Personality typing systems abound on the Internet, some of them more reputable than others. Facebook quizzes and other social media sites will tell you everything from which cartoon character you are most like to what love story your life most resembles. You can spend hours answering questions on some online dating sites that will help you clarify what you are like and what you want to see in a mate. And then there are professional personality typing systems such as Myers Briggs that will help you figure out which of 16 personality buckets you fit into. These are fun but are they really useful? Well, the more you understand about yourself the better you’ll be able to relate to others. Here’s why.
Understanding That Not Everyone is Like You
One of the biggest “ah ha” moments for me in exploring various personality typing systems is really understanding the vast differences in personality types. I used to be confused or take it personally when someone wouldn’t be pleased by the same thing that pleased me. We’re so used to hearing the golden rule: Do unto others as we would have them do unto us. But really, it should be: Do unto others as they would want… which may not necessarily be what we would want ourselves.
For example, let’s say your introverted wife says she absolutely does not want to celebrate her birthday with a big party. She would much prefer to have a private dinner for two. You, the extroverted and loving husband plan to knock her socks off with a big surprise party, thinking of course, she will be thrilled! She probably was only saying she didn’t want a party because she didn’t want you to fuss, you think to yourself.
You throw the party and she puts on a strained smile. Then at the end of the night, rather than showering you with praise and kisses for your thoughtful efforts, she accuses you of not understanding her at all. Or perhaps she just goes off to bed quietly, thanking you, but obviously not showing the grateful affection that you’d expected. You both feel hurt and misunderstood.
Understanding Personality Types
The scenario above is just one example that can lead to misunderstanding and hurt if you aren’t aware of the differences between you and the person you’re trying to relate to. Though it’s impossible to know the personality types of everyone, by understanding types you will be more aware of potential differences and accepting that when someone is different from you, they are not trying to be frustrating or annoying – they are being genuine. They are probably just as frustrated and annoyed by you as you are by them. However, by talking about the differences in your personality and accepting your different styles, if you can resist the temptation to scream, you may find you can complement and learn from one another.
Another example may be two co-workers. One likes to make decisions based on facts and information. The other is a visionary and makes decisions more on intuition and experience. They may each be very frustrated by the other’s style. However, if they can work together and accept each the other’s strengths they may be able to combine data and intuition to explore more possibilities than either of them would have explored if they were working alone.
Try thinking like someone else
Instead of becoming frustrated by people who are different from you, make it a habit to learn from them. Maybe even try to think like them – not permanently, but just to try and develop skills that are out of your comfort zone. If you are the type of person who likes to have a plan, try a day of being spontaneous. If you are someone who is usually reserved, try being a little more open.
Even though it’s important to understand yourself and what your natural personality is, by appreciating, respecting and understanding the differences of others, those feelings will most likely be reciprocated, and you’ll enjoy stronger relationships. The world would be a boring place if we were all alike. We are naturally drawn to people who are like us because we feel they understand us. However, you can learn to understand someone who is different from you by listening to them and being open to their different take rather than trying to convince them of your way of thinking.
By becoming more aware of your personality and that of others, you are more likely to enjoy and learn from the unique personality of everyone you meet.
Guest blogger Yvette Francino is the author of The Laptop Dancer Diaries: A Mostly True Story about Finding Love Again. She currently is hosting The Love Project at http://singleagainonlinediary.blogspot.com where she gives monthly exercises designed to give and receive love.