is solid. Offer to support them if they decide it is something they can try again. Take a moment and have fun interacting with them. Your presence matters at this moment.

Thinking - Feeling

Those with a Thinking preference see failure as a personal flaw that threatens their competence. Even when they know they are still competent they fear others will think less of their skills. They don't mind doing things over if the situation or the problem with the task improves each time but, when the end is there and the problem is not solved, frustration sets in for the Thinking child.

A hug is not the right tool at this time for this child. Reflective listening and honest assessment help more. Acknowledge that losing or failing at a task is frustrating because you thought you could do it. Remind them that although this is a failure, failure is temporary. It only lasts until a new solution is found or the task is mastered. Make this an interim moment when possible. Suggest that once they get their energy back you will problem-solve with them if they are still interested. Take a break to get that energy back by doing something else that is fun, by watching a video, or by taking a nap. Let the brain get some rest before tackling what seems like an impossible task.

Some children fear failure so much they develop into "failure avoiders." This is a learned coping strategy and can be unlearned. These children either try the most difficult task (no one is expected to be able to do it) or the easiest task (anyone can do it). Instead of following their interests they follow the path of greatest or least resistance. This solves the problem for the moment but does not teach the child how to deal with failure. Research supports that the only thing that motivates a failure-avoider is success.

One young man was failing math. His last test grade was 29. Success in his family was defined as having a test grade that was higher than the previous test score. He bought into that plan and improved each time but was still failing by school standards. It took almost the entire school year, but he brought his grade up to a C on his final test. This can be an ST approach if the strategy for improvement works. For an NF child you will need to monitor and praise each gain and celebrate the progress.

All children fail sometimes. Emotionally it is exhausting to fail for all types. We need to help our children recognize that failure is temporary. The way to help the Feeling child is not the same as the way to help a Thinking child. In a person's life story if you want to know if they were a success or failure it will depend on what chapter of their life you are reading.




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TAGS: Boundaries, Choices, Communication, Guiding, Mothering Styles, Parenting, Problem Solving, Teenagers

Helicopters and Snowplows

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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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.






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