I find personality differences fascinating.
I love taking personality tests. I love figuring out what Jane Austen character I am (!), or what I would have done in the Hunger Games (apparently I would have come in second, losing only because I was so sure of winning that I started writing my victory speech too soon and got distracted).
And some of the most fun questions we get here on the blog are about personality differences! So I thought, for all the Wifey Wednesdays in August, we’d take a look at some basic personality differences and how to navigate them. In fact, this is how we’re going to do big series on the blog from now on. Each month I’m going to choose a topic, and every Wednesday will be about that topic. Then at the end of the month I’ll also have a podcast summing up the articles and commenting on extra stuff I’ve thought about from the comments!
Today we’re going to do a BIG overview of personality differences and the MBTI (my favourite personality test!), and then over the month we’re going to look at four personality scales in detail. And to do that, I’m going to start with the book Just Your Type, which helps you understand yourself, your spouse, and the conflicts you’re likely to have–and how to overcome them. It focuses on all the different MBTI types, and then sees what happens when people who are different get together!
But first, let’s do a run-down on what those potential differences are.
The MBTI classifies people based on four scales:
Extrovert/Introvert: Do you get your energy from being with people, or from being alone? When you need to think something through, do you call a friend, or go for a walk yourself? Contrary to popular belief, extrovert doesn’t mean “life of the party”. Many introverts are great at parties. But it’s where you get your energy from that’s important.
Sensing/Intuiting: Do you like detail, or are you a big picture person? Do you like taking things apart and figuring them out, or dreaming up new ways of doing things? Do you like following a pattern or creating your own?
Thinking/Feeling: Do you make decisions based on logic, or based on emotion? Are you most likely to concentrate on what’s “right”, or to focus on how your actions affect others?
Judging/Perceiving: Do you like being organized, with lists and plans, or would you rather be spontaneous and go with the flow?
The MBTI clearly holds that none of these is “right” and none is “wrong”.
They’re just different preferences. But interesting things happen when differences get together–and often quite detrimental things to a marriage.
When couples have differences, here’s what happens:
Most couples engage in this undermining campaign in very subtle and indirect ways; they rarely address the problem honestly and openly. They just stop talking — really talking. So the overwhelming reason relationships fail is poor communication.
These differences tend to be the root of communication problems that drive us apart. But as the authors ask, “What if they had not only understood their differences but also viewed them positively and as a source of richness?” When you’re different, you can actually stretch each other! And you can compensate for a spouse’s weakness, too.
Being always the same isn’t always a good thing, either. If you’re both introverts, you may cocoon inside and never really meet people. If you’re both Ps instead of Js, you may make impulsive decisions and rarely make plans. If you’re both Fs, you may end up lending far too much money to siblings who would squander it because you feel sorry for them!
This month, since there are four more Wednesdays, we’re going to look at each of the four different personality scales, seeing what happens if you’re both the same on either end, (both introverts or both extroverts, for example), or if you’re different. We’ll start with the E/I difference next week.
But I thought before we did that it may be fun to feature some personality types of the people behind this blog!
Keith and Sheila: ESTJ and ENTJ (Innovator vs. Traditionalist)
Keith and I actually score pretty similarly. We’re both Extrovert-Thinkers-Judgers, with our only difference being on the S/N scale. Keith’s a detail person, and I’m crazy big picture person. I’m addicted to Excel spreadsheets and Evernote because it’s the only way I can keep anything straight. If it weren’t for that I’d never be organized!
It’s also one of the reasons that we struggle so hard driving together!
Even though we’re only off by “1” indicator, we actually have very different approaches to the world (and the MBTI names four different approaches, based on the middle two letters). I’m an Innovator (NT) and he’s a Traditionalist (ST), which means that I’m always stirring the pot and trying to make things better, and he’s much more comfortable staying the way things are. So he always feels like I’m pushing him to change, and I can feel like he’s stuck in a rut. The good part is that he grounds me and makes sure I don’t start World War III on too many fronts at once!
Rebecca and Connor: ENTJ and ENTP (Two Innovators)
Rebecca and Connor, on the other hand, are actually more similar than Keith and me, though each of us is off by only one indicator.
Rebecca, the ENTJ, is a future-planner–she actually sat down Connor when they had only been dating for 6 weeks and told him, “If you’re going to go out with me, you need a 5 year plan.”
Connor, being a Perceiving-type, is much more in-the-moment. So although both of them like to stir the pot and find better ways to do things, Rebecca’s approach has more of a world-domination feel to it, while Connor’s approach is more fun-oriented efficiency. Not needing his every action to line up with a 5-year-plan, he often does things just for the heck of it (unlike Becca), but you can bet your bottom dollar he’s going to do it well and find a way to have a great time while doing it.
Katie and David: ESFP and ISTJ (Artisan vs. Traditionalist)
Unlike the rest of us, Katie and David are almost polar opposites. Katie is a people person who feels things deeply and who wants to be present, enjoying life in the moment. David is a problem solver who wants to get things done, and get them done right the first time. The cool thing about them, though (and something I’m so proud of them for!) is that they recognized early in their relationship how different they were, and went out of their way to understand how the other sees the world. And they value the differences. In fact, according to the MBTI, one of the most successful personality matches in marriage is exactly theirs–ESFP and INTJ. Opposites really can work well together.
(By the way, I wrote a post about Katie’s ESFP-ness a while ago on the problems with seeing one personality type as the Perfect Christian Woman. See if you can relate!).
The book is done in three parts: First, Just Your Type looks at the four scales and sees how people who are different on each of those scales will fare. Then it lists the 16 different personality types and describes them–which is really quite interesting. Rebecca and I were killing ourselves laughing at the description of the ESFP (Katie). Of course, we didn’t laugh too much at the ENTJ (ourselves) because it’s always more fun to laugh at someone else! But it’s pretty hysterical when it’s just so very accurate.
In the third part of the book, the book shows how each possible combination of 16 types will fare in marriage, and where your strengths and weaknesses will be. It is isn’t mean to say “these two types should never marry” or “these two types are doomed”, but rather “here’s how these two types can maximize their strengths and work together the best”.
This month I won’t really deal with all 16 types (though I highly recommend picking up the book and checking them out!). Instead, we’ll look at the four main scales and how they can affect your marriage. And I hope we’ll have a lot of fun doing it!
So stay tuned for next Wednesday when we jump off our series with the extrovert/introvert scale.
And let me know in the comments: Are you both extroverts? Introverts? Or are you different? Let’s talk!
Posts in this MBTI Marriage Series:
MBTI and Marriage: An Overview (this post!)
MBTI and Marriage: The Extrovert/Introvert Scale
MBTI and Marriage: The Intuition/Sensing Scale
MBTI and Marriage: The Thinking/Feeling Scale
MBTI and Marriage: The Judging/Perceiving Scale